Success rate for reaching the Summit - from Ray via iphone

aconcagua n7I believe that everyone that climbs Mountains has strong beliefs in what they are doing and remains optimistic that they will make it all the way. There are many incredible stories of how people have reached the summit with impediments such as crutches or being blind.  I fully believe that it’s more a battle of the mind than anything else to keep taking one smaller step when your body is telling you to stop. Our team is no exception, and each of us has a personal goal to reach the summit of Aconcagua. For most of us, it will be the fulfillment of a Lifelong dream and there are sure to be tears of joy for all those that can make it to the top. As a team, we have bonded incredibly well, are all in good physical condition and have great guides, therefore we are in an excellent position to do well as team and climb as high as we can.

acon2The average success rate for reaching the summit is only 50% mostly due to bad weather. The high camps and summit is very exposed, so it would be dangerous to climb in windy conditions. We will be building an ice wall at the high camps to protect the flimsy tents. Juam will be calling the shots to decide if the weather is suitable for the summit attempt.
An accurate weather forecast is very important before heading for the high camps. According to our guide the weather forecast is still looking good for our group. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather remains good for climbing.

The weather can change rapidly on Aconcagu,a which can be a risky situation if visibility is poor or if there are strong winds.  As a safety precaution, there is an equipped refuge bay at 6 000 m, about 1 000 m below the summit. This refuge bay is sealed and may only be used in emergencies. There is a radio to communicate on the emergency band with the base camp. The park also has a rescue helicopter which can transport people from base camp. It is comforting to know that the park wardens are well equipped for the mountain rescues.

Everyone will need to have a medical check-up before climbing above base camp to ensure that they are adequately acclimatized to the altitude. One of the important checks is oxygen saturation levels in the blood.  At the high camps the air is very thin and it will be like climbing with only one lung, so you get out of breath very easily. So we will probably need to rest quite often and progress will get slower the higher we climb.

jay 01 sThe minimum age to climb Aconcagua is 14 years, so Jayson Funnell (15) could be one of the youngest to reach the summit. This will be a big accomplishment for him and his school. Jayson, who will be going into Grade 10 at King Edward VII, has borrowed his school flag and hopes to fly it proudly at the summit of Aconcagua the highest point in South America on the 18th Jan if all goes well. Good Luck Jayson.

Bob (66), on the other hand, is the most senior in our group. He said that he only started climbing summits when he reached 60 years. Among his accomplishments is summiting Kilimanjaro and reaching Everest base camp. We wish Bob all the best on this climb...the sky is the limit if you just set your mind on it! Actually, Bob is not his real name, but for simplicity this is the name he wishes us to use on this trip.

Puente Del Inca (2 725 m) - From Ray via iphone

railroad track climbers graveyard

We have arrived at our overnight stop, Puente del Inca (2 725m). The drive through the Andes mountains was a breathtaking sight with majestic snow covered peaks on both sides of the road. The road follows a fast flowing river, with steep banks. There are interesting rock formations that you can see on the sides of the mountains and shaped like crumpled pieces of paper. There is a pleasant cool breeze blowing. The accommodation is a rock building which blends well into the mountains in the background.

Everyone is repacking their bags in preparation for tomorrow's hike. The mules will carry the duffel bags, so equipment such as ice axes must be protected not to hurt the animal. Each mule carried a load of up to 60kg. In contrast our day packs will be quite light to help with the acclimatization.

We walked along a path following a single track railway line to an unusual graveyard, where several climbers have been laid to rest. Some of the graves are quite recent and still have the climbers personal articles such as boots, rope and cutlery on display. These items really make you feel close to the climber, as you realise that their hands touched that item too. It is a clear reminder for all of us to be careful and look out for each other.

I'm not sure it will be possible to send messages in the next couple of days, as we will be walking in a steep valley.

dinnerSitting down for dinner - from the left Johan, Henk, Mike, Nick.

Surgeon joins team in Mendoza - 5 Jan

last beer in the street of mendoza sWe just met Johan (39), the 12th and final member of the team. He met us at a street restaurant, where we are having lunch and enjoying our last ice cold draft beer. Johan is a heart surgeon, so it will be comforting to know that there is an experienced medical person on the team.
It is unbelievably hot in Mendoza and most of the shops close in the afternoon until 4:30pm because of the heat.

The town of Mendoza reminds me of the city of Paris, with quaint old buildings, lots of trees and street cafe's.
Nick plans to stay on after the expedition, to explore the wine farms in the are,a as they produce the famous Malbec wine. Now why didn't I think of that?

After a short siesta in our hotel rooms, we returned to the street restaurant for dinner. We were all keen on an early night, as we still had not recovered from the long trip to Mendoza.

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