Aconcagua (January-February 2001)

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I climbed Aconcagua in January-February 2001. At 6962m it is the highest peak in America (north and south). For that reason alone it attracts many climbers. Most of them follow the Normal Route starting at Plaza de Mulas. To avoid the crowd, I took the False Polish Route that starts at Plaza de Argentina and merges with the Normal Route at about 6200m, below the Independencia hut (6300m).

 

In total I spent 17 days on the mountain and summitted on the 14th day (February 2nd) at 11:15am on a perfect sunny windless day. I did the climb alone without any support, though I met several other climbers along the way.

 

My climbing schedule was as follows:

  • Night 1: Los Penitentes (2300m)
  • Night 2: Pampa Las Lenas (2700m)
  • Night 3: Casa de Piedra (3200m)
  • Nights 4-8: Plaza de Argentina -- Base Camp (4200m)
  • Nights 9-11: Camp 1 (5000m)
  • Night 12: Camp 1+ (5400m)
  • Night 13: Camp 2 (5900m)
  • Night 14: Independencia (6300m)
  • Night 15: Camp 2
  • Night 16: Base Camp
  • Night 17: Pampa Lenas

routes

 

While at Base Camp, I did two carries to Camp 1. From Camp 1, I did one carry to Camp 2. On the 11th day I had planned to move up to Camp 2, but very strong winds forced me to set an intermediate camp (1+) at the saddle between Aconcagua and Ameghino (a 5883m peak). To divide the push from Camp 2 to the summit (a 1100m ascent), I decided to bivouac at Independencia (where there was a small, partially destroyed hut). Despite the elevation and the cold (6300m), I slept well. On the 14th day, I left Independencia at 7am and reached the summit (6962m) a little over 4 hours later. For 45 min I was alone at the top. 

 

Beginning of the hike from Los Penitentes toward Casa de Piedra along the Rio de las Vacas.

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First view of Aconcagua from Casa de Piedra, at the junction with Relinchos Valley.

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My camp at Casa de Piedra.

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Between Casa de Piedra and Plaza de Argentina along Relinchos Valley.

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Approaching Plaza de Argentina with Aconcagua on the left and Ameghino on the right.

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Views of Base Camp at Plaza de Argentina (4200m).

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(In this photo, my tent is the rightmost tent set behind a rock wall.)

 

My own camp. On one morning a helicopter landed just above my tent to rescue a climber with a pulmonary edema (right photo).

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Between B.C. and Camp 1.

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Between B.C. and Camp 1 there was a choice between two routes. One required strenuous climbing on loose rock screes, the other difficult navigation across penitentes fields (shown below). Penitentes are tall, closely spaced blades of hardened snow and ice created by sun, cold, and wind. Many were taller than me. I eventually tried both routes, one for each of the two carries I did to Camp 1.

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Views of Camp 1 (5000m).

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Above Camp 1.

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The saddle between Aconcagua and Ameghino (first photo) and my camp 1+ on the saddle (5400m) near another tent set up by two Americans, Brandon and Chris, whom I had met along the way (second photo). All three of us stopped there due extremely strong wind. During the night my Bibler tent twisted and bent, but hold up nicely to the wind.

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At Camp 2 (5900m), again with Brandon and Chris.

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Polish Glacier above Camp 2.

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Views from Camp 2.

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Above Camp 2 on the traverse from the Polish Glacier to the Normal Route toward Independencia.

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Me at the Independencia hut (6300m). I spent the night there alone, as most climbers prefer to sleep at lower elevations. In retrospect, I think I made the right decision. It gave me a good head start on summit day and allowed me to reach the infamous Canaleta (a steep and long scree below the summit) with much remaining energy.

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Me at the North Summit (6962m).

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Views of the South Summit from the North Summit

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View of the Normal Route toward Nido de Condores and Plaza de Mulas.

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Another view from the summit.

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