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ACONCAGUA – Day 16 SUMMIT DAY!! January 6, 2007

Posted by Jason in Aconcagua, Argentina, climbing, mountaineering, South America, Travel, trekking.
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SUMMIT DAY! Aconcagua 6,962m

Getting ready at daybreak

The alarm went off at 4:25am, and gradually we crawled out of our sleeping bags and began putting on the copious amounts of clothing we needed for the summit bid.

Other than the odd gust of wind, the weather was calm.

We put on a brew and I woke Geoff. We then checked our bag of water to see if it had frozen and luckily it hadn´t. So we had our 3 litres of water each for the day.

After final packing we were finally ready to set off at 6:30am. It was just getting light and the sky was clear. there was barely any need for a head torch.

We started from high camp 5,970m up the slopes to join the Normal Route 100m or so above.

Although the sun was rising, it does not shine on this aspect of the mountain until much later and it was very cold. Within 30 minutes I could hardly feel my toes, and the top half of my body was also getting very cold.

I had to try and go quicker in order to keep warm and try to make it to the other side of the ridge to get in the sunshine to try and warm up.

We finally reached sunshine after about 90 minutes or so to both Cheryl´s and my relief, but I wouldn´t feel my toes again for several hours.

Early morning en route to the summit

The path passes over a ridge and past Piedra Grande, an isolated point where some people camp above 6,000m, using it as their high camp. It is in an exposed location and the site is sloping. We were glad we´d decided to camp at Colera rather than here!

We passed this and the point where the higher False Polish Traverse route joins the Normal Route and we gradually followed the zig zags up the slope.

Geoff had fallen behind by now but was only about 30 minutes behind us. His altitude plod was just a little slower than ours but most effective.

We passed a group of people who were retreating. We don´t know why, either the altitude or maybe the cold forcing them back.

Eventually, after struggling up the slope for some time we rounded a corner and reached a col where there is a small ruined wooden hut. This was Independencia. It was a relief to get here, we were now around 6,380m and well on our way. The sky was clear and the weather looked good. Still very cold, I was feeling in good spirits.

It was at this point Cheryl was starting to feel the altitude and began to slow. We rested for a while before carrying on.

After a rise of a further 50m or so we reached another col and crossed to the west of the mountain and caught our first glimpse of the traverse slope to the dreaded Canaleta scree slope.

It was so cold here we had to put on our final layer of clothing, our down jackets.

We began the traverse over this loose scree slope which gradually became looser underfoot and far more difficult. Unluckily for us there was no snow on this slope at the moment, it would have been a lot easier to cope with if it had.

We continued up the slope and Cheryl began feeling worse. Light headed and nauseous. She was feeling very tired.

Eventually at around 12:15pm we reached the end of the traverse and the cave at the foot of the Canaleta.

We rested for a while and Cheryl took her pack off and left it in the cave to be as light as possible. We had asked someone on their way down so we were pretty sure there would be no snow between here and the summit.

Looking back down the Canaleta

At 12:30pm we started up the Canaleta. An extremely steep slope of scree and boulders, 2 steps up and one sliding back, most frustrating at 6,700m.

This slope was a constant struggle and was far worse than the accounts we had read! The air is so thin here, only about 41% of the oxygen at sea level. Every step was exhausting.

Very slowly we continued higher up the slope and finally rounded a corner onto a rocky ridge. We rested here. Cheryl was feeling a little better where as I had deteriorated a lot. I felt nauseous, light headed, exhausted, had a headache and was periodically retching. I did not feel good!

A large group behind us began turning back, but we continued up the ridge to the rocky outcrop on the skyline.

Slowly, taking about 5 steps a minute, along with a lot of stops for rest, we gradually continued up the ridge below the skyline.

As we got nearer to the skyline and the rocky outcrop the cloud began to envelope us and the odd flake of snow began to fall. We continued upwards until we reached the outcrop and began to round it and climb to its edge. Then a few steps more and we were on the summit!

Jason flaunting the flag at the summit

The relief was amazing, so exhausted we couldn´t believe it! I can´t explain the feeling of elation and relief. 16 days on the mountain and finally we were at the summit.

Unfortunately, the summit was covered in cloud! We managed to get the occasional glimpse of the view and occasionally saw the ridge of the south summit as cloud swirled against it.

It was a fantastic feeling!

We got to the top at 2:50pm and spent 25 minutes at the top. We took many pictures and then headed down at 3:15pm. The snow started falling in earnest and we were told by an Argentinian guide we met that the weather was on the turn and we must get down as quickly as possible.

Moody view of the South Face shrouded in cloud Happy at the top of Aconcagua! The only brief view we got from the summit

We headed down the Canaleta, which was almost as slow as going up with the tricky terrain.

When we got to the cave at the bottom we rested and picked up Cheryl´s pack. We then met the Argentinian guide again and he was on the radio to a ranger on the mountain. He told us that our “grandfather” was in trouble and was waiting for us at Independencia!!! It took us a while to realise they meant Geoff!

The last time we had seen him was on the traverse to the Canaleta and he had been around 30 minutes behind us.

We rushed down the slopes as quickly as we could as the heavens opened and it began to snow harder.

When we got to Independencia no one was there. We continued down as quickly as we could.

Eventually, we saw a figure just getting up from the ground on the final slopes down to the camp……it was Geoff!

We thought he might be in trouble, but when we caught up with him he was fine!

He had walked down with the Park Ranger and was fine. He had been exhausted at the foot of the Canaleta and had waited for us for a while but then continued down.

We all walked into camp in the snow absolutely exhausted.

We slumped into the tent and made some soup before going to sleep.

But we did it!! What a day!

Click here for more photos…

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Comments»

1. Kazelwtw - May 30, 2008

Hi webmaster!

2. kustoz - July 27, 2008

Wow!

That’s awesome!


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