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ACONCAGUA – Day 5 December 26, 2006

Posted by Jason in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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First carry to Camp 1 (4,900m)

Up early and the weather looks good.  Sunny and bright with blue sky and not much wind.  This is where our double carrying begins.

We start off at 9.10am with full packs, food, gas and technical equipment.

We start at a slow altitude plod up the moraine behind camp and follow the ridge towards the Penitentes.  The Penitentes are thankfully smaller this year than the last few years but they stretch along way up the mountain and a short battle to cross them is inevitable. 

We head up the scree on this side of the Penitentes, which is steep and unstable.  You can have no slow altitude plod here to keep your breathing under control as you have to roll with the sliding scree slope.

Cheryl leading up the morraine to the penitentes   Cheryl in the Penitentes!   Jason and Cheryl half way to Camp 1 

As soon as we hit the steep scree slope Cheryl is having problems.  The weight of her pack (well over 20kg), added to the terrain and altitude is causing her immense problems.  The air is sent blue by her language!

We continue to struggle up the scree slope to the top of the rise.  Unfortunately, we have missed the normal crossing of the Penitentes and continue following a faint path up the moraine.

When we realise our mistake it is too late to turn back and we end up walking up the river bed and scrambling up the side of the moraine and through the Penitentes.  I go first and by the time Cheryl follows the rocks are sliding away from the moraine leaving bare ice to scramble up!  I have to pull her rucksac off her back to give her more time to scramble up! …….the air turns blue again!

In the Penitentes   Jason getting delirious at altitude!   Jason collapsing with delirium at altitude!

After a short rest we continue over the moraine to the foot of the main Penitentes snow field. It continues up the mountain for 150m to the site of Camp 1.

This is an arduous plod up.  The main problem being if you slip over on this ground with heavy packs it takes 5 minutes to get back on your feet.  It is a very steep slope and it is slow going but eventually at 3:15pm we reach Camp 1.  Cheryl is mightily relieved, but is very tired.

Slope to Camp 1

We dump our gear in a sheltered spot at Camp 1 and head back down at 3:50pm.

We miss out the largest Penitentes by going down the scree immediately below Camp 1 and then follow the undulating Moraine back to Base Camp.

When we return at 6pm, I am very tired but Cheryl is truly exhausted.  The weight of the pack has caused her problems and she has had one of those days being fatigued by the altitude.  We are both glad that we have another rest day tomorrow.

One bit of good news today is that we met Willi Prittie who guides on Aconcagua with his company Alpine Ascent International. He has been guiding here for 16 years and knows the mountain pretty well. We were initially advised that there was no water at “the col”, which we were going to use as an intermediary camp between Camp 1 and 2.  But Willi Prittie advised us of water sources at both cols above Camp 1, so our original plan can proceed.

Another bit of good news is that a 4 day good weather window has opened up and people from Camp 2 are starting to summit.  Perhaps our luck is on the up??!

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