15 January to 1 February 2013
On 30 January 2013 we finally stood on the summit of Aconcagua, 6,962 m, the highest summit in the Americas and the highest summit on earth outside of the Himalayas. This was the culmination of 4 months of hard training and 14 days of gradually moving up the mountain with our group of 7 climbers and 3 guides from Alpine Ascents.
The plan was to climb the mountain along the Polish Variation Route with a high camp at Black Rocks at almost 6,300 m. A lot of recent snow prevented us from following this high route and instead we travelled through Camp Guanacos at 5,500 m and then established high camp at Camp Colera at 6,000 m. From there we climbed to the summit.
Our expedition started on 15 January 2013 with a 3-day trek through the Vacas Valley to base camp at Plaza Argentina. The Vacas Valley approach is longer (3 days) but also much less travelled than the normal route through the Horcones Valley to Plaza de Mulas on the other side of the mountain.
Mules and muleteers.
Our luggage passing us on the mules on the way to base camp. Plaza Argentina base camp is located at the end of the valley.
We spent 3 nights at Plaza Argentina Base Camp. We had one resting day and the following day we carried a load of heavy equipment to Camp 1 before finally moving to Camp 1 on the third day. Here a view down to Plaza Argentina.
View from Camp 1.
Camp 1 of Alpine Ascents. Alpine Ascents uses 4 camps on the mountain instead of the usual 3. This helped us all acclimatise better and furthermore we had the benefit of being all alone in our camps 1 and 2 since they are almost only used by Alpine Ascents.
It was a beautiful day but high winds were blowing snow off the crest of the mountain – the famous viento blanco (white winds) of Aconcagua.
We decided to move directly to Camp 3 at Guanacos the next morning. This was a deviation from the original plan to traverse the mountain at higher altitude at the foot of the Polish Glacier but the avalanche risk was too great because of all the new snow. Here is the view to the north of Aconcagua as we moved camp.
The next morning at high camp we woke up at 4 am to high winds and freezing cold temperatures. We got ourselves ready to go for our first summit attempt, hoping that the wind would drop. But at 7.30 we had to give up as the strong winds persisted. Finally, early afternoon the winds dropped and we could relax a bit outside under the brilliant deep blue sky. Here looking up towards the summit and hoping for better weather the next day.
The next day, 30 January, we woke up again at 4 am but this time to a beautiful, clear and quiet summit day. We started out from high camp at 5.30 and reached the summit after 9 hours. Here Lhakpa, Roland and Jeff (first 3 guys from the left) are arriving at the top of the canaleta just below the summit.
12 hours later we were back in high camp after a very successfull summit day. We had hot soup and mashed potatos with tuna before crawling into the sleeping bags to rest. The next day we descended to the Horcones Valley base camp at Plaza de Mulas where we had hamburgers, fries and coca cola for lunch! Here we are on our way down from high camp to base camp with heavy rugsacks.
Plaza de Mulas at the end of the Horcones Valley. The following day we had a long, 30 km hike in front of us but at the end of the day waited the first shower for 17 days, a good steak, red wine and a real bed to sleep in so the motivation was high!