Friday 9th February
Woke to find winds scowling outside the
tent, which has delayed our move up to camp two for the time being. There is no
point in battling against strong winds, risking frostbite. It is much safer to
stay here in the comfort of our tents. However if the winds drop at any point
today then we will probably make a move up, which will put us back on track for
a summit attempt real soon. If not, then this becomes another useful
acclimatisation day, even though I am anxious to get going.
Aconcagua is very famous for its strong
winds and we are certainly experiencing that today. I feel good myself, despite
having little sleep again. The usual pattern of finally succumbing to a deep
sleep at first light. There was a wonderful full moon last night, which bathed
the whole of camp one in a brilliant white light.
Although we still have time on our side,
our permit only lasts for 20 days. We have been on the mountain now for nearly
10, which gives us 10 days to wait for the right weather to safeguard our route
to the top. Well there's nothing more to do other than batten down the hatches
and listen to Matchbox 20 on my Walkman.
By midday there was still no let up in
the strong winds hammering into our tent. Guy is pacing up and down outside our
tent pretty anxious to make a move. To be honest we all are, I want to be a day
closer to the top as much as any man. We made a decision after speaking to an
English team on their way down the mountain.
We packed up camp, and decided to head
on up the hill in the hope that the winds would subside a little. We set off up
the col in 50-60 knot winds, and after moving up for over an hour Guy and myself
reached the col, where we waited for Arnold who was moving slower than his usual
self today. When Arnold finally reached the col, he wasn't too happy with the
wind conditions at all, and suggested that we retreat back down to camp one. We
discussed the implications of deciding to continue and what may happen if the
winds worsen. One things for sure, you could guarantee that it would be blowing
a hell of a lot worse up at two than it was here. After discussing the pro's
and cons, we decided to head down back to camp one.
All the valuable height that we had just
climbed, we lost in a matter of minutes, which was a huge shame and also very
frustrating as I knew we would have to now do it all over again, once these
winds passed, if at all they did.
Back at one, we quickly pitched out tent
again, and settled in for another night down here disabled by the weather.
After today I was starting to feel very strong, and I could feel my body
adapting to the rarefied air. All I need to do is keep this up for another
18-20 hours of climbing and I will be on the summit of Aconcagua.
Guy is talking about descending down to
base camp to fetch more supplies, that's if this weather doesn't change soon.
We are using all our food just hanging around at camp one waiting for this
break. One things for sure, if we deplete our food stores, then we are on our
way down. We can't reach 23,000 ft on an empty stomach.
Saturday 10th February
To go or not to go? That is the
question this morning. It is a glorious sunny day interspersed with the odd
sudden blast of wind. It is these sudden blasts of wind, that are concerning.
If these winds are more persistent up high then we will have to retreat back
down to one as we did yesterday.
To be frank, I really couldn't be
bothered or able to come back up for a third time, if that happened. I feel
that we either go today or this expedition could be over. Camp two or bust!
Guy gave the orders to pack up camp at
9.00 am, so that is what we did. I set off at 9.50am; the winds had died down
now sufficient to the point that I wasn't being blown off my feet today. So for
the third time in three days we ascended up to the col.
I moved very fast and was the first to
reach the col, unsurprisingly as Guy and Arnold didn't leave camp one for at
least a good hour after I had left. It was good to reach the point where we
reached yesterday, knowing that this time, we were moving up instead of down.
I passed a large contingency of fellow
Brits on the way up, who were moving fairly slowly, so I zipped past them
exchanging pleasantries as I went. I have found a good steady pace that I am
comfortable with, and I seem to be able to move quicker than most people on the
hill, which is a great confidence boost as I move into the last stages of the
I have resigned myself to the fact that
Guy is super human in his abilities at ascending up hill. He moves up with the
speed of a man on a mission and I have no way of keeping up with his speed on
the hill. Not surprising, considering his very impressive record in the big
hills, which includes two ascents of Everest, and also he has twice gave up the
summit to assist unwell and tired climbers down from as high as the south
summit. It has been a very rewarding experience to climb with someone as
resourceful and experienced as Guy is. A mountaineer of the highest order, no
Arnold Witzig, my 59-year-old climbing
partner and tent companion also moves very fast uphill. I have been most
impressed with his raw grit and determination at getting to the top. He has
plans to climb McKinley in June, after which he too has his sights set on
Cho-Oyu and then Everest. For a man of his age I find that remarkable and most
inspiring. I hope he succeeds. He will be well on his way to the seven
summits, if he summits Aconcagua in a few days time. He already has Vincent
Massif under his belt, which he climbed last December, again with Adventure
Once again when I saw the familiar sight
of the tents of camp two, I had become completely exhausted with my efforts at
getting there, and I collapsed in a pathetic heap at the sight of our make shift
campsite, set deep into this wind-swept place. This time though, the headache
that I had feared upon arrival did not emerge, and I regained enough strength
after my ascent to go and fill all our water bottles, for some much needed
Whilst on the mountain we had all been
drinking vast quantities of water to ward off dehydration, which can be a killer
at altitude. It is vitally important to keep the body fully hydrated; therefore
we have been consuming at least seven litres a day.
Tension flared up for the first time in the expedition today, when the tent that
Guy & Arnold was pitching got caught in a gust of wind and very nearly blew away
over the summit ridge of Aconcagua itself. I was sitting down at the time,
resting. Guy didn't take too kindly to this lack of teamwork, and rightly so.
Mountaineering is all about teamwork, and at that exact moment in time, when our
tent nearly blew away I wasn't being a member of the team. Had the tent blew
away, then it would have been game over, time to descend. I cursed myself for
my lack of help and vowed that from now on I would be on full team work mode.
The slightest mishap up here means the difference between success and failure,
and I for one have no intention of failing under such stupid careless
circumstances. Today I learnt a very valuable lesson.
Would you like to share your Aconcagua tripreport as well?
Send us an email at report @ 7summits.com and if we like it we will make a
special page for you! You can also upload
your images, so we can add these to your tripreport.