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Aconcagua

Summit of South America, 6962m

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This is the story of Tim Hirst from the UK about his climb to the Falso de los Polaccos (Polish traverse) around Xmas 2003 

 

Happy reading :-)

 

 

 

 

I meet Steve and the lady from the FO - they decide to carry on, both fail to summit but make a bloody effort before calling it a day. - Strange isn't it as it was Steve who struggled to make Camp 2 yet here with a little more luck might well have made the summit .The lady from the FO is planning to climb Everest later this year and I wish her well - she is quite amazing and I learn a new word, " fark " from her over the time on Aconcagua - its " fark this " and " what the farking hell is that " - sounds very similar to my more guttural Anglo Saxon but obviously far more socially acceptable!

As I turn back, something happens that all climbers dread, I need a pee ! There is no shelter from the winds and so on this coll I drop all 4 pairs of trousers and guess what? , I cant find my John Thomas! - its too cold and it / he / it has disappeared - OK so I joke but on that coll having a pee wasn't funny - I could have suffered frostbite !

I radio Andy to inform him of my decision to turnaround and as with the others make my way back to Camp 2 - of course I get lost for a time and finally arrive back at camp at 4pm ish - a 13 hour day ! The old woman comes up trumps and thrusts a mug of hot chocolate in my hand - oh it tastes good!

 

On the summit day, out of 15 people , 3 summitted - my tent mate Alex got within 100 metres before turning back absolutely knackered - 100 metres doesn't sound far but it would have taken him at least an hour - from where I turned round it would have taken at least 4 hours to reach the summit .

 

Back at Camp 2 its time for a big Z , its time to recharge those batteries and think of the walk out - some of the guys who did not summit want another crack after a days rest but that bid is squashed by Andy as he feels that no one will recover in time - he is absolutely right !

 

I have my best nights sleep from roughly 6pm to 10 am the following day - but that is dangerous as I haven't consumed any water and the head starts to ache, so Nurofen and water is required - the former is no problem but the latter is with all supplies frozen so I start to use the pick axe on some snow only to discover someone has done a No 2 in it! - Oh boy this is the life! A decent water supply is found and soon we have enough boiling water for all!

 

My other problem is that my eyes have an infection and the bags under my eyes are bigger than normal - I will need attention when back at base camp.

So by mid day its back to Base Camp fully loaded with all your gear - the backpack weighing its heaviest of all the days on Aconcagua, don't forget its taken us 2 climbing days to reach Camp 2 but I am back at Base camp within 6 hours and am greeted with the best meal ever…………eggs, bacon and chips with a glass of Vino Tinto , oh yes we know how to live on mountains !

 

I visit the doctor as Base Camp along with Andy - who has summitted, he is fit , he teaches at an all girls school and I am jealous on all 3 counts - I have to deal with farmers ! Andy has frostbite on 2 fingers and they look nasty with big blisters but The Doc assures him all will be well and he bandages them up in such a style that suggests he was never in the Boy Scouts!

Now its my turn - he has no interest in my eyes at this stage, all he wants to do is to test my oxygen levels again and …………………….wow, a stonking 86 ! - amazing isn't it when I had a reading of 74 I was feeling v: fit now I have reading of 86 and I feel like an old man of 60 !

 

Oh yes, my eyes - conjunctivitis! - Now for the highlight of my trip, he administers some eye drops , red ones - and before you know it I am being likened to Alice Cooper - whoever she is ! my new look raises a few eyebrows and numerous photos are taken of this geriatric Alice Cooper - I feel they are taking the piss !

The rest of the day is spent relaxing and eating whatever you want to cook, bliss! - packing is now easy , just stuff everything in the bags for onward travel by mules to the road head and carry as little as possible !

 

The last night on trek is a hoot as 5 of us sleep under the stars in our sleeping bags - just like a midnight feast at school, with lots of noise, obscene jokes and shouts of " shut up" from the boring ones in tents!

 

This camp also supplies us with the funniest moment on the whole trek, I'll try and explain. Picture the scene, its 7am and people are starting to wake but most are still in their tents when Andy our trek leader has this cunning plan - he stands by Steve's tent and loudly undoes his zip fly - I shout out " Hey Andy, careful where you pee " and with that he pours from a kettle water on to Steve's tent - those watching are having fits of laughter, Steve shouts out " Oi " but stays in his tent - it's a hoot!

Later that morning I record a chat with Steve on my Dictaphone and start by asking how he has enjoyed the trip - " Great trip until this morning when some bastard peed on my tent and I have spent 20 minutes cleaning it down " - I collapse in fits - Steve is not impressed!

 

Its all downhill now and whilst it took us 3 days to walk from the road head to Base Camp a distance of some 38 kilometers the journey from Base Camp to the road head takes a day and a half ( no moans as I remember that Shackleton walked 99 miles in 3 days in his successful rescue bid in Antarctica ) - we are in a hurry to return to civilisation!

We are back in Mendoza early evening and spend the 1st ½ hour in the shower washing and scraping away 2 weeks grime then its off down town for a meal, relaxation and a good night and quiet reflection - almost too quiet as I lose my camera and all record of what I had achieved.

 

Thursday night was a blur as my younger colleagues took me out on an all nighter (I'm too old for this stuff) but I tell you what, I did enjoy it , well what I can remember if it !!!!!

This has been a super trip with some fantastic fellow climbers, Helen and Andy superbly led the team and I feel confident that a lot of us will keep in touch.

The flight home is a long one, at Buenos Aires the plane malfunctions so we have wait until 3 am in the morning for another flight, but the new plane has fuel tanks big enough to fly direct to Madrid, the cabin staff know how to get us to sleep with generous helpings of Vino Tinto and Grouse whiskey - a combination that guarantees this old man will sleep well .

 

We finally arrive at Gatwick and as ever baggage handling does it best to delay our home coming but after a further hours delay we are saying a good bye to colleagues as they head off to various parts of the UK - its amazing how well you get to know people in such a short space of time especially when your life can depend on their actions !

Personally, I'm delighted at what I have achieved and will be more delighted if the promised monies come flooding in for my 3 chosen charities namely,

The Quidenham Children's Hospice St Dustan's Home for the Blind St Peters ( I think ) Church in Mundham

 

If through my efforts the monies raised bring a smile or relief to someone at the above then my discomfort will have been worthwhile for my discomfort is of my own doing and is temporary - there's is not ! ……….. but I do have to admit to missing meals tasting of porridge and Lancashire Hotpot !

So that's the end of my scribbling - hope it makes sense to you !

Cheers

Tim Hirst

 

 

 

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Rivercrossing


Day 2 Vacas valley


Between Basecamp & Camp 1


Polish Glacier


Polish from camp2


Just before Basecamp


Just above the col


Tim at basecamp


Plaza Argentina


View up from Camp 1