In January 2018 I will be heading out with a small group of friends on the adventure of a life time – or rather, the biggest adventure I will have been on in my life time thus far – our Aconcagua Adventure.
I am heading out on a 3 week mountaineering expedition to attempt to reach the summit of a mountain called Aconcagua which is located in Argentina.
The expedition will and is requiring a high level of organisation and training to ensure that the chance of summiting is as high as possible.
Fail to prepare then prepare to fail is a mantra I often have in the forefront of my mind when it comes to taking on any challenge.
Aconcagua itself is the highest mountain outside of Asia at 6960.08m high or 22,837ft and is located in the Andes Mountain Range.
In terms of mountaineering, Aconcagua is the highest non-technical mountain in the world. Non-technical means that no ropes or pins are required and the use of axes will be minimal.
The main element of risk with Aconcagua is the high altitude. Although the effects of high altitude are severe supplemental oxygen is rarely used. Altitude sickness therefore is a common problem that affects most of those who attempt to ascend the mountain making acclimatisation protocols essential to stand you in the best chance of summiting. Pulmonry Odema and Cerebral Odema are both potential risks that carry a heavy price the symptoms are not recognised or ignored.
In addition to the problems of altitude the cold is also a challenge near the top.
Cold injuries are a real danger if care and specialist equipment are not taken – hypothermia and frostbite are the two biggest risks of cold injury.
A friend of ours had attempted to previously climb Aconcagua and failed within a few hundred metres of the top due to hallucinating from lack of Oxygen , suffering with HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonry Odema -which can be fatal) and suffering from frostbite – so the risks are very real and we are taking every precaution to ensure we give ourselves the best possible and safest chance of success.
As we are currently in November the 4 of us are currently planning the schedule for the Aconcagua Adventure.
Flights are booked and specific high altitude equipment is being purchased.
High altitude boots to keep your feet dry and warm at extreme height and cold, down jackets rated to -30 degree temperatures, specialist gloves, glasses, goggles, hats, bags, trousers, crampons, ice axes and more will all be bought.
We are running the trip self-supported.
There are two reasons for this.
By avoiding going with a travel company we effectively cut out the middle man and save a heap of money.
We also like the idea of climbing the mountain off our own backs, taking our own tents, food and so on and as far as possible, being self-sufficient, just us against the mountain.
One of the group is a very experienced mountaineer who will be leading us. Being the second man from Northern Ireland to have successfully ascended Everest in 2003 and having climbed a large part of the second highest mountain the world, K2 he is a great guide to have on board.
The next few weeks will centre on obtaining the rest of the equipment we need, meeting up to discuss strategy and cement the expedition team and of course training.
The last 18 months have been transformative for me many levels.
As I have visited the mountains more I have developed an immense and deep love of being out and within the mountain environment.
My time in the mountains has been such a blessing. I have learned so much about myself and my own capabilities which in doing so has revealed new directions and opportunities that I had never really considered before – and now here they are, emerging in greatness with every passing moment.
2017 has seen me take on some huge physical and psychological challenges which I have relished, learned from and ultimately grown.
This next challenge is a logical step and one that I am incredibly excited about experiencing with friends who are dear to me.
Thank you for reading and I will write more about my preparation and experiences over the forthcoming weeks ahead as I draw closer to my Aconcagua Adventure.