10 am the next morning we begin our " walk in " to Aconcagua, the
1st day is leisurely and lasts for some 6 hours walking up the Vacas valley. The
valley is deep with a river at the bottom in full flow from the melting snows
further up and the mountains on either side are spectacular and most have a snow
covering, Walking is on paths and river beds where the surface is littered with
large rocks and small boulders - no problems as we are only too pleased to be in
the fresh air and at last on our way. The day temperature is high and it is
essential to cover up or use layers of sun oils.
Dehydration is a constant concern and we do our best to drink a minimum of
5/6 litres per head per day - obviously with all this drinking you pee a lot and
often is heard the shout - " Yippee its white ", referring to the
colour of your pee and the fact that the colour white indicates you are drinking
enough water. At this altitude the mountain water is clean enough negating the
use of Iodine but some still insist fearing a fear of the " trots " !
Most people use a platypus which basically is a flat plastic container which
holds up to 2 litres and you place that in your backpack with a tube and
mouthpiece attached - during the day you simply suck on the mouthpiece and you
have a mouthful of water - this is far better than the usual bottles which
invariably means that you have to take your backpack off to access them - that
OK but when a backpack weighs 25 kgs + then it's a pain /nightmare so the
temptation is not to do so which in turn leads to dehydration - a vicious circle
Lunch on such days consists of anything left over from breakfast, a cereal
bar, perhaps a tin of tuna squeezed into some rather dry bread some fresh fruit
and more water.
Late afternoon sees us reach our 1st camp which holds many emotional memories
for me as it was here last year that a North Korean fell to his death a mere 100
metres away from us - whilst none of us knew him, by being on the Mountain he
was one of us and so I take time out to privately lay a small flower at the spot
where he fell - after a few moments of silence, a word with " him"
upstairs, the odd tear and then I return to the team.
This is our 1st night out, so tents are pitched quickly and efficiently and
the volunteers quickly start a brew and commence cooking the evening meal of
chicken soup and some revolting veggie dish but what the heck I'm hungry and
appreciate a mixture of carrots, pasta and tinned tomatoes - what no Tuna !
8pm and I am in my sleeping bag absolutely knackered so a good nights sleep
is essential before a 6am rise the next day.
Early morning starts I hate but needs must so following a bowl of porridge
and the 1st of many mugs of black tea , we quickly pack the tents , clear the
site and begin the 2nd days trek further up the Vacas valley by 8am ..
Quickly the sun is up, the sky is blue and on goes the sun lotion - the day
is spent travelling in a flat, wide river basin with the usual obstacles on the
path but good progress is made by all and we are rewarded late in the afternoon
with our 1st glimpse of Aconcagua - its awesome, magnificent and
frighteningingly majestic ( if there is such a word ! ) and we all stop to have
our photos taken with Aconcagua as the backdrop - I have to admit that minutes
earlier I had excited all by referring to another mountain as being Aconcagua
and I well remember Richard stating how small it was with an obvious air of
disappointment ……..oops !
That nights camp is a good un with a flat surface to pitch the tent and there
is a buzz in the air having seen Aconcagua and seeing the task ahead and with
the thought of being at base camp tomorrow we really feel that we are making
good progress - however at the start of Day 3 there is a surprise for all !
Day 3 sees another early start and we depart camp after the usual porridge or
cereal in shorts and sandals - why,? because we have to cross the valley river
which is flowing well direct from the glaciers above and is at a temperature
that actually hurts you as you wade through it !
Suddenly there is a cry of " Foul " as we notice that certain
members of the party have paid the muleteers for a ride across the icy cold
stream - being a man I wouldn't dream of such things so I wade across and yes it
is cold and yes it does hurt! . Richard is our resident photographer but his
prized video camera will not function as he strives to capture those moments
live and the air is full of oaths as he asks people to wait before crossing -
finally he gives up and the rest cross with anguished cries.
Whilst the previous 2 days have been easy going today gets tougher with some
steep climbs over paths narrow in the extreme with the waters some 100 feet
below waiting should you make a mistake - or higher up as you struggle up the
paths the mules come chasing up the hill and they don't stop so its time for a
quick exit to a safe haven.
There is a chill in the air as we finally make base camp at some 13,000 feet
but we are pleased to be here for tomorrow is a rest day. Base camp is a barren
site spread over several acres and is dotted with many tents and the odd
portable loo - its bereft of vegetation, its always windy but its going to be
our home for the next few days so we will have to make the most of it . For the
mules and muleteers it's the end of the road for from here we carry all our own
There is one tent resembling civilisation and that houses Daniel the
muleteers agent and he recognises me from last year so I receive a big hug and
he amazes me by producing a photo of me from last year - to celebrate we buy
some coke but the celebrations are cut short when we discover its $5 a can -
shit that's £3.50!
At base camp we share a mess tent and it actually has some gas rings and so
the meat eaters flex their muscles and cook the 1st decent meal of the trip-
One new innovation at Base camp this year is the doctor and we all have to be
tested for oxygen in our blood - this is a means of gauging how well we have
become acclimatised. Most peoples are the min 80% but mine comes in at a
miserable 74% and am told that I cannot leave camp for 2 days and I will have to
take a drug called Diomoxin to help the process - I'm distraught and I fear I
may miss out on the climb all together but the Diomoxin and copious amounts of
water during the day work and a test later in the afternoon sees me at 80%.
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.