MT. ACONCAGUA: 25 – 31 Dec 2015
Dec 25 – I left the house around 2pm EST to catch a bus to the airport. Ultimately I arrived in Mendoza, Argentina around 4:30pm on Dec 26th. With all the layovers and flights it was around 24 hours to get there. The guides were at the hotel and I got to meet them when I got in to the hotel. Richard is Chilean but married and living in the US. He works full time for American Alpine Institute and speaks fluent Spanish which is a big help on this trip. Aidan is a pilot and a guide. Currently he is guiding more than piloting. Their pictures are below as they are planning the menu for this trip.
Dec 27 – I met 3 other climbers as they were checking into the hotel. Kim, Larry and Eric are all friends from the Seattle area. The first good sign…they are all older than me! This is great because in Alaska, I was the oldest in our group by 15 years. So I am happy to be climbing with my peers this trip. After checking in we explored Mendoza. We had pizza for lunch and I was able to start practicing my rusty spanish a little. I also exchanged $1,800 into Pesos. With the special exchange rate that Richard was able to get, I received $21,600 Pesos. Because the largest bill they use is the 100 Peso note, I had a HUGE stack of bills. It was comically huge as the pictures further below show.
Dec 28 – While the guides were working on getting the food for the trip and other logistics issues such as getting our climbing permits started, we mostly just walked the city and explored. We also found a gear shop for some last minute stuff we each needed. There were also two other climbers due in who were both delayed a day with flight issues. Once they arrived we had a mandatory gear check for a couple hours. Due to a miscommunication, I was not told that I had to have my own snacks for most of the hiking days. So, I was off to the grocery store to buy over $100 of candy and stuff, most of which I had no idea what it was or what it tasted like. When I got back we all went out for dinner around 9:30pm. This is actually early for the local folks but pretty late for us. The appetizer and steaks some guys had were very good.
Argentina actually has a real siesta. Most shops close around 1-2pm and re-open around 4-5:30pm. There are some shops and restaurants that stay open but most businesses shut down and the town gets pretty quiet in the afternoon.
Guides Richard and Aidan planning out the meals.
216 Hundred Peso bills = 21,600 Pesos!
Guide Aidan with his gear laid out.
A most excellent dinner!
Dec 29 – We met around 10am with all our gear and then waited for the shuttle driver and the climbing permits to be worked out. We drove 2-2.5 hours and stopped to have a huge lunch around 2pm. I have come to the conclusion that the reason the Argentinians are not in great shape is because they eat such huge portions. Another hour of driving brought us to Penitentes. I am not sure if this is the town name or the name of the ski area/hotel we stopped at.
Here we finalized our gear and separated it into four piles. The first pile was gear that we did not need until we reached base camp. This was most of the colder weather gear, crampons, climbing boots, some snacks, etc. This gear would be loaded onto mules and we would see it 3-4 days later.
The second pile was stuff we would carry in a daypack the first three days. Mostly snacks, water and an extra layer of clothing.
The third pile was stuff that was going on mules but that would be be going with us each day for the first three days until we reached base camp. This would be sleeping bags, tents, eating utensils, extra clothing, etc. We did not need to carry this stuff and when we stopped to camp, the mules would drop it off for us.
The last pile was stuff we did not need on the mountain at all and would stay in Penitentes until we returned. This would be airline tickets, clean town clothes, dirty clothes, etc.
Penitentes is around 8,000 feet (2,438 meters). After organizing the gear, we took a short hike 600-700 feet up the ski slope to help acclimatize ourselves.
Dec 30 – D-day is here. It’s time to hike and climb. We all piled into a LandRover and drove 4-5 miles to the park entrance. It wasn’t much except a couple of shacks where the Rangers checked the climbing permits. The first two days of hiking are almost directly north along a river. Mostly small ups and downs of 50-150 feet. We took about 4:45 hours to hike 7 miles to Papa de Lenas (9,330 ft/2,843 meters) and gained about 1330’ of elevation. This would be our first night of camping. It was a very warm day, probably in the low 80’s and very sunny. But there was a nice breeze and the air is very dry so it was comfortable. At camp we had to wait an hour or so for the mules to show up with our gear for the night. We then set up tents and had a spaghetti dinner. The guides surprised us with fresh watermelon for a snack while we waited.