Cerro Aconcagua (Argentina)
By: Mark Adrian
Mark spent every weekend for six months bagging peaks with Terry Flood to get in shape for this epic. While checking in at LAX Shelley discovered that her passport was at home in San Diego. She somehow managed to go home and get back to LAX in time to join her friends on the original flight. Two days later everyone was in Mendoza, about a four hour drive from the staging point for the Routa Normal, where everything gets loaded onto mules. A professional muleteer, Senor Grajaies (FAX 01 15460-293930), took care of the van and mule arrangements from Mondoza to Plaza de Mulas at 14,400', charging $180 each for this service. Some delays occurred when the papers for the first van were not in order and then the throttle cable broke on the second van. but by mid afternoon of the fourth day out of LAX the gang was at the trailhead at Puenta. A couple of nights were spent at the Hosteria, (included in Senor Grajales's fee). and 10:30AM on day 6 found everyone receiving their numbered trash bags from the ranger at the entrance to the park, to be filled and returned upon exit.
The first camp was at 11,200' where they met a team from the Royal Hong Kong Police, a great group of hikers, who where to shadow our guys all the way up the mountain and back. Day 7 was spent doing 15 miles up the lifeless and eerie mile wide Horcones Valley which reminded Mark of many DPS washes, but without vegetation and with 16,000 foot peaks on both sides. The group decided to spend four nights at a rustic "Hotel", which offered hot showers. from which they carried 60 pound loads up to La Cañada, a base camp at 15.700'. Mark began to experience "Cheven Stokes" breathing, an unpleasant phenomena where one ceases to breathe while asleep. Since not breathing is unpleasant, one then wakes one up and starts to breathe again.
On the day after Christmas, LAX+11, the big move to La Cañada took place. Dave Jurasevich fell out because of chest pains, and the next day decided to head for home. Turned out Dave had Pulmonary Edema, a condition which is very often fatal, and having made the right decision he is still with us. On LAX+14 Fred dropped out and went back to the "Hotel'.. A very sick climber, who had ascended too quickly was being assisted down by four men. Using his "Ham" radio. Mark got hold of Fred back at the "Hotel'. to tell the Mulas doctor that a customer was on the way. We all know how Mark likes to chat folks up on his Ham Radio and being in South America didn't slow him down a bit. By New Years eve the group had moved camp to Berlin at 19,500', the highest camp.
New Years day, summit day. found Mark throwing up pop tarts, followed by an of hour of dry heaves just to make sure they weren't down there anymore. Mark started the day with seven layers of clothing (4 polypro, 1 fleece. 1 Thinsulate Parka and a Cortex shell) but still felt cold for several hours in the O degree temperature. The hard part is something called the Canaletai 1500' of 40-45 degree loose talus and sand. Cramponing would have made it easier, but it was completely bare of snow. Mark says it's the toughest 1,500' he's ever done. Bill Hill got hit in the leg with a 100 pound rock but kept going. At 22,000' Richard Carey turned back with chest pains and exhaustion. The last 300 vertical feet took an hour. Shelley, Mark, Bill Rundle, and Bill Hill all made it to the top. The top was cloudy so the views weren't so great, but it fell really good according to Mark. The group left the top at 5PM. a bit over 10 hours after they started, arriving back at Berlin almost 3 hours later. Falling rocks were a continual problem on this part of the climb, and everyone was too pooped makes the effort to avoid rocks difficult. The oxygen level on the summit is 41% of that at sea level.
On the way down the group learned that a 29 year old German woman had died on the mountain of altitude sickness. It took 2 days to walk out to the road where Bill Rundle displayed his giant blisters, which extended all the way from toe to heal. A van then picked everyone up, so the group that summited on January 1 spent the night of January 3 in the hotel at Mendoza.
Participants were Mark Adrian, Bill Rundle (Leader), Bill Hill, Mark Adrian. Dave Jurasevich, Fred Bright, Richard Carey, Shelley Rogers
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