Tuesday, February 2, 2010

14 up, 2 down

Crazy - it takes 14 days to climb all the way to the summit of Aconcagua, just under 7,000 meters, and only two days to get all the way down and out, back to a shower and clean sheets. This is because of acclimatization, of course, not muscular ability to climb fast or slow. But it's still crazy to think that all that work can be reversed with only two days of walking.

This trip enjoyed incredible weather. Four days before our scheduled summit day, I started to get nervous because the weather was... still. Practically NO wind at 17,500' on one of the windiest places on the mountain! Can't last, and we're going to get pinned down later.
Well, no, amazingly, the weather held, at least enough - clear and calm in the mornings, but snow and some thunderstorms in the later afternoons!

Three of our four summitted; one climber had been slightly sick for the past couple of days and just didn't feel like fighting that all the way up the mountain. But the others of us climbed up in perfect warm weather, the snow starting only an hour before we reached camp again. When the extra trekking poles strapped to my pack started buzzing with electricity in the air, I decided I'd go on ahead and start the hot water...

One of our climbers is the founding force behind Climb for Cancer, which raises money and distributes it directly to help families dealing with cancer: buying exercise bikes for the local cancer treatment center to improve the recovery of bone marrow transplant patients, or paying for the gas, parking fees, and food for families coming to the center for treatment, so they can afford to come. Keep your eye on this one - Ron (not the guy in this picture) is an incredibly passionate and compassionate head of this charity who raised $32,000 (independent of climbing costs, all paid out of his own pocket) with his young neighbor who also climbed with us and did very well.

Edited now with a few pictures from John (thanks!!). The pig one is pretty random - that particular swine had been Christmas dinner at base camp a few weeks before and was being memorialized by the cold weather. And the last picture is with John and Lhakpa Gelu, the other Alpine Ascents guide on this trip. He's still on the mountain, working with three more summit climbs. Sometimes I'm glad I'm not a Sherpa...

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