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We Did It! January 10, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Aconcagua, Argentina, climbing, mountaineering, South America, Travel.
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At the summit…. in the absence of the South African flag, this ones for my adopted land…

Part of me can´t believe it! We actually managed to get to the top of Aconcagua!! I was utterly amazed and burst into tears as soon as I saw the metal cross marking the summit. This I think was more out of relief than anything else – Jason was talking about making a second attempt a couple of days later if we failed the first time. I couldn´t have faced it!! It was the hardest thing I´ve ever done. We set out for the summit at dawn (about 6.30am). It was bitterly cold and for the first hour or so I was trying to nurse some feeling into my toes by wiggling them between steps, this despite wearing huge plastic boots (like ski boots) and 3 pairs of thick socks.

It was much warmer when the sun hit us later on, but I was still wearing absolutely every item of clothing I had brought to the mountain – 7 layers on my top half including a down jacket the size of a duvet over everything else.

It was an eight and a half hour slog up the mountain. The altitude affects you in an unbelievable way. We were literally taking about 5 steps a minute (one every 12 seconds, or so!) and still had to stop and rest often!! It was unbelievably slow.

Anyway, we´re back in Mendoza now, but feeling utterly exhausted. Will write some more detail when feeling up to it.

ACONCAGUA – Day 19 January 9, 2007

Posted by Jason in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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From Confluencia to Mendoza. . . . . . . at last!

It feels like we have been on this bloody mountain forever!  After our aborted attempted walk out yesterday, we have to make it today!

We are up early, 7am and skip breakfast, trekking by 7.50am.

It only takes 2 hours to reach the rangers station at the park gate at the foot of the Horcones valley.  Thank God!

We arrange via the ranger a lift off the agency Aymara who arranged the Mules for us.  This cut out another hours walk to Puente Del Inca.  We pick up all our bags from them and have a drink in the local cafe.  A shack that sells empanadas!

We catch the 11.45am bus back to Mendoza.  No hiccups, it goes on time and we finally say goodbye to Puente Del Inca and the Vacas Valley.  Our final sight of the mass snow slopes of Aconcagua as the bus descends the valley.

After a sleepy 4 hours or so we arrive in Mendoza.  A steamy hot city in the middle of summer.  We say goodbye to Geoff, who we will meet for a well earned slap up meal and beer tomorrow night, and we catch a taxi into the city to find accommodation.

Finally we can relax and afford ourselves a few days in a hotel with air con rather than a sweaty hostel!

We both have the longest showers in history, the first in 19 days!!  Believe me, we needed it (especially chezza!) then down the pub for a night I cannot remember!!!

We done it!! 

ACONCAGUA – Day 18 January 8, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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We didn´t sleep very well last night, all the pizza was sitting rather uncomfortably in our stomachs. Proper food being a bit of a shock to the system!

We packed up the tent and handed in most of our gear which we´d arranged to be sent back down by mule. It was hot and we weren´t carrying much apart from an extra fleece and some water. We anticipated that the walk out to Puente Del Inca would take about 6 hours – how wrong we were! After 6 hours we were nowhere near even Confluencia which is at least 2 hours to the road.

Although you drop about 1,000m in altitude between Plaza De Mulas and Confluencia, you lose altitude so slowly it´s painful. We walked for hours along a flat open river bed having to ford the river several times which delayed us further. We were all pretty tired from the summit day and the adrenalin was starting to run out.

Playa Ancha
It became clear that the walk to Confluencia was going to take at least 6 hours on its own. It takes 6 hours going up and we´d assumed it would be much quicker going down. There was no way we were going to make it to the road today. This was somewhat worrying as we had no supplies having sent all our food, sleeping bags and tent down by mule.

Luckily, we were able to secure bunks in one of the big fixed tents at Confluencia, hire sleeping bags and buy dinner which was something of a relief! But the shower I was looking so forward to was going to have to wait another day!

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??

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…

ACONCAGUA – Day 15 January 5, 2007

Posted by Jason in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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Rest Day at High Camp “Colera” 5,970m

The sun does not hit the tent this side of the mountain until 8.35am and so remains very cold until late in the morning. It was -8C in the tent last night, freezing much of the water we had.

The day is perfect, very little wind and clear on top, a perfect summit day! Has our decision to have a rest day and not to go for the summit been the right one?

Once the sun comes up the temperature inside the tent actually becomes pleasant and we have a relaxing morning rehydrating ourselves and resting, praying for the weather to hold for another 24 hours.

We have a wander round the camp again and the view is spectacular across to the west, north and east. The Andes mountains seem to go on forever, a very dramatic backdrop to a very dramatic camp site. We are nearly 100m above Berlin, the traditional top camp for the normal route and we can see people snaking slowly up to this camp with many tents erected. In contrast we have this campsite to ourselves today! A beautiful spot.

At 12pm we begin our chores for the day and begin melting snow and sorting gear for the summit push tomorrow. We need water for the day as well as at least 10 litres for tomorrow for Chez, Geoff and myself. We are all worried about the amount of gas it takes to melt all this snow. You only get about 100ml from a litre of melted snow! Today we use about 2 canisters.

Chezza melting snow on our rest day Geoff´s spot for a bivy at Colera The snow field we take our snow from for melting

We worked out the rations of gas based on possibly 4 to 5 days of melting snow for 2 people if the weather clags in. But of course there are now 3 people to melt snow for with Geoff. I know Geoff is worried about the gas situation but we appear to have plenty left. We still have 9 complete canisters left.

The weather on Aconcagua is a ponderous enigma. The wind is little but picking up after 3pm. To the north and east there are large storm clouds building up and climbing into the sky, covering the mountain ranges. To the west, no clouds at all, just slight haze and sunshine. We SHOULD get our weather from the west, but as the day goes on, grey snow clouds clag in from the east, clinging to Aconcagua´s slopes and we have the odd flake of snow. But for the most part it is still sunny.

Jason´s had enough!!  Even melting snow is tiring!

After melting snow, our chores done, and equipment sorted, we gather in the tent for hopefully our last dinner on the mountain!

We retire to our sleeping bags with our clothing, plastic inner boots and water bottles with us in our sleeping bags! Not much room!! We have 10 litres in Ortelieb waterproof bags between the sleeping bags hoping that they will not freeze.

Views from Colera A view from Colera Views from Colera

We try to get an early night hoping for good rest before a dawn start at 6am. Unfortunately, for Chez and I, we get little sleep. A cross between excitement and nervousness keeps us awake. We are constantly listening out for the wind. Every gust that hits the tent could signal a change in the weather. To successfully summit we need a quiet day with little wind. The temperature drops to -9C in the tent!

Have we missed our weather window???!

View from Colera

ACONCAGUA – Day 14 January 4, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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Move to Camp Cólera (5,970m)

Initially we were intending to traverse from Camp 2 to a higher camp on the Normal Route called Piedras Grandes at about 6,200m.   We´ve speculated about this a lot.  On the one hand it would shorten our summit day by about 2 hours which would be of huge benefit and could improve our chances of making the summit.  On the other hand the campsite there is more exposed and a lot of people don´t advise sleeping above 6,000m because you can´t get a good night´s sleep. 

The other alternative is to traverse the mountain at roughly the same altitude we are currently at and climb only by about 140m towards the end of the traverse to sleep at a campsite called Cólera also referred to as Rocas Blancas (White Rocks).

This would mean we wouldn´t have to lug our packs much higher up the mountain and that we would then be on the “Normal Route” which we were hoping to descend down and which offers us an easy escape route off the mountain rather than going down the longer valley we came up.

Some people choose to summit directly from Camp 2 but this is a longer day and means setting off in the dark at 4am on a difficult scree path and crossing an ice field while walking in the icy cold pre-dawn weather.   We want to avoid this!  We decide to cross to Cólera and try to summit from there.  As we don´t want our gear on two different sides of the mountain in case the weather closes in and we can´t get to our other stash, we´re going to attempt to carry everything at once instead of double carrying as we´ve been doing up until now.

Packed up and ready to leave for the high Camp “Colera”    Crossing the ice field beside camp 2 before making the traverse to high camp Colera    Cheryl and Geoff crossing the ice field

The wind is still strong, but seems to have dropped a tad, we break camp and manage to squeeze everything into our packs, but they are heavy.  Jason´s carrying the tent and his pack probably weighs around 35kg!  Mine is maybe 30kg (more than half our body weights!!). 

Jason crossing the traverse    The view down the slope of the traverse towards the Guanaco valley    The View to Rocas Blancas where we are heading at the end of the traverse. Colera camp is at the top of these rocks

We set off at 12.30pm without any water as the stream hasn´t thawed out yet and we only have a small amount left from the day before. 

We can see the huge white rocks behind which Camp Cólera is located on the horizon.  It doesn´t look that far, and we´re hoping despite our heavy packs, it won´t take too long because we´re not gaining much altitude.  What we´re not prepared for is the arduous journey round the mountain that it turns out to be.  It is further than it looks!  And we are going slower than what could be considered sane!  

Chezza looking back toward Camp 2.  You can see the “Col”, our previous camp below to the left of the picture.

First we have to cross an ice field which turns out to be tougher than expected.  There´s no obvious path through it so we have to make our own way trying to avoid the really slippery bits (we decide not to don crampons as it isn´t that far and doesn´t seem worth the bother) but it takes almost an hour to cross just this small stretch.  And we´re still only spitting distance from Camp 2!  At least we´ve managed to collect some water running off the ice.

We continue round the mountain with our packs weighing down heavily on us.  The views are gorgeous.  We have to stop often.  It is really tiring, and the white rocks don´t seem to be getting any closer.  Eventually the scree gives way to a very picturesque boulder field with rocks of various shapes strewn randomly about.  From here we have a tough climb of about 100m straight up to the campsite. 

Is this Cheryl or an Al Qaeeda terrorist??!    Jason At Colera high camp    One of the amazinbg views from High Camp Colera

The campsite is awesome.  It´s situated in a small bowl with light yellow rocks all around.  It´s very clean and very quiet.  We gain our first view across to the Normal Route where we can see Camp Berlin not far off.  It looks much busier and has a reputation for being very dirty.  It´s surprising that more people don´t make the effort to walk the extra half hour to this campsite.

High Camp Colera with Aconcagua rising above us.

The wind has dropped a lot.  We were hoping to go for the summit tomorrow, but today has taken a lot out of us and taken a lot longer than we anticipated.  We only finish setting up the tent at around 7pm and we would still need to melt snow for tomorrow (there´s no water here) which would take hours.  We decide to rest tomorrow and save our summit bid for the following day.

ACONCAGUA – Day 13 January 3, 2007

Posted by Jason in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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Rest Day at Camp 2 (5,830m)

Camp 2, our tent in the foreground

Cheryl still has a blinding headache this morning and takes more Ibuprofen.  I go for the morning water run at 10.30am but find the glacier melt still frozen even though the sun has been shining on the glacier since 7am. We thaw some of the ice in our bottles to make a hot drink for Chez and Geoff and then fall back to sleep to rest.  Geoff and I have discussed a possible carry today to “Camp Colera” if the wind drops, but there is no sign of this at the moment.

We try another water run, more successful this time after 12.30pm.  Then make some more hot drinks and the wind drops.  It is eerily calm at camp 2 now but across the valley to the north there is a snow storm.  We watch it for some time but it appears to be missing us. We continue to rest.

Chez and Jase “enjoying” life at camp 2! (well at least we were able to get out of bed!!)    The view from our tent at Camp 2    Cooking before the snow fell!

……………7pm – things take a turn for the worse! Snow has been falling for some time, over 2 hours and is settling, the temperature has dropped significantly and now the wind has picked up, blowing snow under the fly sheet. Now I know how useful a snow valance would have been!!

We cannot cook in the porch as the snow is blown straight back into the tent. I furrow outside the tent to move the ice axes in case they get buried in the snow and freeze to the floor, Geoff is cocooned inside his bivy, zipped up against the elements!  This could all make our passage across the traverse much more interesting if the snow keeps up!

Watching the snow clouds gather to the north of Aconcagua    A lull in the snow shower allows a picturesque view at Camp 2    Believe it or not Geoff IS in the Bivi bag gradually being burried by the snow!!

It all looks very picturesque! But makes our dinner less interesting as we have to rely on more cereal and energy bars to keep us going!

The wind picks up and we have blizzard conditions outside.  High winds batter the tent and it is hard to sleep as the tent makes so much noise with the wind.  I curse the weather of Aconcagua again! 

ACONCAGUA – Day 12 January 2, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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Move to Camp 2 at the foot of the Polish Glacier (5,830m)

The wind has been high and gusty again all night.  It´s getting a lot colder too.  The water inside the tent is full of ice.  Despite not wanting to get out of our sleeping bags we decide we must brave the high winds and push on to Camp 2 today anyway.  We make hot drinks in the porch of the tent, have breakfast and pack our rucksacks inside.  The wind is very strong outside, so we want to do as much in the tent as possible so that when we get out we only have to drop the tent and stuff it into our packs.  It´s quite a mission to get the tent down without it blowing away.  I sit on it while Jase rolls it up.

At the top of the slope just below Camp 2, Cheryl and Geoff tackle a small snow and ice section

We begin the painstakingly slow plod up to Camp 2.  By the time we reach the snow fields we have to cross, I´m feeling utterly exhausted.  The altitude is a killer and it´s difficult to get your breath this high up.  My pace slows even further.  I´m going so slowly and taking such long breaks that I´m barely moving at all really, but somehow just keep putting one foot in front of the other and get there eventually. 

Geoff and Cheryl on a small snow section    Cheryl takes a breather    View across the ice tarn at camp 2

I´m feeling awful (this becomes a theme) by the time we choose our campsite and start putting up the tent.  It´s also extremely cold.  Bending down, moving big rocks to anchor the tent and tying the guy ropes makes us both feel faint and dizzy.  It takes over an hour to get the tent up and properly secured.  It´s freezing and I dive (OK, more of a slow stagger really) into the tent while Jason goes to find water.  He´s gone ages and eventually comes back looking ashen.  He´s had to walk to the foot of the glacier a good distance away to find a trickle of melt water coming off the ice.  He says he nearly threw up on the way. 

Jason cooks in the porch as I feel lousy.  We have tomato soup and pasta which we can´t finish.  We´re trying to eat all of our daily rations as otherwise we have to carry them and we also need to keep our energy levels up, but it´s becoming increasingly difficult.  All our food seems highly unappetising.

In the night I wake up with a pounding altitude headache.  It feels as if my head is going to explode.  Jason is coughing badly and sounds like he has fluid on his lungs that he can´t shift.  The temperature is -7 in the tent and everything that isn´t in our sleeping bags with us has frozen solid. 

ACONCAGUA – Day 11 (NEW YEARS DAY!) January 1, 2007

Posted by Jason in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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Carry from “The Col” (5,400m) to Camp 2 (5,830m)

The night was VERY windy (both outside and inside the tent! HAFE).  These rations and the altitude are having no good effect on either of us!

The weather is taking a turn for the worse.  The wind has picked up considerably and has been blowing up all night making it very noisy and hard to get a good nights sleep in the tent.  My Barometer has shown a gradual decrease in the air pressure, not a massive drop but a trend downwards.

In the morning I have to re-guy one side of the tent , some of the rocks have been moved by the wind and some of the guys have slackened.  I have to put yet more and bigger rocks onto the tent!

It is not until 10.20am that we decide that we will move our stash up to Camp 2, risking the high winds.  The wind appears to have dropped a bit. It is still fairly clear on top of the peak which is good news.

Cheryl as we start the carry up to Camp 2

So we finally start moving from “The Col” at around midday. Slowly slowly we head up the zig zags of the slope making steady progress. Traversing the slope above us towards Camp 2 and the Guanaco ridge.

The start of the trail traversing towards Camp 2   Jason in the foreground, looking back down the slope   Loofing east back down the traverse

On the way up we meet Merlin, Norman and Elizabeth from Geoff´s commercial expedition who have all made it to the top yesterday taking advantage of the weather window.  They definitely benefited from hiring porters to do their carries to camp1 and 2.  The carrying of heavy loads at altitude while you are still acclimatising is exhausting.

Then it´s off over the traverse and across 2 snow fields before walking steeply uphill towards camp 2.

Looking north at the Andes mountains    Camp 2 and the Andes mountain looking north    The Polish Glacier, close up from Camp 2

The view whilst making the traverse and from Camp 2 is amazing.  You can see the whole Polish Glacier clearly and see the routes.  But the Vista all around is fantastic. The view north of peak after peak of snow capped mountains is wonderful.  One peak stands out have a Crib Goch like ridge adjoining it and the peak itself looking like Alpamayo.  The view seems to never stop reaching into the distance of the Andes.

Camp 2 at first appears to be a little dishevelled, nestled below the Polish Glacier amongst a jumble of rocks, with a frozen tarn and a myriad of brightly coloured tents hidden behind small walls of rock.  But from here the view is spectacular as the mountain falls away to reveal the Andes stretching into the distance.

We drop our stash near an expedition we know are leaving tomorrow so we may be able to get a good spot, sheltered to pitch our tent when we move up tomorrow.

We then spend half an hour looking for the stash of food left by Geoff´s commercial expedition for him.  Unfortunately, they did not give us good directions to his hidden stash and to make things worse we later found out that an expedition had virtually camped on top of it so hiding it from our view! Very helpful!

We met a guide from Aconcagua Express, whilst at Camp 2 and discussed our options of the traverse to the other side of the mountain.  From Camp 2 on a day like today, you can see the whole traverse face and the ridge to the normal route.  This is a high traverse to the normal route which joins the route near Piedras Grandes where some people camp (6,200M) and a low traverse which goes to a little used camp called “Colera” (or Rocas Blancas) AT 5,970m.

Our cosy camp at “the col”, an isolated tent 400m below us    The higher Polish Traverse that gradually traverses the slope gaining height to around 6,200m    The lower traverse that climbs approximately 150m to Rocas Blancas (the white rocks), to the top of the ridge on the horizon

A choice we will have to make shortly, do we traverse high or low, and once we traverse we have to melt snow to get water which will use up alot of gas.  The guides of Aconcagua Express recommended the lower traverse if we are returning via the other side of the mountain. We shall have to see.

We finally found the food and stashed it with our own gear and then we Vamos back to “The Col”.

Cheryl and I head down in front of Geoff to try and collect water  before he arrives so we can get a brew on.

We do another painful and exhausting water run before the evening is out and before the glacial melt water freezes again.

Cooking tonight seems to take an eternity as we are all tired, then we flop into our sleeping bags for another night´s rest.