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Aconcagua 2015.01 Dispatches

team photo

Our Aconcagua climbers had a wonderful climb of the highest peak in the western hemisphere!  Now all climbers are back in Mendoza and are in transit or preparing to head home to friends, family, and loved ones.  We look forward to returning to Aconcagua in December of 2015 next season!  A big congratulations to Vibeke Andrea Sefland, Sangeeta S Bahl, Diego Pallott, and Bruce Tschider!

Archive photo of Aconcagua summit

Archive photo of Aconcagua summit

I’m happy to report that today our team made it to the top of Aconcagua (22,834′) at approximately 3:30 PM local time.  The conditions today were near perfect, hardly any wind and clear views. It was a long climb up from our high camp, and after about 7 hours we reached the “roof” of South America!  I’m really proud of all our climbers who worked together, supported and encouraged each other throughout this expedition, as Aconcagua is no small mountain!  We have prepared many months for this challenge, and it is a great feeling of accomplishment to have succeeded.  Thanks for following along!

Moving to Aconcagua high camp

Moving to Aconcagua high camp

After a long climb today we are now in high camp and preparing for our summit attempt.  If the good weather continues we may leave early tomorrow morning and set out for the summit.  The views from high camp are amazing, and it feels really good to have come this far.  Everyone is doing well and with a little luck and hard work we could reach the top of the highest mountain in both the western and southern hemisphere sometime tomorrow afternoon.  The last few days have been tough, carrying loads at high altitude, and living the the cold and dry conditions with very high wind speeds, but after coming this far we are determined to give it our best shot! The weather forecast is for the winds to drop over the next few days, so we hope that will hold true.  Wish us luck!!!

Aconcagua Camp 2

Aconcagua Camp 2

Today we climbed up to our Camp 2.  It was a good push but everyone did fine today and now we are resting and taking in the spectacular views!  We are camped alongside another group of climbers and have become good friends with them over the recent days.  Things are looking good and we hope the weather continues to hold out for us. Tomorrow our plan is to take a rest day before making a carry up to our high camp.

Aconcagua Camp 1

Hiking up to Camp 1


After a few days resting in base camp, organizing gear, and carrying loads, we have now moved up to Camp 1.  We have a nice view looking down into the valley below, now we really have begun the climb!  This is probably one of the toughest parts of the mountain as there was a lot of loose rock scrambling on the way up today, higher on the mountain we usually encounter snow & ice, for which we will use our crampons.  Tomorrow we plan to carry up to Camp 2.  We have been fortunate with good weather, and hope it continues!


We have just arrived in Plaza Argentina base camp (14,000′) after the three day trek from the trail head, and are happy to be here, after having said good bye to our team of Arrieros and mules.  It’s a very social environment, with some other climbers that we know from previous expeditions / climbs. Our base camp is appointed with a large dining tent for our group.  Lucky for us our outfitter is taking good care of us in base camp with three hearty meals a day, we might even decide to take showers tomorrow if it’s not too chilly.  We plan to rest tomorrow and organize our food and equipment for the carries to the high camps.  Nestled here on the edge of the glacial moraine, we have a view of the false summit, and can see much of our route ahead.

Trekking along the Rio Vacas to base camp

Trekking along the Rio Vacas to base camp


As we set off from the trail head at Punta de Vaca (8,000′), we are happy to report that the weather is very nice.  We are excited to finally get the expedition underway as the last few days we have been preparing our food and equipment.  Our trek will take us three days as we hike up the Vacas and Relinchos valleys to the Plaza Argentina (14,000′) base camp.  Along the way we will camp beside the river, and likely encounter wildlife such as Guanacos and Condors.  Our group is supported by a team of Arrieros (cowboys) who care for the mules that transport our kit along with us as we go.  This allows us to take a lot of food and equipment to the base camp, after that we must carry everything on our own to the high camps and the summit (22,834′).

Tonight we are in Penitents enjoying our last night in ‘civilization’ before beginning the trek to base camp. The Ayelen hotel does a fantastic job with the meals and services and its great to see my old friend Steve Allen who runs the place. Tomorrow we will start at Punta de Vaca and trek up about 6 hours to our camp, Pampa de Lenas. We have had a great time the last few days enjoying the friendly people, sunshine, and great food in Mendoza. Now we are ready to start exercising and get on with the work of ‘climbing’ Aconcagua!

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At the summit of Aconcagua

A previous summit of Aconcagua

The Madison Mountaineering team is arriving in Mendoza, Argentina over the next few days and will soon begin our expedition and ascent of the highest mountain in the western and southern hemispheres. Aconcagua (the stone sentinel) stands at an impressive 6962m (22,834 ft.) above sea level and is great training for high altitude peaks in the Himalaya.  Please follow our dispatches as we journey from the lush wine region of Mendoza (known for grass fed beef and Malbec) to the arid slopes of the Vacas Valley and up to the base of the Polish Glacier, before making our way to the highest point in the Andes.  Aconcagua is known at times for high winds (100mph) and sub zero temps, as well as the high altitude extreme environment. This mountain is never an easy feat and over half the climbers who attempt are turned back.  We are sure to encounter challenges along the way and with those come potential rewards for hard work and a job well done in the end. On a clear day we might even see the surreal blue of the Pacific ocean from the summit.  This will be my 11th expedition on Aconcagua, and a great way to kick off the first Madison Mountaineering climb of 2015!!!