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Summit Day, Big Challenge Ahead

Summit Day, Big Challenge Ahead
19 February, 2017 Aventuras Patagonicas
Aconcagua's summit ridge

The Group is at High Camp and going for the summit today. All members are doing fine despite the cold weather and snow storms they have encountered up high.

Summit day on Aconcagua is a tremendous challenge no matter which route you are on. Reaching Aconcagua’s 22,834’ summit, especially the final 3,600’ to the summit, for many will be one of the toughest physical and mental challenges they will ever encounter. It is the most demanding and serious day of the expedition. It is here where taking the time to properly acclimatize by ferrying loads and taking extra days in Base Camp will pay off. It is here where it pays off to have followed the equipment list. It is here where you feel that you are getting your money’s worth by having expert High Altitude Guides guiding and pacing you closely, and constantly assessing how your body is coping with the altitude. A good window of weather is needed for Summit Day. We have several days for the summit set aside on our itinerary. A calm, windless day is optimal.

After an early start it is not unusual to spend 12 hrs climbing up to the summit, leaving camp with headlamps from Piedras Blancas, at 19,200′. An hour later we connect with the Normal Route trail, often a cold morning with a light breeze, where -20 F is not unusual for Summit Day before the sun comes up. Gentle slopes will take us to Independencia, an old abandoned wooden hut at 20,790’. Normally the sun shines here for the first time that day. It is pleasant but still very cold. The next section is called “El Paso del Viento” (meaning the Pass of the Wind), where often there is a strong breeze even on calm days. This pass is entirely in shadow this time of the day, and it is critical to move with efficiency through this section to avoid frostbite, and worse case scenario, to abort our summit attempt due to severe cold or weather.

The next section is called the Canaleta, at 21,450′. This can be the crux of the entire climb, depending on conditions. Sometimes it can be covered with hard packed snow. Snow in the Canaleta is ideal. Or sometimes the slope is dry with loose boulders and scree. Pacing yourself becomes difficult, due to altitude and the loose scree and boulders underfoot, making upward progress frustrating and challenging. We often rope people up through some sections where a potential long slip could occur. Note: remember that you DO NOT need a harness for this route. Guides carry a rope and webbing to quickly rig a harnesses if needed. After the Canaleta The Summit Ridge is reached, just 300 from the Summit. This last section takes normally up to 1 hour. From the Summit Ridge you can look down the spectacular South Face of Aconcagua, a gigantic 10,000 face of rock, snow, and ice. The South Face is one of the hardest and most renowned routes in the Andes, a serious undertaking for even the expert climber.

After summiting the group will return to High Camp and get a well deserved rest The next day they will descend the Normal Route to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp. Here we they will spend the night and arrange the gear for the mules to carry out. The next day is a one day walk out to the trailhead where transport will meet the team to be driven to Mendoza for a well deserved rest at the Mendoza Park Hyatt.

Let’s hope for the best on this summit day, they are working hard up hill as we write this. We are attaching a pic of Aconcagua’s summit ridge on a previous Aventuras Patagonicas Expedition.

The Aventuras Patagonicas Team