Dispatches - Aconcagua 2013/14

February 15, 2014

During the summer season of 2013-2014 Adventure Consultants operated three expeditions attempting Aconcagua (6,962m/22,840ft), the highest peak in South America.

Aconcagua Dispatches 2013-14

Team 1 - Nov 29 to Dec 21, 2013

Expedition Leader: Victor Saunders – UK
Assistant Guides:   
Leo Mirando – Argentina 
Agustin Zambrano – Argentina

Expedition Team Members:
Kathryn Ivey – USA
Maria Casares – Argentina
Ezequiel Casares – USA / Argentina
Jacquelene and Neville Knuckey – Australia
Paul Bartlett – USA
Richard Bartlett – USA
Ray Brunsberg – UK / USA
Ron Beller – USA
Trevor Faulknor – New Zealand
Paul Koontz – USA

1 December 2013
After a busy couple of days in Mendoza, completing gear checks and the all-important Aconcagua climbing permitting process the team have hit the road and are now in Los Penitentes. They stopped off in Uspallata for a HUGE steak, before completing their drive to the gateway to Aconcagua. Los Penitentes sits at almost 2,900m so the teams acclimatisation starts here. They will take a hike nearby tomorrow, before beginning their trek into Base Camp the following day.

4 December 2013

3 dec trekking in the bc day one. this will be the last green we see for 2 weeks3 dec day 1 of the trek3 dec day 1 of the trek 2The team are at Casa de Piedra en route to Base Camp (BC). All is well and they will arrive into BC at Plaza Argentina tomorrow. As forecast, the weather have been clear and sunny but VERY windy. Even in the valley floor winds are almost 50km/hr (30mph) so it took four team members to put up each tent at camp this evening!

5 December
The Aconcagua team made good time today, arriving into Base Camp at Plaza Argentina at 1pm. Everyone is now enjoying a well-earned siesta! The weather saw a bit of a change today also, with a large lenticular cloud looming over the summit all morning, and now the team are experiencing light snow at Base Camp.

6 December 2013
Rest day today with guides packing up food and equipment for the high camps; they have travelled here in mule proof packaging and now have to be repacked into person sized loads. Everyone seems to be doing well, though up on the summit there are signs of high winds today. Overnight our tents were buffeted with 50km/hr winds.  The food here at Base Camp thanks to cooks Griselda and assistants is excellent. Very much looking forward to our first steps towards Camp 1 tomorrow.

8 December 2013
Another rest day today after an excellent carry/acclimatisation yesterday to Camp1 at about 4,900m. Today the weather has finally changed, with lower winds and plenty of snow overnight. We are now packed up and in a position to leave Base Camp and sleep on the route. Much anticipation, can hardly wait to get going. 

12 December 2013

Augustine kicking the Penitentes on descent from C1Group arrives at C1Summit from C1 in wind and snow

Over the past few days, the Aconcagua team have been moving up the mountain.  After a successful trip to Camp 1 the team were feeling fit and strong enough to do their carry to Camp 2 the very next day. After a rest day yesterday, the group then moved up to Camp 2 for the night. Unfortunately, we have had to say goodbye to Neville, Jacquelene and Trevor who have opted to depart the expedition at this stage.  After another rest day tomorrow, the team will be ready to move up to Camp Three and prepare for their summit bid as the weather allows.

15 December 2013 - SUMMIT FOR TEAM #1!

15 dec. Aconcaguas shadow stretching out over Santiago to the Pacific Ocean.15 dec the descent to the Condors Nest15 Dec lookg up the last 100 m to the summit. almost 7000mThe team topped out at 6,962m on Aconcagua at 2.30pm local time. Kathryn, Maria, Ezequiel, Paul Bartlett, Richard and Ray all summitted with Victor and Leo, whereas Ron and Paul Koontz descended with Augustine. Victor called from the summit reporting that it had been a very nice day, although a little cloud was beginning to come over now. Well done to everyone! We hope to post some photos in the next couple of days once the team has descended to Plaza de Mulas.

15 Dec. the last few steps15 dec. Summit shot15 dec. looking down the infamous Canaleta

17 December 2013
The team have completed their trek out and are en route to Mendoza to celebrate their success. 

18 December 2013
The expedition has concluded in Mendoza with the team celebrating over a final dinner. 

 

Team 2 - 28 December 2013 to 21 January 2014

Expedition Leader: Victor Saunders – UK
Assistant Guides:   Leo Mirando – Argentina

Expedition Team Members:
Brian Dagg – New Zealand
Craig Hallinan – Australia
Greg Hayes – Australia
Paul McWilliams – Australia
Stella Hawkins – Australia
Michael Hawkins – Australia
Steve Wilson - Australia
Yoshio Goto – Japan / UK

31 December 2013
Yesterday, 30 December, the remainder of our team arrived in lovely, tree-lined Mendoza, just in time for a group meeting and briefing. So now we have Brian from NZ, Yoshio from Hong Kong, Stella, Michael, Greg, Paul, Craig and Steve from Oz together with Leo from Argentina and Victor from the UK. Craig's baggage arrived half a day after him, Stella, Michael, Greg and Paul had all been delayed by 24 hrs. But finally we were all here. There is quite a paper trail to obtain official permits to climb Aconcagua, and that task was completed by midday today. The staff at the Office of Tourism, where we get papers officially stamped were celebrating the New Year early, wearing day-glo wigs, and on the stroll back to the Nutibara Hotel (recommended) there was a brass trio playing cool jazz, as if to congratulate us on navigating through the paperwork jungle. 

Tomorrow we set off for the mountains! 

Michael bouldering

Stella bouldering at Plaza Argentina3 January 2014
Many of the names here are far from intuitive; for example today we are in Penitentes, which is not Purgatory, as the Catholics amongst us might think, but refers to armies of large leaning spikes of ice that appear on glaciers in regions with plenty of sunshine. From a distance they are said to look like church loads of white-cassocked praying monks; penitent monks. 

We have had our last breakfast in Penitentes, and in an hour we load our duffels on the mules for the start of the next adventure. Tonight the target is Pampas Legnas, the Field of Wood, followed by Casa de Piedra the House of Stone and eventually to Plaza Argentina (not a town square, but a small village of tents) our base camp for three days. After that Camp 1 is just that; while Camp 2 has a wooden sign declaring it to be Guanacos Campo 3 (Guanacos are one of the Andean camelids). Camp 3 is also known as Camp Cholera, which means Angry Camp, no one seems to know why. After that, we aim for the summit of Aconcagua, Sentinel of Stone. That at least is aptly named. 

So now we begin the work, and there are big smiles all round.

7 January 2014
Today the team have carried their loads to Camp 1 in perfect weather, and are now back in Base Camp. Yoshi, Mike, Steve and Brian are playing a card game called Estimation which seems to require a lot of shouting and yelling. The rest of the team are having a well-earned siesta. Tomorrow is a rest day, then the great move upwards begins. 

Sunset over Aconcagua

8 January 2014
Today was a rest day for the team and Stella, Michael, Steve, Craig and Victor went for a short walk where they found an excellent climbing boulder with soft sandy landings. 

Yoshi was busy story-boarding his next video. Paul, Greg and Craig were in our dome-tent dining-room playing cards and/or reading. Base Camp is very civilized. The food here has been magnificent, the cooking staff (Griselda, Anita and Julia) more than helpful. The weather perfect, we have had a string of cloudless days.

We are on our way up tomorrow, packing up final loads for the move up. Enjoy this selection of photos and there will be more when we descend to Plaza de Mulas after our summit bid!

12 January 2014
Over the past few days, the team have been moving up the mountain, experiencing great weather in the mornings with some afternoon snow. Unfortunately, Steve has made the difficult decision to descend and is now back in Mendoza - he is missed by all the team.  Now everyone is at Camp 2 and will rest there tomorrow. They plan to move up to Camp 3 on the 14th and hope to summit on either the 15th or 16th, weather permitting. Good luck team!

Glacier below Camp 1Base Camp Plaza Argentina

Mike at Camp 1 looking down over the base camp valley13 January 2014
The Aconcagua team are doing well and are dialling in their weather window for the summit bid. They have decided to add an additional acclimatisation day at Camp 2 before moving up to take advantage of the best weather on the 16th. Good luck team!

15 January 2014
The group are resting at Camp 3 ready for their summit bid. Unfortunately, Greg has had to depart the expedition due to an inner ear infection and is missed by the team already.

16 January 2014
All six members of the team topped out at 2pm local time and descended back to Camp 3 in stormy conditions. They are now resting and recovering and will descend to Plaza de Mulas tomorrow.  Congratulations to all!

 

Team 3 - January 29 to Feburary 20, 2014

Expedition Leader: Leo Mirando – Argentina

Expedition Team Members:
Stuart Chambers - Australia
Jan Arnold - New Zealand
Mike Davies - New Zealand
John Carswell - Australia

29-30 January 2014
Team Australia, Stuart and John, versus Team NZ, Mike and Jan, cheered on by ref/guide Leo, met in Mendoza for a gear check and a steak.

31 January - 1 February 2014 
Delightful bus ride to tiny skifield village of Penitentes. After enjoyable acclimatisation hike, trans-Tasman rivalry came to the fore and after considerable effort, a pack of cards were obtained.

2-3 February 2014
2-day picturesque hike alongside the river Vacas, complemented each evening by the world's best BBQ, cooked to perfection by the mule drivers (arrieros) 201 2014

4 February 2014

Dawn crossing of the freezing Rio Vacas on mule back, then 1000m ascent up Relinchos valley to Base Camp (Plaza Argentina) - 4,200m.

5 February 2014
Rest day at Base Camp and the first official day of the Bledisloe 500 tournament. Initially dominated by the Kiwis, 500 rookie Stu soon discovered his latent talent for winning and the Aussies took the lead.

6 February 2014
Perfect weather and conditions for our first carry to Camp 1 (5,000m), with everyone returning in high spirits thanks to Leo's masterful guiding skills. Aussies win 3 in a row.

IMG 0588IMG 0587

IMG 08867 February 2014
Rest day at Base Camp in fantastic conditions. Leo demands group take a break from the card table and HAVE A SHOWER! Tomorrow shift up to Camp 1, one step closer to our goal. All feeling great and hoping this picnic weather lasts.

8 February 2014
Team Kiwi recovered 500 form (you're dreaming mate, says Stu), perhaps due to Team Smelly's (aka Team Australia) refusal to have a shower.  Move to camp 1 was uneventful though particularly windy. The latest forecast delivered sobering news. The summit attempt will need to be moved forward by several days. We will need to move fast and skip some acclimatisation days.

9-10 February 2014
A beautiful day - carry and move to Camp 2. Staggering views of the mighty Andes. Team Leo is up for the challenges of the compressed schedule.

Rest day on the 10th and a short acclimatisation hike as we prepare for the high camp.

IMG 1071IMG 106211 February 2014
Arrive at High Camp (6,000m). Another stunning location, marred only by the toilet etiquette of the previous occupants. Highlight of the day being a great dinner amongst the backdrop of some great views. Excitement in our camp with summit attempt tomorrow.

12 February 2014 - SUMMIT DAY 
Breakfast at 4.30am, set off at 5.30. Sadly, Stuart awoke feeling rough, and a short way into the climb returned to camp. The rising sun revealed the grandeur of Aconcagua and the Andes. A short stop at Independencia (6,400m), a tiny shelter, before venturing upward. John continued but at a slower pace. At The Cave (6700m), John returned to the high camp with guide Ivan. Leo, Jan and Mike pushed up through the narrow Canaletta, and the steep traverse. An "out of the box" day, windless, with 360-degree views - top of the Americas. Special congratulations to Jan in completing the Seven Summits!! 

IMG 1133IMG 108413 February 2014 
Descend to Plaza de Mulas on opposite side of the mountain, to be welcomed by fresh snow and pizza. 2 immediate priorities - back to the Bledisloe 500's and walk out tomorrow. We are all fine, and wishing everyone Happy Valentine's Day. We are all assuming the flowers have arrived safely to our sweethearts... 

14 February 2014
Set off from Plaza de Mulas in cool conditions initially steep prior to levelling off onto the river flats, finishing 8 hours later in the rain.  Highlight of the journey was locating the runaway mule containing vital gear.

The adventure continued, when it was announced the road to Mendoza was closed due to landslides.  However all was not lost, the bar was open and after an unscheduled stopover in Penitentes, we continued to Mendoza the next morning.

15 February 2014
After an ungodly early wake-up call, into the van - forced stop at 10:00, for cerveza (beer). Arrived at Mendoza midday. In a few minutes off to final team dinner.

A great experience, and we'd like to acknowledge the fantastic support and assistance from Leo, our top guide.

Final note: Bledisloe Cup 500 score: narrow win to Team NZ - the Anzac spirit lives on!

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