Climbing to Argentina Base Camp 4200m – 9 Jan 2012

climb to base camp s jay and phokwane on mules s phokwane sibu and guide carlos s

The climb up to base camp was strenuous, as you gain about 1 000 m altitude and the air gets even thinner. Although the route was quite steep in places, it was not rocky and we climbed relatively easily…. until the wind started to blow quite strongly. This made the second half of the climb very tiring, as we had to lean into the gusty wind.  It is important that each person climb at their own pace, so the group did get a bit spread out as the day progressed. Phokwane took the climb at a slower pace and Sibu and Carlos kept her company. There was a funny story at the last river crossing as Phokwane didn´t want to jump across in case she injured herself. Sibu and Carlos decided to throw two large rocks in the stream to create some stepping stone. They underestimated the large splash from the rock hitting the water and so Phokwane ended up getting quite wet.

setting up camp sPhil is on a mission to make a 53 minute professional video editorial of the climb. So you can see him tirelessly rushing around trying to get the best camera angles. I think it is going to be great to watch one day after the 3 months of editing required. At one of the stops, Phil managed to lose his sunglasses, as he doesn´t need them for filming. So we were forced to leave him behind as he carried on searching. There was no real concern as there was still one group about an hour behind, so he could always join them if need be.

Jayson and myself were super excited to arrive at base camp about 3:30 pm. I needed to get to the toilet fast, so kept up a good walking pace towards the end. The toilets at base camp are quite basic, with a long drop into a container which is transported away by helicopter when it is full. Everyone arrived safely at base camp with the last group getting in at 5:30pm.

We were all massively impressed with the facilities provided at base camp, with a large mess tent, excellent cooked food, power generator, toilets and even hot shower and internet if you are willing to pay.

evening sky at base camp sAfter arriving, we set up tents, enjoyed a dinner together and retired to our tents at about 9:30pm. The sun goes down at about 9pm and there was a magnificent sunset with mixed rainbow colours.  Frank had eaten so much in the day, as they gave us a huge packed lunch, that he went to bed early without dinner. Sibo warned us all to drink lots of water to avoid altitude sickness, as this camp is known as Headache Camp.

This mountian waits for no man - From Ray via iphone

park entranceWe have arrived at the gate leading into the Aconcagua park. It is at the entrance to the valley. They are just checking permits, then we will start hiking. Today we have a packed lunch. We expect to arrive at the overnight camp at about 2 to 3pm our time.

Everyone is very quiet as if it is the start of a bungee jump, I suppose we all realize that we have reached the begining of our adventure.

Shit bags - from Ray via iphone

mountain mule

Mountaineers have been climbing Aconcagua for more than 100 years. Some years ago the mountain became so polluted with rubbish and human waste that the park rangers did a big clean up. Tons of rubbish was removed from the mountain using mules, even up to some of the high camps. Due to the freezing conditions there is no bio-degrading of the human waste.

Consequently, the new policy is that each climber must remove their own rubbish and waste. Today, we will be issued with a numbered rubbish bag and numbered shit bag. There are large fines if the bags are lost or not adequately filled. I guess this is a good policy to keep the mountain clean for future expeditions. None of us are quite sure of how to use a shit bag. Fortunately, the contents of the bag will freeze rapidly due to the icy conditions.

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