Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Well done

1) Congratulations.  2) Finished for the season.  3) Fully cooked.  

Really, all of the above.

The trip was good.  Five climbers and three guides (his private trip was cancelled, so another joined us) spent three days walking to base camp in crazy windy weather (but not snow like last time!).  Our third guide walked out from base camp with one climber, and the rest of us continued up the mountain in usually good weather to camp three (19,200' or 5800m).  Ben and another climber descended to wait at the ending base camp while I continued to camp four (20,500' or 6200m) with the remaining three climbers.

Summit day was beautiful.  It snowed overnight, but we had an amazing sunrise with no wind and the clouds settled below us.  A group came up from a lower camp to break trail just as we started out, and the many commercial and private teams scheduled to summit that day moved smoothly up and down the mountain.  We stood on top about 2:15 and descended just ahead of the snow and wind that moved in that afternoon.

The air is thin at the summit - in millibars, the atmosphere at sea level is about 1012mb pressure.  At the top of Aconcagua, it was 425.  Less than half the available oxygen.  If you flew someone to the top from sea level, they would be dead in 10 minutes.  

Yet if you spend 2 weeks carrying heavy packs, breathing hard, and camping your way to 22,834' (6960m), you can stand on top with no more than a slight headache, if that.  Amazing how the human body adjusts.  But the top of Aconcagua is about the elevation that climbers start to use oxygen on Everest and other places.  It is dangerous mostly because people underestimate it.

Back in Mendoza now, I'm fighting off a wicked cold that has gone around our team, and hoping that I get real health insurance before the part of my nose that always burns turns into melanoma.  Relatively unscathed, and only 3 lbs lighter than when we started (people usually lose 8-15 lbs), I'm looking forward to fresh fruit, another shower, and finishing all my paperwork.  It's nice to be back...

1 comment:

Balu in India said...

You rock! Nice job! Looking forward to seeing you and your super-lungs shortly. Hey, can I borrow one of your lungs?