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Author Topic: Looking for partners for Aconcagua late fall/winter/early spring 2009 ascent  (Read 22962 times)

Mike1

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Hey guys Just wondering if there is any extreme cold weather alpinist that I could tag along with or join me between June & October 2009.  I'm pretty flexible since I'm based out of Argentina and 10 of the highest peaks in the Americas are also in the Andes.  This will be an unassisted minimalist alpine ascent using only map, compass, & GPS.  Ultimately I would like to complete the Polish trail within a week or less, bearing the weather conditions.  If not, I will be doing the normal route solo. ETA after checking the trail map, bearing good weather conditions on the normal route from Puente de Inca would be 3-4 days, depending on acclimatization & weather conditions. 

Here is my itinerary for the normal route:

Day 1
From Destacamento de  Guardaparque Horcones (park entrance) 2980m to Confluencia 3350m = 4 hours
From Confluencia 3350m to Piedra Grande o Colorada 3560m =2 hours
From Piedra Grande o Colorada 3560m to Piedra Ibanez 3780m = 6-9 hours

Day 2
From Piedra Ibanez 3780m to Plaza de Mulas 4400m 5-6 hours
From Plaza de Mulas 4400m to Campamento Plaza Canada 5080m = 4 hours up 2 hours down
From Campamento Plaza Canada 5080m to Nino de Condores 5590m = 5 hours up 2 hours down

Day 3
From Nino de Condores 5590m to Camp Berlin 5930m 4 hours up 2 hours down
From Camp Berlin 5930m to the northern summit 6959m 8-11 hours up 5 hours down.
Reverse everything on the way back and will be faster.

My itinerary for the Polish Trail From Punta de Vacas to the northern summit & back by Puente de Inca by normal route

Day 1
From Punta de Vacas 2406m to Refugio Pampa de Leñas 2960m = 6 hours up, 5 down
From Refugio Pampa de Leñas 2960m to Casa de Piedra 3245m = 7 hours

Day 2
From Casa de Piedra to Plaza Argentina Base Camp 4180m = 6 hours
From Plaza Argentina Base Camp 4180m to Portezuelo Aconcagua Ameghino (passing the 1st Polish camp) 5100m = 6 hours

Day 3
From Portezuelo Aconcagua Ameghino 5100m to Polish Camp 2 5830m 6-7 hours

Day 4
From Polish Camp 2 5830m there are 2 routes to the northern summit 6959m One is 10-14 hours the other is 2 days (be ready to bivy on this one):D
On the return trip, reverse the normal route itinerary.

These are just a modest estimate given by the map. You won't be needing much, just 1/1/2-2  week's worth of food (in case of delays by bad weather), light climbing gear, ice screws, snow pickets (optional preferably deadmans) etc., water filter, a burner to melt snow, be an early riser (3-4 am) and be prepared for -45F/-42C at the summit. :D
« Last Edit: Jun 1 2009, 20:49 by Mike1 »
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Mike1

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The minimum for a group is 3 and preferably in odd numbers and less than 7.  I'm not a big fan of even and big numbers. 
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MoT

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I assume you plan to acclimatize somewhere first? If not, that's a dangerous/improbable schedule... 4 days to the summit? 13 hours each day?  ???
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Mike1

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The estimates are very modest, it depends on how fast you move, I usually shave off about 1-1.5 (sometimes 2 depending on the obstacles) hours from the "modest" 5 hour estimates with a 50-60 pound pack.  I'm not a big person (5'7"), so I don't eat much.  I usually travel light with dried food, powdered milk, coffee, chocolates, Tang, etc.  How fast I'll be moving depends on how many obstacles I'll run into.  If there are a lot of rock scrambling involved, it might slow things down a bit, but if technical climbing is involved, then it will be slower (not too much to worry about on this peak), but I generally walk-run through the trails on the ascent and almost literally jogged down on the descent.  I acclimate pretty fast so it's not too big of a deal [so far, up to Mt. Whitney's elevation of 4419.6 meters (14,500 feet, 11 miles trail, normal route, completed in 1 day, 6137 ft. gain from Whitney portal to the summit)], so this is a test to see how far I can push myself and still feel the same as I did when I am at sea level.  The checkpoints will determine whether I have to stop to acclimate or not.  The make it or break it point is 8000 feet (2438.4 m) and I have been way beyond that.  I'm not too worried about the cold, but rather the changing weather conditions that may slow things down where I may have to wait it out for a few days.  As long as I'm constantly moving and hydrated, I'll be sweating like crazy. Ideally, I'd like to bang through the 1st 2 days and worry about the rest after Plaza Argentina (13714 ft) or Plaza de Mulas (14436 ft.), which is at par with Whitney.  13 hours per day is not as bad as you think, especially when you wake up at 3 am and be on the way out at 4 am.  There will be 5-10 minute breaks in between each hour to pee, melt snow, eat a snack, etc.  Set camp between 5-6 and be in bed between 6 and 7.  If I'm ahead of schedule it's possible continue on to the next checkpoint and do a night hike until I get there.
« Last Edit: Jun 6 2009, 22:36 by Mike1 »
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7summits

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Hi Mike,

this is a dangerous and impossible plan and I recommend against it. Fortunately Aconcagua will stop you before you get too high, but as you plan to be out of season (winter), you will be all alone (assuming nobody will plan to join you, which I hope).

No park rangers, no services, no rescue, so as you will likely end up with HAPE or HACE, frostbite or all of the above, nobody to help you live. Don't confuse a rush up Whitney with a high mountain like Aconcagua. many have done this before you and many of them never returned.

Cheers,
Harry

ps: BE worried about the cold. Be very worried about the cold.
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Mike1

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Thanks harry, you're right, I will have to delay it for a while as I've been monitoring the weather conditions out there and the outlook is bleek.  I'm equipped for -30 F but it is already getting a lot colder in June and it's not even winter yet. It looks like it will be snowing a lot as well.  I think I will put this on hold for a bit until the weather is more favorable, like in early spring, and the schedules that I have set for the ascent will have to be stretched out longer. I'm pretty open and flexible as far as the timed schedule is concerned, but it's the wind that will be bothering me the most.
« Last Edit: Jun 14 2009, 04:54 by Mike1 »
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Mike1

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The latest forcast so far -110F/-79C max at the summit on Sunday 6/21/2009 :o  I'm DEFINITELY holding it off for a while....  I'll keep this post updated on the current weather conditions...
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Mike1

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Definitely November... anyone else going up at that time?
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7summits

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The first expeditions go at end of November. Not beginning, for several good reasons:
- there are no park rangers and medical services
- Weather is usually still bad
- all access trails to the Basecamps are covered in snow, 2 or 3 years ago, Plaza argentina could not be reached in November due to too much snow...

Cheers,
Harry
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MarcoPolo

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Hi Mike1


I would like to make the following remarks, in the most respectful manner to a fellow mountain enthusiast.  I know we climb in order to be allowed to choose our own level of risk, but we also have to look out for each other. 

We are all eager to climb, and we love the lifestyle, so it can be of value to hear what others are experiencing in the mountains, and to learn from those that have made the mistakes, instead of having to repeat them. 

The first thing that came to mind, when I read your post about a winter attempt on Aconcagua, especially when I read your reply 3, was – this is suicide, simple as that.  I hope that you do not take this the wrong way, and I am also glad that the other guys threw in some solid advice, and last but not least, that you yourself – decided to forget about it.

I am not saying that a winter ascent on Aconcagua is impossible, I am sure it can be done, with proper preparatioons, proper gear and an expedition style siege on the mountain – because the group will need to wait for a weather window, and the weather is extreme to say the least.  I am not tempted to climb Aconcagua in winter, but I am sure there are some diehards around, somewhere, maybe The French will do it, or the Russians, me, no way – I am a simple soul with a thirst for life.

I was going to write a long essay about every point you mention, but after reading again, I see that I would not know where to start – respectfully, I have to say, not a word of it makes any sense to me. 

What I recommend instead is that you take a good look at what you are writing, and go back to basics, read up on some High Altitude Mountaineering techniques and you will soon see for yourself what I am talking about. 

All the above is written as the friendliest advice, because we that love to be in the mountains must look out for each other and keep each other alive. 

Aconcagua is a nice mountain to climb, and on good days it is really a cruise, if done correctly.  But, on bad days, it is a killer.  And as you get higher, the safety envelop gets smaller. 

One minute everything is perfect.  You might be coming of the summit, approaching the most confusing terrain of the mountain, just blow Independencia Hut. you are tired sure, a bit of a headache for lack of hydration and altitude and a bit hungry, but ok, the visibility is not perfect but the day looks promising and you will soon be in camp.  But the next minute you are in deep S##T, stuck way up high and out of reach, with HAMS and then the blizzard comes out of what seems like no-where, with growing winds and the gusts will - sure as hell - soon reach 100 MPH. 

We prepare for the situations we hope never to get ourselves into, that is why we have contingency supplies, contingency plans, conservative speed to save energy, a good eye for the weather and the terrain, and a good climbing plan to fall back on – such as turnaround times, trek logs, hydration schedules, and a climbing roster, and off course – proper logistics and supplies – and a lot of them.  Although Aconcagua has been climbed Alpine Style (even by myself) it is an expedition type mountain, and a serious mountain, and should never be underestimated, but feared and respected.  Sure, the mountain can be good to us at times, and allow us to step to the summit without difficulty, but it can choose to hit hard on those days when it has a mood to do so, it is our job to read the mountain and its weather and act accordingly. 

Hope this was not to long guys, just had to say a few words,

You guys have probarbly all seen this video, this is happening in January 2009, when I ws in base camp, and this is high season good weather time, this group got lost coming down after summiting very late, at 19:00, I believe, and the guide is suffering from HAMS, there were some deaths, real tragic story. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZJCyJinIWU

Regards

Siggi     
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7summits

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Thanks for your input Siggi! You are 100% right, you just have a nicer way of saying things than me  ;D

Take as much space as you want, for any good advice about climbing and the mountains is always welcome.

To put it simple:
Mountains are dangerous +
Aconcagua is a mountain =
Aconcagua is dangerous.

That is only the starting equation.
Add fierce weather, inexperienced climbers, extreme cold and a technically easy way to get to deadly altitude quickly and you have a lethal and underestimated mix... See also the guidebook I wrote about Aconcagua


Cheers,
Harry
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Mike1

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Thanks for the input guys.  Just for safety measure, I am taking my full down snow suit & randonee skiing equipment, plus a bunch of technical, rescue & safety equipment such as an avalung, shovels, descenders, foot cords, avalanche probe, etc. (avalanche beacons do not work here, unfortunately).  Looks like having a ski beats having to deal with snow pickets (they both work as anchors, except the other helps you descend faster in case of an emergency, doubles as an emergency rescue sled/stretcher, and skis can help break or slow down a fall into a crevasse).  Wished I have more space to carry cams & stoppers, but oh well, ice screws, ice pitons, & deadmans will do.  The weather  right now is starting to get better, between -30F to -60F (-30c to -50c).  ;D
« Last Edit: Aug 23 2009, 14:14 by Mike1 »
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MoT

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Thanks for the input guys.  Just for safety measure, I am taking my full down snow suit & randonee skiing equipment, plus a bunch of technical, rescue & safety equipment such as an avalung, shovels, descenders, foot cords, avalanche probe, etc. (avalanche beacons do not work here, unfortunately).  Looks like having a ski beats having to deal with snow pickets (they both work as anchors, except the other helps you descend faster in case of an emergency, doubles as an emergency rescue sled/stretcher, and skis can help break or slow down a fall into a crevasse).  Wished I have more space to carry cams & stoppers, but oh well, ice screws, ice pitons, & deadmans will do.  The weather  right now is starting to get better, between -30F to -60F (-30c to -50c).  ;D

Er, what mountain are you climbing again? :)
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Mike1

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Er, what mountain are you climbing again? :)

The same one, just trying to make it more interesting & challenging.  If I could ski off from the summit, you betcha I would.  Just by studying the topo map, it looks pretty clean as far as the way down, just like Pissis. As long as there´s powdery snow and a clear path that is...  ;D
« Last Edit: Aug 24 2009, 04:56 by Mike1 »
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7summits

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hmmm.  :P

Several good climbers have skied down the Polish Glacier. Unfortunately they had no skies and ended abruptly at the bottom, as the winds are so hard that most of it usually is hard blue ice...

Just in case: this is a warning, not an encouragement!
Cheers,
Harry
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Mike1

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Thanks Harry, at least, us alpinist/ski mountaineers aren't left out... Just a quick question, do you think bringing cams & stoppers a good idea, or should I just stay with snow safety equipment for this peak?  Just planning a bit ahead since I don't want to lug too much equipment with me on the ascent.  It's harder to ski with a super heavy pack,  and for the other guys that are reading this; Yes, I do have a lot of equipment here because I've been living in Argentina for the last 2 years.  The stuff I have isn't just just for Aconcagua, there are 9 other 6000+ meter peaks in South America that I could also do to train there for the rest of the 7 afterwards.  I was contemplating on moving back to Colorado or Alaska (for extreme cold training) but there's not enough high mountains (6000+ meters) to train on in the continental US outside of McKinley, just a bunch of foutrteeners, so Patagonia is where I will be for a while until the BIG 3 are checked off my list [(Everest, Aconcagua, & McKinley (I'll get my revenge on this one, & it'll be my last of the 7)].  After this, I will probably move on to the halo jump, which is the highest any human being could go, without going into space. In Chubut, it's icy all year long, perfect for altitude & cold, that aside from NW territory of Canada. ;D
« Last Edit: Aug 25 2009, 23:22 by Mike1 »
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do you think bringing cams & stoppers a good idea, or should I just stay with snow safety equipment for this peak?
ehhm, no & no! I am not sure what route you want to climb, but I hope you do not plan on using cams and stoppers in ice. And for the glacier ice safety equipment is important for the glacier as well as snow stuff, so screws, as most of the time, the dangerous sections are hard blue ice...

Did you read my aconcagua guidebook? That might be a good start. Or Secors book if you want to try another route, but I would be very conservative on non-normal routes..

« Last Edit: Aug 29 2009, 05:44 by 7summits »
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Mike1

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Harry, I would never use cams & stoppers on ice, that's just crazy & suicidal...  I'm just making sure that it's not a mixed route, that's all...  To be honest, I would have to try to take the easiest way up (modifying the route a bit with my own) because I have to ski down from wherever I ascend from.
« Last Edit: Sep 1 2009, 07:47 by Mike1 »
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Mike1

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Currently living & training in Las Cuevas @ 3200m (10,500 ft.), training part-time with the Argentinian Army Andean Corps.  If any of you guys want to warm up a bit, there is Cerro Tolosa 5432m (17,821 feet),  which has a short & long glacier to climb on, there is a technical & a longer trekking route. I have already done the technical route solo in a day, or Cerro Torre de Santa Elena which is a 4000+m peak with the statue of Christ the Redemptor at 3,832m (12,572 feet), a snow trekking route, there is an inaccessible 8 Km route by car, which is covered in snow right now.  You can also do the many hikes here beforehand as well. You can drink the fresh Andean spring water at Rio de Las Cuevas. I can be reached at 54 9 11 6031-6578 or 54 9 261 471-0506.  Try either of those numbers, bring your gear, I will be answering if there is a signal.  This is a GREAT place to acclimatize and train in windy conditions (up to 100 Kph at this time of the year), GREAT people too.  You can also cross over to Chile to ski at Portillo for a few days as well. 

I am also looking for partners to go to Ojos de Salado in Catamarca and/or Pissis in La Rioja. This peak is 200m shorter than Aconcagua and it is the HIGHEST volcano with the HIGHEST lake in the world. Aconcagua opens on the 15th but I will be going up on the 17th, plus or minus a few days.  Snow is slowly being blown away by the winds at this time.  Penitentes is now unskiable, Puente de Incas is losing her snow as well as Punta de Vacas, which is completely clear of any kind of snow. This message is current as of 10-07-2009
« Last Edit: Oct 7 2009, 20:25 by Mike1 »
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Mike1

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Last call for early season climbing before I head back to Las Cuevas.  I am already acclimated at 3500-4000m, so this one will be fast.  The cell phone will still work, the snow is disappearing, down to just a few patches here & there.  Expect winds up to 100 Kph.  I will be back in Mendoza on the 14th, and will be getting my permit from the rangers on the 15th.  Anyone who is taking the Punta de Vaca to Plaza Argentina, or even the Messner route, please contact me DAYS beforehand as I will have to get my technical gears from Los Penitentes.  Otherwise, I'm good to go right now, if it's the normal route.  I can be reached at 54 9 261 471-0506.  My email is mike1_2001@yahoo.com I will be checking my messages once every 4-5 days between now and the 15th, otherwise, see some of you guys at one of the base camps!!!
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