Aconcagua 2018

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Success! Team Aconcagua traversed Mount Aconcagua. The team was advised by CLC founder, Mark Steelquist, and led by CLC Rock & Alpine crew leader, Ian Bellows. Ian and the other four members are all young adults who learned leadership and mountaineering skills through the CLC program. All have lead other youth on training climbs of the Cascade volcanos - Mt. Adams, Mt. Baker, Mt.Hood and Mt. Rainier.

Aoncagua is the highest mountain outside Asia, at 6,960.8 metres (22,837 ft), and the highest point in both the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. It is the second tallest mountain of the Seven Summits. Being a high altitude desert, Aconcagua has routes that can be entirely snow-free, requiring no technical climbing or running belays. (A running belay involves a team of roped climbers who travel simultaneously rather than one at a time).

The CLC climb occurred during the southern hemisphere's summer. The sun was above the horizon line about 14 hours per day. Nautical Twilight adds slightly less than an hour of useful light before sunrise and after sunset. It was truly dark just under 8 hours per night. Because most of the climb was on the north side of Aconcagua, the mountain did not obscure the sun or cast deep shadows on our camps or route, except at Colera, when they ascended the north western flank of the mountain and the sun rose at about 25 degrees south of east.

The following is a brief record of the trip. Each caption is a message sent from the team's inReach device, which provided live updates to friends and family. 

Getting to Argentina

December 30, 2017 - Day One of Flights: Vancouver, Canada to Houston, Texas

The Aconcagua team is in the air! We completed our shopping and packing yesterday

Grabbed a final photo in Seattle, and spent the night in Blaine.

We flew out of Vancouver this morning, are in Houston now, and will board the redeye to Santiago, Chile tonight.

On to Mendoza, Argentina tomorrow.

December 31, 2017 - Day Two of Flights: Texas to Chile and finally to Mendoza, Argentina

Greetings from warm and sunny Mendoza! We arrived earlier this afternoon after flights from Houston and Santiago.

VERY tired, but we've already managed to get out, explore town, and sample some of the local cuisine!
January 1, 2018 - In Mendoza

More updates from the Aconcagua team, and Feliz Años Nuevo 2018!

We promise we've been doing more than eating good food and lounging around.

It's been a busy few days of packing, repacking and shopping.

We're finding our way around the city, and meeting other travelers and climbers coming back from or headed to the mountain.

January 2, 2018 - in mendoza

It's official! We received our permits today and are headed to Los Penitentes tomorrow morning.

We camp there overnight and then begin our approach.

Mendoza is a beautiful city! We are packed and ready. Tomorrow we make the 3-hour drive to the Aconcagua trailhead.

January 3, 2018 - driving from mendoza to penitentes

It was 90 degrees here today in Mendoza and -24 on Aconcagua's summit! Brrr!

We've checked out of our hotel in Mendoza and are off to Los Penitentes! Don't know if we have enough stuff, though.

Hello from Los Penitentes, the Grajales logistics base at 8,500 elevation. Today we divided our loads for the mules to take to base camp.

Tomorrow we start the 26-mile approach hike to Aconcagua's base. The team is in good spirits. Thank you everybody for your support of this expedition!

The Approach

January 4

Today we hiked to Pampas Lenas at 9,400 feet. Here a friendly ranger named Uno checked our permits.

The muleteers cooked our dinner on an open fire.

The stars above tonight are spectacular, though unfamiliar, being the Southern sky.

All of camp is asleep after a tough first day.

Good night!

January 5

Tough hike today bit the team did great. Now at Casa Piedra, 10,600 feet.

Saw Aconcagua for the first time this afternoon. It's REALLY BIG! All well.

January 6

The team arrived at Plaza de Argentina, 13,500 feet. A hard push, everyone did well.

We'll be here at least 3 nights, more if the coming storm lingers.

Plaza de argentina

January 7 - rest day

In tents now at BC. It's sleeting with an electrical storm hitting up mountain. We are packed up and ready for tomorrow's gear carry to Camp One.

January 8 - gear carry to camp 1
Taking a break at 15,000. We think the zigzag track is due to the satellite signal bouncing off the steep canyon walls we just ascended. All feeling good.

Just after the last post it started snowing HARD! We climbed the last 1000 in a blizzard, set our Camp One cache and raced down the mountain.

The ascent: 5 hours. The descent: 1 1/2 hours. We'll rest in BC tomorrow and make our move to One the next day, weather permitting. Tired but happy.

January 9 - recovery day

Rest day at BC today. We want to be patient with our acclimatization and we aren't quite there yet. Tomorrow: maybe to One, maybe here. We'll see.

January 10 - last day at plaza de argentina

Team at BC 1 more day to be as strong as possible higher up. Food's good here. All have o2 levels above 90%. That's good. We move up to One tomorrow.

Camp One at 16,300'

January 11 - move to camp one

The electrical storm passed to the east. We had a dry evening. All in tents for the night. Good thing. A strong, cold downslope wind picked up.

At 16,350 Camp One achieved! Very hard day but dinner is on and tents are going up. More later. Weather moving in.

January 12 - rest day

Today is an organize and recoup day at Camp One. The temps predicted on Mountain Forecast presume no insolation. When the sun shines it's warmer.

We feel good but any load carrying or walking uphill is hard. So we need to rest.Tomorrow we carry gear to Two in rougher weather. But the route is easy to see. Snow here is very light and sublimates instead of melts.

Looking at route options and weather. We will make Guanacos our 2nd camp rather than Camp Two. A bit confusing. Guanacos is a better grade and elevation for acclimatization.

Weather forecast now is for cooler & drier for the next few days, then dangerous summit winds as we sit tight at Guanacos.

Currently our summit push will be the 18th just as winds are predicted to drop. Of course, forecasts are just that. Gotta stay flexible. We're well.

January 13 - gear carry to guanacos

Back at Camp One after our gear carry to Guanacos at 18,000. It's been snowing most of the day. We moved through blizzard conditions above 17,000...

It will keep snowing at ONe and snowing and blowing hard at 18K tomorrow so we plan to sit the storm out here at One. Had a good dinner. Tired but well.

January 14 - wind and snow move in

Next 2 nights at Camp One. High winds have us pinned. Cold out in the wind but with the sun blazing our tents are greenhouse warm. Watching forecasts…

Windblown snow and all surface water has frozen. Melting snow for water. Gonna be at 16K for awhile. All are holding up well.

January 15 - resupply

Weathered a huge blow last night which scoured all the new snow away back to bare rocks. The tents are bomber. Ian & Maddy headed down to BC for supplies.

If they return we wait out weather here and ascend on the 17th. If not, all descend and call it a climb. Taking the safest/most reasonable options. Everything improves on the 17th We will ascend then. All's well.

... Maddy and Ian returned with food & gas! Now we don't have to risk a bad weather move.

January 16 - weathered the weather

11AM here, 6AM @ home. Wind continues to howl but many teams have started up into the into the teeth of it. It's very draining to be out in wind like this.

Wind drops tomorrow for 3 days. We'll stick to our plan to conserve strength by moving in better weather. It's the mode we've chosen. We'll see.

The Summit Window

January 17 - move to Guanacos

Wind dropped this morning! Packing to move to 18K, Guanacos camp. We'll give you a shout once we've made camp. All are ready to say goodbye to Camp 1!

We're headed to bed at Guanacos camp. It was a long trek to get here but the weather has been relatively mild and warm. All here are in good spirits.

Bella experienced AMS on the way to Guanacos today. The decision was made for her and Mark to descend go Penitentes - descent is the surest cure.

If those of us remaining at Guanacos have good responses to the altitude tomorrow morning, we move to Colera camp at 19,600ft. Thanks for tuning in and goodnight!

January 18 - move to Colera

It's a beautiful day at 18k on Aconcagua! We're all packed and starting our journey to Colera camp at 19,600ft.

Camp is made at Colera - 19,600ft! Today's hike was longer than we thought, and we had more weight than anticipated. It made for brutal work.

Beds are made and dinner is cooking. The only thing we're missing now is our dear teammates Bella and Mark! Hoping they have a safe journey out.

Ian, Maddy, Kestrel, and Frances here. We've made the call - 19,600ft is our group summit. We'll stay here until the 20th, health allowing. We tried to blitz up for tomorrow's summit window and ended up working harder and longer than anticipated.

We're proud to be here and in good health. Here's to a good night's sleep and a fantastic mountain to live on! Best of luck to all those attempting the summit early tomorrow morning.

The Descent

January 19 - down to Plaza de Mulas

This morning Maddy woke up with a very bad headache. We like Maddy more than Colera camp, so we're descending now to Plaza de Mulas.

We've made it to Plaza de Mulas!! We descended 5,300ft in 4.5 hours and it began snowing halfway through. Everyone feels they can breathe deeper here.

Through the descent, Maddy improved to the point of cured! We all feel good, ready for the hike out tomorrow, and thankful to be here eating good food.

January 20 - out through the west valley

The sun rises late in Plaza de Mulas. Mule bags are packed and we explored the highest art gallery in the world.

Now for a 16-mile hike out. Woohoo!

We are all off the mountain with the team of four driving to Mendoza to meet back up with Mark and Bella. Looking forward to showers!!

Back in the "real world"

January 21 - Back in Mendoza

Together again! Arrived in Mendoza early this morning and spent today resting, relaxing, and catching up.

January 24 - The last leg

Arrived in Vancouver, BC! Next stop, Seattle.