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A Preview of Aconcagua: Taking on the Highest Peak in South America

With only 14 days to go before I begin my trek out to Argentina, I thought I’d give you a little insight into what I’m doing and what I’m up against. Aconcagua, standing at 6962m (22840 ft) is the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas. While, thankfully, its overall rating is easier than Denali (the highest peak in North America), its weather is notoriously severe, with extremely high winds and its also almost 800m taller. Don’t get me wrong though, this is still a very difficult and dangerous undertaking as both the inhospitable environment and the high altitude will absolutely destroy my body. I have a friend who also does high altitude mountaineering (Denali included) and Aconcagua was the only mountain that he got truly messed up (vomitting, headaches, extreme fatigue, etc). It’s going to be tough, but I’m up for the challenge and I’m going to give it my all.

I’ll be spending 18 days in the country, which allows for a descent amount of acclimatization and slow progress up the mountain. The real key, as with any type of high altitude mountaineering, is carrying loads of supplies to higher elevations while sleeping slightly lower. This helps your body adjust to the rapidly declining levels of oxygen in the air and hopefully will stimulate more red blood cell production and blood oxygen saturation. It takes about a month for your body to fully adjust to a new altitude so it’s expected I’ll be suffering from hypoxia (lack of oxygen) for the duration of the trip. Clinical features include fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, reduced mental function, and irritability but can proceed to really bad stuff like visual disturbance, seizures, coma and death. I’ll be definitely monitoring myself carefully.

This time around, I’m going with an organized expedition (Inka Expediciones) as I don’t have enough time in country to organize food and supplies, nor do I speak Spanish. Although I would have liked to be self-lead with one or two other mountaineers, like I did on Denali, the logistics of it all would be a headache, especially when I’m in full time school the rest of the year. As such they made a preset itinerary of which I’m following.

Day 01 · Mendoza

Day 02 · Penitentes

Day 03 · Confluencia

Day 04 · Plaza Francia

Day 05 · Plaza de Mulas

Day 06 · Plaza de Mulas

Day 07 · Carry to Camp 1

Day 08 · Plaza de Mulas

Day 09 · Ascent to Camp 1

Day 10 · Move to Camp 2

Day 11 · Carry to Camp 3

Day 12 · Ascent to Camp 3

Day 13 · Summit

Days 14 and 15 ·Reserve

Day 16 · Plaza de Mulas.

Day 17 · Return to Mendoza.

Day 18 · Mendoza

** So if everything goes well, I’ll be reaching the summit on New Year’s Eve. **

A successful summit will mean I will have completed 4 of the 7 summits with only the continents of Antarctica (Mt. Vinson), Oceania (Carstenz Pyramid) and Asia (Everest) left to complete.

So that’s pretty much it. My entire winter break is being used up to try to accomplish something I know in my heart I have to do. Despite all the pain and fatigue I’ll be suffering through while I’m pushing up that mountain, if I make it to that summit, it’ll all have been worth it. Wish me luck!

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