Aconcagua Memoirs Confluenzia
Hello from Confluenzia. 3390m of Altitude.
I awoke on the Tuesday in Penitentes after a sleepless night, partly due to eating late, partly due to the new level of altitude starting to make itself known.
We had been booked into a hostel the night before and would be the last time I’d be in a bed for some time.
A cold trickling shower was not what I had in mind to start the day but it served to awaken the senses and not hang about savouring the comfort of hot water – something that would be absent on the mountain.
Over to the hotel for breakfast and we ate like relative kings. Sliced meats, cheese, fresh fruit, pastries, bacon, eggs and more. We ate heartily as today we were starting our trek on our journey to base camp.
Our gear had left early on the mules and we climbed into the mini bus in glorious sunshine which would take us a few miles up the road to the trail head and entrance to the Aconcagua Park.
Aconcagua Trail Head
We shared the transport with a group of people from Colorado who were also set to climb the mountain and found out about their background and intentions for the next couple of weeks.
Before we knew it we were bundling out of the minibus and handing over our climbing permits at the ranger’s station at the entrance to Aconcagua.
The permit costs $800 USD and permits you to enter the park. In addition it covers the cost of a helicopter for use in medical emergency – something we hoped we wouldn’t need.
The ranger explained the need to check in for a medical check-up at Confluenzia (the first camp site) and Plasa de Mulas (base camp) with the medic on duty and we were issued a numbered bag for rubbish – all trash must be taken off the mountain and this is carefully policed and rightfully so. The mountain is a busy one, called the Everyman’s Everest it is crucial to preserve its unspoiled state.
Admin taken care of and packs on and we were trekking at long last.
The path follows a valley up between rows of mountains and on this day there was a slight breeze with beautiful blue sky’s and fluffy white clouds.
We had been told the route to Confluenzia was about a 2.5 to 3 hour hike.
We set off at a brisk pace along dusty rocky tracks. We crossed a suspended foot bridge, stopped for obligatory photos and carried on our relative march.
We are all fit guys and so like to push the pace a little – which is what we did.
The valley steadily rises up over rock strewn paths that rise and fall with the terrain as it runs along the side of a river.
We were all using trekking poles – a first for me but something that proved essential as the week went on. The technique took a little getting used to but once the flow was found it felt smooth and offered more of a full body feel to hiking – the poles proving especially useful on steep inclines both going up and down.
We had been hiking for 1hr 45 before we saw in the distance a community of tents which indicated our nearing to camp Confluenzia.
The pace increased a little more. I could feel my breathing harder than normal. We had made it to camp in 2 hours, 30 mins ahead of schedule.
On arriving in camp you are greeted by the site of an array of permanent dome tents, set up by the various mountain tour companies as well as individual tents set up by people such as ourselves, being self-supported.
Here there was running water and basic toilets to use.
We found ourselves some areas of relatively flat ground on which to base our tents, rocky terrain and no real hint of grass.
We set our tents up and established camp.
My tent is a Terra Nova model and am sharing with “Banjo” while Rob and George have their own tent.
The tent is cosy to say the least – just enough room for two people to lie side by side with room at each end for rucksacks, stoves and food.
By now it was mid-afternoon and so all that was needed to do was relax and hydrate.
It is recommended to drink 5 litres per day of water due to the increased respiration rate of being at high altitude and the hot temperatures. Dehydration makes the effects of Altitude sickness worse and so this process was crucial to our wellbeing.
The sun was out and it was hot, very hot, around 25 degrees c.
I had got my Thermarest A Lite foam camping mat out to sunbathe on and before long I was in my boxer shorts soaking up some January sunshine!
Later on the weather changed and we had some rain which saw us retire to our tents, boil water for the first of our expedition food packs and get ready for sleeping.
I enjoyed a beautiful sunset as I watched more weather fronts coming in from the south with the threat of rain.
The camp took on a hue of blue, yellow, grey and orange with the backdrop of snow covered peaks all around.
By 9pm I was tucked into my Mountain Equipment Glacier Expedition sleeping bag – comfortable down to -35 degrees c. At this altitude it was far too hot and I spent a restless night half in, half out of my bag while elsewhere in the camp there was singing and guitar playing coming from one of the mountain tour tents. My mind was flicking around contemplating what lay ahead for us on the mountain and before I knew it, it was 6am and time to get up, pack up and set off on a long trek to base camp!