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Hi everyone! just thought I'd fill you in on how our expedition to Aconcagua went. Sorry this is a bit long!

We had a very large team of 17 plus 3 Argentinean guides and our expedition leader. After a tricky start in Mendoza with the inevitable loss of some people’s luggage we made our way to our starting point, Penitentes and from there to Punta de Vacas. We walked in heavy rain and thunderstorms to our first trekking camp which, surprise surprise had a very pristine, flushing toilet! the last one you will see may I add!
It was New Year’s Eve and that evening after we had set up camp we enjoyed a delicious barbeque of the best Argentinean steak. I learned very early on that you have to very quick off the mark or you won't get to eat! with 13 hungry men on the team I didn't stand a chance!! once that bucket of steak was on the table you literally had to grab or starve. It was a noisy night with all the teams and Muleteers celebrating the New Year well into the early hours and the next morning there were some sick heads around the place.

We set off to our second trekking camp. By now I was already feeling bad. With the hot sun beating down on us all day I was starting to feel a bad headache and I was already starting to lose my appetite. At least three of the lads were sick already with apparent stomach problems. This was strange because the drinking water up to now was pretty good. There were lovely cool, clear springs to drink from most of the time and the water didn’t need to be treated. We caught our first view of Aconcagua on the second day and it looked stunning! Photos really don’t do the mountain any justice.

The next morning we began the final approach to base camp. Unfortunately my headache was getting progressively worse and it seemed I was the only one suffering. This was by far the toughest day with the hot sun beating down on us and little or no shelter from it whatsoever. The odd time there was a cool breeze and it felt like an injection of energy but it was short-lived.
By the time we reached base camp I was feeling terrible but I wasn’t the only one. There were a few headaches and the couple of lads who were sick were not getting any better. We sat down to dinner that evening and again it was like being out to dinner with a crowd of Piranhas! I was afraid to reach for food in case I'd lose a hand in the process and if I was too slow finishing my meal about a dozen hands would reach in and polish it off for me!
Anyway it didn’t matter because my appetite was disappearing by the minute. The atmosphere in the group at this stage was quiet and serious. I think most people were feeling apprehensive about the climb ahead. I was hoping that was all it was because I was remembering past trips and the fun I'd had with various groups. I really wanted us to bond as a team because I believe that makes all the hardship and misery worthwhile.

Some of us were sleeping 3 to a tent in 2 man tents but others were lucky to be just 2 in a tent. 3 in a tent took some getting used to especially when one of your tent mates has packed everything but the kitchen sink. It was cramped in there but all in all base camp was pretty comfortable.

After a rest day we did a half load carry to camp 1. This was actually quite a pleasant walk and we all enjoyed it. It took us about 4 hours at a nice pace. One member of the team was throwing up at the last section after we passed through the penitents. This last section was a little steeper than the rest of the walk but it was a relatively short section. Even at that it took a lot out of people at that stage of the day. I couldn't believe how much I was actually enjoying myself, the view was beautiful, the weather was perfect, the walk was fine and my head was better.
Camp 1 was cold, exposed and windy but the team was in good spirits. I think everyone was relieved to be finally on the mountain. So we stashed our stuff under some rocks and headed back down to base camp for a rest day and some well earned showers. That night we were kept awake with strong winds and I spend the night wondering if we put enough rocks on our gear at camp 1. I had visions of my down mitts being sucked away by the wind never to be seen again. Earlier in the evening MoT and some of his team arrived into our camp with a guitar they bought in Mendoza and entertained us for hours. I think this was the first time since we arrived that I started to feel positive about things and we have a great evening! Thanks MoT!!

Next day we moved to Camp 1 with the rest of our gear. For the next two days or so we were tent-bound because of strong winds. For the first time the strain was really starting to show in the group. Some of the team were still sick with stomach problems and there were tears in our tent! We had to set a few ground rules. No platypus in the tent, no waving of cups containing liquid over anyone's sleeping bag!, no moving other people's stuff and not putting it back where you found it and NO going for a sleep after you've lit the stove IN the tent!. Finally peace and friendship was restored and we spent the next two days in our sleeping bags listening to the wind, counting the little squares on the tent fabric and trying to think of the names of animals going through each letter of the alphabet. We got stuck on N! My appetite by now was completely gone. Hot chocolate in the morning tasted like cup-a-soup and vice versa. It was so cold and going outside in the wind completely drained my energy and left me feeling sick.

Finally, a decision was made to move quickly to Camp 2 because it looked like there would be good weather for the next day or so. The bad news was that this time instead of moving half a load to Camp 2 and coming back to Camp 1 for a rest like we did when moving to camp 1 we would now be moving everything to camp 2 in one go. Once at camp 2 we would push to the summit....no rest day in between. Two of the team decided to turn back at this point and the rest of us proceeded slowly and quietly to camp 2. It was a long day but we all managed ok.
Unfortunately by the time we reached camp 2 almost everyone was exhausted and feeling the effects of altitude. The expedition leader informed us that there would be three turn around points on summit day. The first one would be just after the traverse at the base of the Polish glacier, the last one would be at Independencia and there would be one in between. Once again I couldn’t eat and with a tent flooded with glacier water which froze after 8pm we didn't sleep either. There was a huge amount of tension and apprehension in the group and some more tears from one of my tent mates, the other was feeling stressed and spent much of the night in a panic searching for her gear.

At 3am we lit our stove and boiled some water for the day. I didn't eat breakfast. At 4:30am we were ready to go. Crampons on we headed across the traverse. Two of the team stayed behind at camp 2 with altitude sickness and within the first 20 minutes on the traverse two more turned back. By now the team had been reduced from 17 to 11. I was at the front of the line behind our guide and I just concentrated on his boots the whole time. It helped me pace myself. The sun was starting to come up and if I hadn’t been feeling so bad I would have been able to savour the views. I would have given anything to pull out my camera at that moment but we couldn’t stop to take pictures. I think there was too much of a risk of people getting cold. The view was amazing though and every now and then I’d take my eyes off our guide’s boots to admire the red glow on the snow covered mountains all around. Everyone was walking in utter silence and the next two hours or so were pretty tiring for most of us. At the end of the traverse more of the team turned back so then there were 9 of us heading towards Independencia which is located at 6,345m. I was still hanging in there....by a thread. I noticed some of my team members struggling, resting their foreheads on their walking poles and I did the same. My pack seemed to be getting heavier by the minute and I toyed with the idea of just dumping it! By now we were very close to Independencia but I found myself giving in to exhaustion and sitting on the rocks. I said I wanted to go back. After a few minutes of persuasion I soldiered on as far as the Independentia hut, our last turn around point. Feeling utterly drained and exhausted, I hadn’t really eaten in 3 days, the pain in my head was agonising and my stomach was churning. I told them again I turning back. Two more team members decided to turn as well and another was afraid he's getting frostbite because his toes were so cold. He wanted to turn back too. At this point there were tears running down my cheeks with disappointment but at the last second I strapped on my pack and decided to continue. I decided I couldn't give in without a real fight!
The next section was slightly steep but it brought us on to a fairly manageable traverse. This part was very exposed and the wind was cutting through us. We put on goggles and balaclavas and outer jackets to protect us from the cold. The next two hours weren't too bad but then we reached the notorious Canaleta. I started to feel like I was suffocating in my balaclava and my goggles were really bothering me. Suddenly my down jacket and down mitts felt uncomfortable and restrictive. My pack was getting heavier and heavier. Then I collapsed. I was feeling really sick I couldn't breathe or move. I got up again and pushed myself some more. I overheard one of the lads say "she's got balls" and it made me smile. I was filled with determination for at least 5 more minutes "yes I HAVE balls!!" I kept telling myself. Then I collapsed again. This time I felt even worse and my head felt like it was going to explode. I wanted to be sick but I hadn't eaten or drank in hours. Once more I picked myself up and pushed myself again. Two minutes later and mid-way on the Canaleta I was down again. Only 200m to go. The expedition leader was pointing at the summit saying "Look how close you are! get up! don't give up!". Unfortunately this time I couldn't get up and I couldn't even speak. I was very very sick. One of the lads (the one who thought he was getting frostbite) stayed with me and tried to make me drink but I couldn't. He wanted to turn back and so did I and I knew I had to. I was too sick, I was holding everyone else up and I knew that even if I made it to the summit chances are I wouldn’t have be able to get down. Lying up there, 200m from the summit, looking down at the whole of South America with the wind tearing at my face I told the team to go on. I was the last remaining female and in the last 6 remaining of or team of 17. I finally made the decision to go down. We couldn't move for quite a while but finally we dragged ourselves slowly down to Independencia. For the next two hours I lay there sick, unable to drink and fighting with my team mate who kept trying to force me to drink. Two men from mountain rescue put another down jacket on me and sat with us. They said I was semi-delirious but I told them I was always like that  ;) you have to see the funny side sometimes.  5 hours later the rest of the team arrived down exhausted to Independencia from the summit and we all made our way down to camp 2. When we arrived there I was given a cold bowl of liquid potato stuff which I couldn't eat. I crawled into my wet and frozen sleeping bag without even taking off my plastic boots. I was awake all night, sick and freezing and wishing I was anywhere but there. In the morning we packed up and left camp 2. On our way down we met MoT and his team on their way up to camp 2 and they looked healthy and in good spirits. I hated admitting to them that I’d failed. Once back at base camp I was feeling human again. Lying in a comfortable, warm tent I lay there for hours torturing myself. Why didn't I try harder?? why didn't I push myself that last little bit??? Of course it all seems so achievable when you're feeling good but it's a very different story when you're up there battling the weather, the altitude and your health.
I swore I’d never climb a mountain again but that all changed as soon as I was back at sea level  ;) The important thing is that I've learned a lot of invaluable lessons on this trip. I'm already looking forward to the next one  ;D
Attached are some pics. Daisy.

Hey Daisy!

welcome back, I am very glad you are safe and relatively sound   ;D

Thanks for the tripreport, this will help loads of other deciding if they should go or not.
Seems your guide should have sent you back much earlier, you are lucky to be typing!

Aconcagua is one tough mountain, you will agree. Many times underestimated..

If you have more pics, then I can create a separate tripreport page for you, just email them and I will work it out.

Good to have you back  8)


By the way, did MoT make it?

Thanks Harry

I'm not sure if MoT made it or not because the last time I saw him he was heading up to camp 2. I'm dying to hear how he got on. I guess as far as I'm concerned the mountain isn't going anwhere but since we were both on the same route at the same time it would really be interesting to hear how his experience differed to mine.

I'll email you my pictures but there aren't many this time  :'(


Hi Daisy,

I'm glad to hear that you are back home in good health!

I think that many people, including myself underestimated Aconcagua at first since it isn't a technical climb but I guess many of us will think again after reading your and others tripreports. It's a shame that you didn't make it but the mountain isn't going anywhere like you wrote and you can return at another time to try and conquer it then!

// Andreas

Nope, didn´t make it...

Three attempts towards the summit thwarted...

That perfect weather ye got Daisy didn´t last. Our first summit push turned nasty when Miko (who had altitude sickness on arrival to Base Camp developed horrendous summit fever. Jesus, the stories that even I didn´t know about (but which have just come to light) are frightening... He was treated for AMS in Base Camp for the first two days and seemed to improve - but being a typical Connamara man he was sick and wouldn´t admit it. On the camp one carries he got headaches but they improved on descent. He played everything down so much that we couldn´t prove for sure hew was under the weather. On carry to camp two, he vomited ´"once". Not true, as it happened - but it´s all he admitted to. Each of us saw him vomit once but at different times it emerged.

On our rest day at Camp one he "improved" - not true. On our return to Camp two after him supposedly being well (by his admission) he started vomiting again. We were at him for hours to turn around, go down, abandon summit ambitions but he refused to believe he had altitude sickness, thinking that if he got the vomit "off his chest" he would improve and be well. I was incredulous! One friend in the tent, a fellow climber (who just ahapens to be a doctor) and another climber in his group couldn´t  all be wrong, surely? We told him he would die, widow his wife, probably kill one of us when we end up obliged to help him down... etc, but to no avail.

Eventually we all took a stand and said if he goes up, the rest of us go down and abandon the mountain. He STILL wanted to go up.

As it happened, the Viento Blanca intervened in our attempts and he had to descend and he never came back up. Myself and Barry waited it out but at the end of the second day at camp 2 we also went down to Camp 1.

One rest day at Camp one and up we went again in freezing cold wind.

That night Brendan and James (an American friend who we met along the way) summitted. The night was windy but the day was fine. Padraic went down with cold hands and never came back up.

The following night was REAL cold. Barry and I went for it but an unfortunate need to defecate (!) made problems for me at 5am! (We left at 4:30am). I ate a nasty spicy breakfast, which I promptly had to vomit up - not altitude related thank God! The body just needed the blood in the rest of my body, not in the stomach digesting stuff! (Mental note - light breakfast or energy drink for summit day in future!). Other problem is - full stomach equals active colon/lower bowels! There was no stopping the urge to poo! I HAD to stop and go there and then and unfortunately got extremely cold, so cold that my hands went numb and my feet froze. Abandon ship! In fact the reason I went down was that I had stopped feeling the pain of the cold in my right foot - it was damp and my foot was actually starting to freeze!

I went down to camp II and left Barry to it. He summitted and, as we were running out of food he went down to base camp to meet the rest of the team. I had one last day - I waited alone at camp II and when the weather turned out good I went for it at 4am. I dried out my boots over the stove and went for it. Shortly before the junction with the normal route (an area strewn with shredded tents from the 3 days before) my cold feet intervened again. My right foot lost ALL pain and sensation and I knew something was wrong. It seems that the right insole in my scarpa vegas was loose and water had collectewd underneath it (for some reason I can´t take out the insole from my left inner boot but i can on the right). The water had remained and frozen. I got frostnip on three of the toes of my right foot so I made the decision to leave aconcagua for now. I need my toes, any longer up there and I would most likely have lost my toes - no mountain is worth that.

The annoying thing is I never felt so good so high up. I COULD have finished only for this. I was so positive all the way up (again a new thing for me). I suffered NO altitude related symptoms the whole time i was up there. I haven´t been this fit in ages! I guess you still need the small element of luck!

On the plus side, I set a new height record for myself! I was involved in organising a successful expedition! 3 out of 6 (if you include James!). I still had an extremely positive experience and will return in a few years to finish the job.

MikeW is on his way up at the moment. I met him at Base Camp. We had a great singsong with La Guitarra de Aconcagua, Enero 2005! I bought one in Mendoza and hauled it up for fun!

Anyway, I´ll post more thoughts/feelings on the trip when I return to Ireland. Despite my own personal disappointment I´m feeling pretty good about the trip. My toes are healing and I´m just relaxing in Mendoza.

The only advice I will give to any mountaineers on the forum for now is - NEVER BET ANYTHING WITH DAISY! You WILL lose! Heh heh heh! I´ll leave Daisy to explain that one! By the way, you never did claim your money and soup!


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