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Mule? Check. Permit? Check. Food? Check.

The last two days have been full of running around the city, gathering supplies, buying a shitload of food and spending an even bigger shitload of money.

lots and lots of food

Permit?  $550/person

Food?  ~$500 (maybe?  haven’t totalled yet)/group

Mule?  $360/for one

Bus ?  $53/person

And of course there is fuel and backpack repairs and water bottles and whatever else we have gathered the last few days.  Yesterday we traveled to a huge grocery store and got the bulk of our supplies.  Today was spent getting odds and ends and packing up all said food.  At this point, we are just about done…. which I have to say, I am SO thankful for.  If you have ever done food packout for more than a few days, you know how annoying it can be!


So…. we off tomorrow….  we will catch a bus to a camp that is run by the company we purchased our mule support from.  There we will get bags ready for the mule and spend one last night organizing.  And then on the 2nd, we will depart for base camp — eat and sleep and acclimate.

snacks piles for us each

Here is our itin for you nerds out there who are interested in this stuff (starting on Feb. 1)

  1. Bus ride at 3:30; Camp at Los Puquios
  2. Start up Vacas Valley, camp at Pampade Lenas (2800m)
  3. Camp at Casa de Piedra (3200m)
  4. Plaza Argentina (4200m)
  5. Rest day
  6. Carry up to Camp 1 (5000m); stay at Plaza Argentina
  7. Rest at Plaza Argentina
  8. Travel up to Camp 1 to stay (5000m)
  9. Rest day
  10. Carry to Camp 2 (5850m); stay at Camp 1
  11. Go to Camp 2 (5850m) to stay
  12. Carry to White Rocks (Traverse — 6000m); stay at Camp 2
  13. Go to White Rocks to stay (6000m)
  14. Summit (with love and to celebrate Valentino)!; sleep at White Rocks
  15. Descend to Plaza de Mulas (4300m)
  16. Descend to Los Puquios
  17. Bus back to Mendoza, celebrate with much wine and steak

We also can build in two days into this schedule (for alternative summit days, for bad weather, for altitude acclimitization, etc.), but we must be back in Mendoza on the 19th.  So, there you go….

So… why do it?  Why climb uphill for 14 days in a row?  Why put our bodies through the damage of high altitude climbing?

Mountaineering is just really walking uphill day after day — trying to stay warm and eat enough calories.  But, if you have ever stood on the summit of a mountain, no matter how high, but if you have worked hard to get there….  you know the amazing feeling of the wind and sun on your face and the feeling of accomplishment.

That is what we are hoping for.

So — keep us in your minds and hearts.  send us as much go-juice-energy as you can muster!

We will be thinking of you all and doing our best staying safe out there on the mountain!  We will be in touch as soon as can.

Much love — aurora

summit day treats

Project Acclimitization

Aconcagua is a big mountain.  You probably knew that already, but it is really big.  There are so many factors that will impact our success out there — weather – wind, snow, temperatures; timing; our fitness levels; but most importantly – how we acclimate to the altitude.

In preparation for that, we headed to Cerro Plata for 5 days — a chance to get out, test our gear and try to acclimate to higher altitudes a little.  We did not have grand aspirations for our adventure, which was good because it kept us realistic.

In order to get to the trail head, a bus dropped us off on the side of the road and we read that we had 12K to climb up the road to reach the trail head.

12K to the trailhead

We walked for quite a ways, trying to hitchhike, until we got picked up and carried part of the way up the road as it switchbacked up into the mountains.  We then got directions from a man out taking his dog and cat for a walk and eventually made it to a campsite for the night — glad for the rest.  It seemed like a long day since we had left Mendoza that morning!

on our way to the bus station in mendoza, soliciting stares with our large packs

From that camp, we pushed on and hiked up to Salto de Aqua, a campsite at 4200m.  It was a big jump in altitute for us, but we wanted to maximize our time up high.  In getting there, we hiked along a glacial moraine and left the greenery below.  People use this camp to climb to Cerro Plata or Cerro Vallecitos, both over 5500m.  But, it turns out that you should not climb to 4200m (close to 14000 ft.) in two days.  Mike and I suffered from headaches, we all suffered from insomnia.  Fortunately, we all still had an appetitie.  But, it pretty much ruled out any desire to summit Cerro Plata (which wasn’t our goal, really).

high camp

Instead, we got to test out our gear, test out some food (we discovered some meals we like and want to repeat and many meals that we know we will not bring on Aconcagua) and work together as a team.  We also did some day hikes, up to our team high-point of 4750.

how we acclimate — laying in the sun

We are hoping the 3 nights spent at 4200m will help us on Aconcaagua.

On our way down, we hiked from the high camp down to the road (which took us two days to do on the way up).  We were really hoping we could hitch our way down, seeing as road hiking is so much fun.  However, the hitch-hiking gods were not on our side as only one car passed us for about an hour and a half as we made our way down the switch-backs.  At that point, i had drifted behind the other two, complaining to myself about the sun, my sore knees and ankles, the heat, the weight of my pack.  And then, a car!  Perhaps he thought it was just me, but regardless, the three of us and our monster packs piled into his small car and we got a quick ride down to the end of the road.  What took us 15 minutes in a car would have easily taken us a 2 hours.  I was so super thankful to get the ride!

Once we got down, we had about 5 hours until our bus back to Mendoza, so we decided to hitch up to the nearest town, Las Vegas (where we could catch the bus).  Fortunately for us, this road had lots of  cars on it and we were quickly picked up by a woman.  Once again a small car, monster packs.  On the way up to Las Vegas, we told her about our trek and about catching the bus.  She insisted that we come to her house (right near the bus stand) for lunch before our bus ride.  So, of course we accepted and spent the afternoon talking about Argentina, travel, and politics.  Plus eating a great meal!  Gladys and her husband Alberto were kind and welcoming – even inviting us to stay with them when we get back to Mendoza after our climb!  It was great to get a glimpse of ‘real’ Argentina through their eyes.  Plus, their generosity was fantastic!  What a fun surprise to our day.

staying warm in the mountains!

Now, we are back in Mendoza — excited to sleep (because we are below a 1000m, meaning we will not have altitude-induced insomnia) and ready to take care of everything before we leave for Aconcagua on Wednesday.

up at 4750m

We have a mule!

Today was a flurry of activity as Mike, Beth and I shopped for a mule.  Yes, a mule.  You see when we head up Aconcagua in a week, we will be carrying over two weeks worth of food.  Plus all our gear (two tents, two stoves, two pots, -20 degree bag, puffy jackets, long underwear, etc.).  So, those packs will be heavy.  So, we got ourselves a mule.

The mules bring in your gear (up to 60kg per mule) to the base camp.  We are hoping to do what is called the 360 route — which takes us up one side and down the other – and that means our walk in is two days longer than the normal route.  So, our mule price is much higher.  We are hoping to keep our weight under 60kg and then we can hire just one mule (who comes with a muleteer – who obviously speaks mule).   The mule (and muleteer) will walk in with us for the then first three days and then we will be on our own.  And how much does one mule cost, you wonder?  Well, it is certainly not cheap — it is about $290 for the one way.  Then we will arrange for our other mule on our way out (giving us the freedom if we don’t make it up and over the mountain or if we come back earlier/later).

Since this is an expensive trip, we decided to wait until the high season ends for a cheaper permit, which means we decided to wait until Feb. 1 to start our climb. So, what to do in the mean time? Well, we read about another climb –Cerro Plata— that will help prepare us for Aconcagua.  It will help because:

1.  It is almost 6000m – which helps us acclimate to high altitudes

2.  it could be cold – which will help us test our gear

3.  we get to test our systems and our team

4.  it is short, but not technical – allowing us to get in shape and again, acclimate

So — our plan is this:

head out tomorrow to Cerro Plata, climb and hike for 5 days.  Then we will be back here on the evening of the 28th to eat a big meal (we are all about the protein right now!).  Then  we will have the 29th, 30th and 31st to pull together 16+ days of food, our permit, any gear we need, etc.   And then, on to Aconcagua – which is 6962m tall — so it will be a good challenge!

Take care friends — hope to share with you a great summit shot when we get back!

i heart mountains

I dream of mountains the way some people dream of new shoes. I covet them. I know their names, the ranges that span countries. I watch movies about them. Read of climbers. I want to know them intimately. Walk in their valleys, cross high passes, summit mountain tops.

For as long as I can remember, the himalayas and the Andes, and more specifically, patagonia, have been etched into my dreams. whispering:  I want, I want, I want….

My core, my soul, ached to see these mountains. I remember moments while trekking in Nepal almost giggling, giddy because I was finally there. I was doing it. I was fulfilling the dream.

And so, here I am, in southern Patagonia about to head out for a trek. And then some climbing and then more treks. In the Andes. Where I have dreamed of being.

And I’ve discovered that realizing the dream does not necessarily mean that I have fulfilled the dream. The Himalayas beckon. They call out to me still – in some ways louder than before. I imagine it will be the same here. I can’t wait to find out!