Aconcagua Again Little Challenges
Aconcagua Again Little Challenges is the second part of my blog series about my recent Aconcagua Expedition in January 2020 with http://www.elitehimalayanadventures.com/.
Lifes Little Challenges
Life’s little challenges are a common occurrence when on expedition and how you deal with them can make or break the experience. It is noteworthy that being at altitude can also intensify emotions!
We had been in base camp a few hours, relaxing, re-hydrating, chatting, playing cards and trying to share a dodgy 4G signal between us to contact the outside world.
Our duffel bags had arrived off the mules. I was sharing a tent with a number of guys from around the globe.
“Is anyone else’s Kit damp?” came a question from Pat, the Ozzy.
Opening our bags revealed that most of us, to some degree or another had a few items of wet kit.
The main concern was of course the down summit clothing and electronics. The mules must have been rained on or bags left in puddles further down the mountain.
In base camp it was grey and cold with a feeling of snow in the air.
Kit was hung up in attempt to dry it out within our dome tent and we returned to the main social tent.
“Guys, some of the sleeping bags have not made it up to base camp from Confluenzia” said Nims.
Somehow, they had been left behind. Mine was one of them. Things happen.
The thought of spending a night sleeping in my down suit didn’t fill me with joy.
On the flip side it was early days in the expedition and sleep could be caught up on. I kicked myself for not carrying it up in my pack. I was eager to save energy for when it mattered and had left it in the hands of the Confluenzia camp staff.
It wasn’t the start I had hoped for, but as I was learning, hoping for outcomes can hinder the mind-set instead of accepting what transpires as it does and dealing with it.
As it happened, a few hours later the sleeping bags did arrive, via helicopter and all was well.
Aconcagua Again Little Challenges – A Diet fit for a Mouse
That evening we “enjoyed” a simple and skimpy dinner of something that was meant to be soup and a rice concoction. I thought to myself that this would not be sufficient to fuel heavy mountain efforts. I was glad I had a bag filled with energy bars, gels, salami and cheese to supplement the rations. (At this point I must point out that the food was nothing to do with Elite Himalayan Adventures – moreover the company at base camp responsible for our diet.)
On finishing the meal Nims went to speak to the base camp kitchen. The evening meals got better from that point forward!
After dinner I felt a sensation that I had experienced last time I was at base camp 2 years ago.
A growly stomach. It wasn’t hunger.
Last time I had been there, the drinking water had been an issue. Time would tell.
In bed by 10pm and a restful night’s sleep was had before being up at 9am for breakfast.
Cold scrambled egg and hotdog sausages with flat mini loaves of bread. It was what it was. Energy.
Aconcagua Again Little Challenges – Rest Days, Personal Admin.
Day 2 in base camp was a rest day. We spent it chatting, filling in a few forms and getting ready to get checked by the base camp medic followed by collecting poo bags.
Poo bags are handed out to be used on the higher camps above base camp. Each is numbered and allocated to you. Once used, it must be handed back in to base camp so as not to leave human waste on the mountain and pollute the water supplies. The bags are not the most generous in size and the method of collection needs some consideration depending on weather conditions. No more need be said – apart from, if you are thinking on going to Aconcagua yourself – take some extra bags to put inside the numbered bag. Thank me later.
By lunch time a number of us were reporting the onset of base camp belly. The base camp team (not Elite Himalayan adventures) told us that they had had a problem with the water and sickness but now the water had been changed. Well, whatever. The magnesium content of the glacier water is high and as such tends to go straight through you. Judging by the state of the toilets, (small cabins over a stinking cesspit barrel in the ground) we were not alone in our intestinal turbulence. Depending on the time of day, the toilets went from being acceptable to down right mind boggling. Ill leave you to imagine the rest. But, if you allowed it, it would test anyone’s reserves.
At least it made for some entertaining discussions around the breakfast/lunch/dinner table! We made light of the situation in our collective suffering and it served to deepen the way in which we all knew each other!
Aconcagua Again Little Challenges – Acclimatisation Trek to Camp 1
The next day we got up, were treated to the same cold breakfast and then had plans to take an acclimatisation trek from base camp at 4300m to Camp Canada at 5050m.
My breakfast was salvaged by the fact I had brought out some quality coffee bags. Because Good Coffee = Good Life. If you like coffee and are going to Aconcagua, I urge you to do the same.
Dawa was to be our guide up to Camp 1.
Dawa is a mountaineering legend. One of the youngest climbers to have ascended all 14 x 8000 peaks, owner of a number of climbing/guiding companies including Seven Summit Treks and thorough mountain bad ass and nice guy.
The Trek to camp 1 is simple and fairly steep in places. You zig zag upwards passing several key landmarks before eventually emerging high above base camp on top of a column of rocks.
We were advised to ascend in our 8000m summit boots as a number of the team had never worn theirs before and they needed breaking in. Fortunately for me, I had over 30 hours spent in mine during my acclimatisation training at Brighton University. I taped up my heels regardless as insurance having torn my heels to shreds 2 years ago in boots that were not broken in and then worrying about contracting an infection at the higher camps.
Minimise the Risks, Control the Controllable
Part of this process is about minimising the risks and controlling the controllable. The smallest of things can potentially wreak havoc on mind-set when the going gets tough. So, from my experiences last time I remembered what needed managing carefully to maximise potential for success.
We set off at 10am on gloriously sunny morning with a gentle breeze in the air.
The early steep incline meant our pace was super slow while breathing relatively heavily.
Imagine walking in slow motion but breathing like you are running a quick 10k.
Everything happens more slowly at high altitude.
I was at the front behind Dawa and just mirrored his steps. I liked his pace. It mirrored my pace. A pace that saw me stay well within myself and without stretching. I had felt tension the last time I attempted Aconcagua and knew that it would hurt my efforts if I tried to push. This pace felt perfect. A pace that felt like it would lead me to the summit. Slowly slowly.
After 3 hours we had reached Camp 1 and very comfortably too. I remembered the last time I had been there feeling very different. Painful headaches, nausea, light headed, shortness of breath. This time, none of that.
Another confidence boost.
We stayed there for around 40 minutes, ate some lunch, posed for some photographs and generally had an amazing time celebrating our successful ascent to camp 1 with the team. The views were simply stunning and I sat in awe eating a sandwich while drinking in the vastness of the view that sat before me. Mind blowing beauty and magnificence at altitude. Great times.
After a while it was time to descend back to base camp and some of us practiced our scree skiing skills on the loose earth while kicking up clouds of dust. It was like being a kid again and great fun was had.
We rested for the remainder of the day.
Loving Right Now and Feeling Strong
My journal entry that day said “Loving right now and feeling Strong.”
That night we had an impromptu party. Did I say that Nims and the crew like to party?
Anyway, much fun was had with the group and Sherpas, high up on the mountainside in a Base Camp Bar dancing the night away.
Sweet, sweet moments. Thank you Nims and Team.
Thanks for reading Aconcagua Again Little Challenges. Part 3 coming soon!