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ACONCAGUA – Day 17 January 7, 2007

Posted by Jason in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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From High Camp “Colera” to Plaza De Mulas Base Camp at 4,300m

We wake after 8am, dehydrated and very tired, neither of us want to move! We can´t quite believe that we did it! And now we can get off this bloody mountain!

Slowly we muster enough energy to put a brew on with the little water we have left. The tent is a real mess! Some of my clothes are frozen solid after being covered in snow when coming down from the summit.

Chezza ia absolutely knackered! But has recovered well from last night, she was totally exhausted when we got back to the tent yesterday.

Eventually we get enough energy together to get out of the tent and wake Geoff. He is also pretty exhausted. Reaching nearly 7,000m has really taken it out of all of us. The important thing now is to get off this mountain as quickly as possible! We are all thinking of Bife De Lomo and bottles of wine!!

It takes us until 1pm to pack everything up ready for the way down.

But going down is a lot easier than going up!! The packs are very heavy and we are still carrying over 5 days food with emergency rations.

We bypass Camp Berlin and head down the steep scree slopes to Nido de Condores the traditional Camp 2 on the Normal Route.

The view on this side of the mountain is fantastic and far more open than on the Vacas Valley route. But the view of Aconcagua itself is less impressive. What was so amazing on this side of the mountain was how many people there were. The volume of people was tremendous. All snaking up the zig zag paths to each camp.

The West Face of Aconcagua

The atmosphere is also completely different. On the Vacas Valley route people chatted to each other and wanted to know who had summitted and what the conditions were etc, in order to prepare for the next leg of the climb. It was like a family atmosphere. Here however it was completely different. People either looked like they had just stepped out of an outdoor shop boutique or had clearly never walked further than 100m from the nearest road before! Quite bizarre!

The expeditions are far larger on the Normal Route and the camps far less clean. After speaking to people who had stayed at Camp Berlin our worst fears of the Normal Route were confirmed. Berlin appears to be a dirty and unhealthy camp with people not even stepping more than a yard from the refugios before urinating. Berlin Camp is a living toilet!

Nido de Condores did not look too bad, and the view is amazing. We rested here awhile and then continued on down the steep slopes to a litle used camp between camp 1 and 2 called “Alaska” camp. A few oddly arranged tents are here, but it is also a massive junction where paths converge and there were many people here. As many as 50 at any one time on this area of the mountain.

Here we glimpsed our first sight of Plaza De Mulas, the Normal Route base camp at 4,300m way below us at the bottom of the valley. The view here is amazing with hanging glaciers and ice slopes leading to knife edge peaks.

After another rest we head on down the steep scree slopes. The path here is terrible, steep scree and most uncomfortable whether going up or down. We are carrying over 30kg and slipping and sliding down scree slopes is not good for our knees of ankles!

We go past Camp Canada (Camp 1) and continue down. Both Chezza and I fall on a number of occasions hurting various limbs! We just want to get down, we can smell the beer!

Finally, at 6.30pm we cross the final section of Penitentes and reach Plaza De Mulas! Hurrah! We are both knackered. We find a pitch for the tent and sort a meal with base camp services Aymara. Geoff joins us within another half an hour!

Plaza de Mulas
We have the best pizza in Argentina for dinner! And eat as much as we can. We have hardly eaten anything for 2 days. We share a few bottles of wine with 2 South African guys we met on the summit slopes the day before! It´s a small world!

At 10.30pm we are bushed and call it a day. Thank God we are back down the other side of the mountain and on our way out.

Can we make the road head tomorrow??

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