Monday, February 21, 2000
"I've talked about those blank stares on the triumphant summit that were due to hypoxia, but this was something else. This was a blank stare that was due to not even knowing where you were, probably having no chance of getting anywhere near the summit...."
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Follow along on MountainZone.com for an attempt on Anconcagua with Alpine Ascents International. This climb has special significance both for Alpine Ascents' guide Wally Berg, who is attempting his seventh of the Seven Summits, and Al Hanna, a 69-year-old, Chicago climber who will make an attempt on Mount Everest later this spring.
The amazing Al Hanna already has climbed Ama Dablam, Carstensz Pyramid, Mount Vinson, Kilimanjaro, and Mount Elbrus, all since 1992. He reached the south summit of Mount Everest in 1995, and is making this attempt Aconcagua for the sheer adventure of it, as well as a warm up to his upcoming attempt on Everest.
Wally Berg, the renowned Alpine Ascents International guide who has been reporting for MountainZone.com the past three years from Everest, Kilmanjaro, Vinson, the Embree Glacier and other locations, finds himself on Aconcagua with a shot at reaching his final peak of the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Berg will share his thoughts on the Seven Summits as a goal, and what his life of climbing means to him.
The Americas' consummate high altitude climb is an awesome experience and superb challenge for mountaineers. Lodged deep in the canon of classic climbs, Aconcagua is often a stepping stone for Himalayan peaks, drawing climbers from all levels, as the ascent requires little prior technical climbing experience. Alpine Ascents International has a long standing reputation of leading successful climbs as well as acting as a prime resource for guide books, climbers and the media.
At 22,829ft, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Americas, and the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. Located along the Chilean/Argentinean border, the ascent to the summit offers stunning views of the Andes mountain range. The "stone sentinel" rises approximately 4,000ft above its neighboring peaks and truly dominates the rugged Andean landscape. Aconcagua is a part of the Parque Provincial Aconcagua which protects over 71,000 hectares of mountainous terrain.
The approach to the summit of Aconcagua is highly unique. They ascend via the less traveled and more esthetically pleasing Vacas Valley route. (Actually a variation of the Vacas Valley route). This beautiful and pristine ascent offers a rare climbing opportunity as they encounter fewer climbers and spend quiet evenings in the rich mountain wilderness.
Climbers ascend the mountain by establishing a series of progressively higher camps. The itinerary includes extra days for rest, acclimatization and inclement weather conditions. During the three-day trek to Base Camp the gear is carried by mules. Alpine Ascents' guides have found that enjoyment and success rates on Aconcagua are significantly increased by this extended itinerary. The combination of Alpine Ascents' expert guiding staff and an outstanding route help create an unsurpassed alpine experience.
Day 2: Arrive Mendoza, Argentina. After completing the permit process and equipment checks, we enjoy a group dinner in Mendoza and good night's sleep after a long day of travelling.
Day 3: The following morning we bus to the town of Puente del Inca (8,900ft). Puente del Inca or Inca Bridge is a small town, which is the center of activity for climbing Aconcagua. It takes its name from the natural mineral bridge over the Las Cuevas River once used by the Incas. In Puente del Inca, we organize mule loads, enjoy a group "welcome dinner," and spend the night.
Days 4-6: After one night in Puente del Inca (8,900ft), we drive to Punta de Vacas (8,000ft), where we begin our three-day, 30-mile trek into Plaza Argentina (13,800ft.), Base Camp for our expedition. Mules carry all of our gear so we can enjoy the trek without heavy loads. On the approach, we walk through green desert valleys dramatically enclosed between the mountains of the Andes. During the first half of the approach, our objective remains hidden by the nearby mountains. However, by the end of the second day the stunning east face of Aconcagua dramatically be revealed.
Day 7: After our arrival at Plaza Argentina, we set up camp and spend the next day preparing for the climb, exploring the local terrain and acclimatizing to the higher altitude.
Day 8: Carry to Camp I. Camp I is located behind an old moraine at 16,075ft. We double carry to keep pack weight down and help ensure good acclimatization.
Day 9: Another rest day at Base Camp to help lay a solid acclimation foundation for the rest of the expedition.
Day 10: Move to Camp I.
Days 11-12: Carry and move to Camp II. Camp II is located in a high pass at 17,700ft and provides spectacular views of surrounding mountains.
Day 13: Move to Camp III (19,200ft), located just below the Polish Glacier.
Day 14: Rest and acclimation at Camp III to maximize everyone's chance of success.
Day 15: Move to high camp, Camp IV (20,600ft), located on the North Ridge. On the approach, we enjoy magnificent views of the Polish Glacier. Camp III offers breathtaking scenes of many of the highest peaks of the Andes.
Days 16-19: Summit day begins at 5:00am. We climb the North Ridge to Refugio Independencia at approximately 21,400ft. From there, we traverse the West Face and climb up into the Canaleta, an 800ft couloir that leads to the summit ridge. Finally, the Guanaco Ridge poses an easy traverse to the summit. On the top we have a spectacular 3600 view. All around you see the Andes Mountains consisting of several 20,000ft peaks including one of the highest peaks in South America, Mercedario (about 22,300ft). To the west lies Chile and the Pacific Ocean, and to the east, the plains of Argentina. From the summit you peer directly down the 9,000ft South Face of Aconcagua, considered one of the great faces of the world. Also included are acclimatization, rest and bad weather days. These extra days are built in to provide the best possible conditions for each participant to summit.
Days 20-22: Return hike from Plaza Argentina to Puente del Inca.
Day 23: Return to Mendoza. Note: Should the expedition finish early, we will have the option of visiting Mendoza or other sites as the situation arises.
Day 24: Depart Mendoza.
Day 25: Arrive USA.