Killing Time in Aconcagua Base Camp
We spent a great deal of time killing time in Aconcagua Base Camp.
In our dome tent there were 7 of us sharing. It was totally unlike my last experience at base camp when I was in a 2 man tent sleeping on 1cm thick of foam on the rocky floor and an inflatable pad.
This time we had camp beds. It’s the small things that make a huge difference when in this situation, like having gel ear plugs!
We were to spend the next 2 days in base camp.
Aconcagua Base Camp – What is it Like?
Aconcagua Base Camp is a fairly large camp. There are a number of mountain operators established. Inka Expeditions, Grajales, Aconcagua Vision and our base camp provider, Lanko.
Each operator has their own set of facilities from kitchens to storage tents, sleeping domes to dining tents. There is a couple of places you can purchase internet use, buy a coke, bottled water for 10USD and wine and beers for more.
In addition you have the people who come to take on the mountain self-supported. They have their own tents, as we did last time and can make use of the operator’s facilities for a fee.
At base camp there is also a team of Rangers and Medics who check you as you come in to base camp and deal with any medical issues.
Killing Time in Aconcagua Base Camp – The Dangers of Altitude
Two of our team had to be helicoptered off the mountain after a few days at base camp due to altitude related illnesses that were becoming progressively worse.
One with Pulmonary Oedema the other with Cerebral Oedema. Both are fatal conditions if not treated and the usual approach is loss in altitude and medical treatment.
Thankfully, both recovered well after a few days medical care in hospital. It was a stark reminder that altitude climbing is a serious business with serious consequences and self-awareness is needed alongside people around you to recognise when enough is enough. Fortunately the Elite Himalayan Adventure Team are absolute experts in this field and Nims was quick to act with his outstanding level of knowledge.
Aside from the water/bowel based issues I loved Aconcagua Base Camp. There were snow covered peaks, a glacier and more mountains to marvel at that you can shake a stick at.
The Stone Sentinel – Aconcagua Looks over all of proceedings and I lost count of the times I looked up at the summit and imagined what it would be like to stand on top.
Venturing out into the nights sky reveals brightly twinkling stars against the mountain silhouette. It takes your breath away at the sheer magnitude of it all and the universe beyond. It is truly humbling.
Killing Time in Aconcagua Base Camp – These are Harsh Lands
Due to the altitude little grows at 4300m and above.
The land is rocky and baked brown. Everything gets covered in dust. The air is dry. Very dry. Waking up each morning it felt like I had been breathing with my mouth wide open every night, such was the dryness.
For some, noses are the issue which become blocked or crusted and bloody due to the dust. A high factor sun screen and lip balm is absolutely essential as it is very easy to become badly sunburned and suffer cracked lips. It’s a harsh environment despite the creature comforts of the Lanko base camp services.
Despite the lack of action in base camp (heck we were acclimatising!) the time flew by.
As a group we all got on famously well. Each person bringing something different to the table.
We joked, chatted and pulled each other’s legs. I spent some time writing a journal of events, reading on my Kindle and rehydrating.
Hydration and the Problems it Creates
On that, if you got to Aconcagua, take loads of Imodium or similar. I had Boots own and found myself taking 2-4 tablets per day and even then, it barely worked. It’s the problem of having to drink around 5l of water per day, flavoured with Tang (a fruit based powder that is available from the supermarkets). That quantity of fluid is need to avoid dehydration which happens quicker due to increased breathing rates at altitude. Failure to hydrate exasperates altitude symptoms.
On 12th the group us headed out for a hike around basecamp and trekked to a spot overlooking base camp that was 4800m. We just needed to get our legs going while waiting patiently to see what the weather was going to be doing.
It was good to get moving again. By now I was feeling very much acclimatised in base camp. No symptoms from altitude. It is easy to become cocky though. I found a pace with which I could move comfortably in and around base camp. It is much slower than I would move at sea level back at home. A little overzealous or energetic movement and the altitude beats with a heavy stick. It makes you suddenly more out of breath that you would like to be and that can sometimes be accompanied by a pounding headache to reward the over enthusiastic movement!
BBQ Base Camp Style
Later that afternoon we were treated by Nims and the team to a fabulous Argentinian style BBQ with cold Coronas to go with it. We laughed in the sun, enjoyed the amazing meat and the cold beers tasted as good as any I had previously.
I remember looking around the group, seeing the energy between us all, clients, guides and Sherpas and thinking to myself, life doesn’t get much better than this.
I was in my element having a peak experience.
Before long it was time to get our heads down, grab as much sleep as possible and see what the next day brought.
There had been a whisper of a potential summit day. January 16th. The weather it seemed was coming into form for us after the top had been battered for weeks by high, sub-zero winds.