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Alpine Ascents 2001 Aconcagua


Welcome to the Alpine Ascents Winter 2000 Aconcagua climb. Americas' consummate high altitude climb is an awesome experience and superb challenge for mountaineers. Lodged deep in the canon of classic climbs, Aconcagua is often a stepping stone for Himalayan peaks, drawing climbers from all levels, as the ascent requires little prior technical climbing experience. Follow the team on their adventures, as they radio base camp from the higher camps in periodic dispatches where they will highlight the day's events and keep us updated on their progress.

We wish all of the teams the best of luck and look forward to following their progress. EverestNews.com will also feature the Mount Aconcagua: The climb for prostate cancer.

Dispatch #44:  2/23/01 2:05pm, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hi Alpine Ascents, this is Ellie calling from Aconcagua Base Camp, with the latest from climbing group 6 led by Allen and Dmitry.  Its February 23rd, we've got a beautiful day here.  I last called in bringing messages from the group from the summit.  I did hear from them again last night: they made it back to Camp III at about 6pm or a little bit afterwards.  Very tired but happy to be back at camp.  Today they've been packing up and we are expecting to see them back in Base Camp just anytime now. 

Lhakpa has been running up and down the mountain like the Energizer Bunny. He went up to Camp I and Camp II to help bring some of the extra loads down.  There's some bags of garbage and some personal gear that he brought down yesterday and today he went all the way up to Camp III to join the group up there and pick up a load of tents and came racing down ahead of them, so now we have tents set up for them in base camp when they return, so they can just collapse into them when they get here. 

In the meantime I am also preparing a feast for when they get here.  We'll have a huge vegetable stew, I have cornbread cooking and I'm also going to make a big vegetable salad coming up real soon.  They'll also have snacks and we might even be able to find a beer or two - that'll be a surprise for them  So we'll hear from them when they actually get down.  Our plan is to start hiking down to Casa Piedra tomorrow and the following day down to Pampa de Lena and the day after that down to the trailhead.  So we'll give you an update as we make our retreat from the mountain.  That's it from Base Camp.

Older Dispatches:

Dispatch #43:  2/22/01 12:02pm, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Howdy Alpine Ascents, this is Ellie calling from Aconcagua Base Camp. It's February 22nd, it's about 3 o'clock in the afternoon local time here and I've just heard from our summit team calling in from the summit.  It's been quiet for several hours because I have no radio contact with them as they're going up the other side of the mountain and up the Canaleta but I've heard that there's a bit of snow up there which probably made it easier for the folks.  I finally heard from Dmitry at about 2 and the last of the folks were up there by 3 and they would like to send some special messages out to some folks. First we'll hear from Allen Carbert: "Alrighty I have climbed this mountain for my best friend Wes Gridley and Wes, I now that you have climbed bigger mountains than this one and you have to do it everyday.  So this one's for you Wes, I love you baby!.  "Hey this is Cam, I'm on top of the world. Anthony, Spruce Shaggy, I love you.  Mom and Dad I love you."   "This is Charles Girard, I wanted to say hello to Jacob and Taylor and I'm at the top of the world at the western hemisphere. Wish you were here, love Dad"  
Caller unknown: "Family Friends everybody I am standing on the highest point in the western hemisphere, thank you so much for all of your support, for watching the cybercast I love all of you, I miss all of you I'll see you soon, and I'll talk to you once I get back down to Mendoza."  
"This is Dmitry Sidorov. Gosh, I just want to say as little as possible up here but there was a moment when I was up here and thinking about everything in the world that i left behind (unintelligible) and  they all asked me how (unintelligible) and the one right now possible. I would like to say hi to my wife Gretchen, to my friends back in Russia.  Thank you for this opportunity."

Call #2:  Howdy folks, Ellie calling back just to finish the cybercast.  So that's it from our summit team. As a sidelight  Mark M. came down to Base Camp yesterday. Lhakpa brought him down, he was having some chest congestion, and not breathing really well up there, the thin air at 19,200 feet.  He started out on the walk over to high camp yesterday and wasn't feeling real well, so we welcomed him back to Base Camp with open arms yesterday.  He's still coughing a little bit, a little congested but he is doing really well here at base camp.  So we're all eagerly awaiting the return of the summit team hopefully sometime tomorrow afternoon, so we'll give you an update as the folks return from the mountain.

Dispatch #42:  2/21/01 11:22am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hi Alpine Ascents this is Ellie calling from Aconcagua Base Camp, calling in for group 6 led by Allen and Dmitry.  The troops have been dug in at Camp III at 19,200 feet for two days, they've had two rest days, the first one they did some hiking around the area and went out by the big ice cliff out by the edge of the Polish Glacier and from that edge you can look several thousand feet off this huge cliff.  Today they took a second rest day there at 19,2 and also did an acclimatizing hike up towards Camp IV but in having discussions among themselves with all of our electrical activity these days and everybody is feeling very well, they made the decision to spend tonight at Camp III at 19.2 and they will still make their summit attempt tomorrow starting at about three or four in the morning and going from 19,2 rather than putting in a high camp.  The high camp place that we usually use is up on a ridge and fairly exposed, they've had quite a bit of snow up there and of course we've had consistent lightning in the afternoon, so they're going to be getting an early start and hopefully reaching the summit by early early afternoon and then coming all the way back to Camp III again. So I'll be listening on the radio during the day tomorrow and I'll be calling reports as they happen so stay tuned and the boys are on their way.

Dispatch #41:  2/20/01 9:04am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hi Alpine Ascents this is Ellie calling from Aconcagua Base Camp with the latest news from Group 6.  Yesterday they made their move from Camp II up to Camp III at 19,300 feet. this is the highest they've been yet.  And once again we had another afternoon of electrical storms, this will be about our fifth day in a row.  Here's Allen calling in from Camp III to tell us about it. "Hello this is Allen calling in from Camp III to report on little more excitement that we had last night.  As Dmitry and I were serving up hot drinks to the group we could feel a static electric charge build up in our hair, heard some snapping crackling and popping, and didn't really take much more than that to get us back into our tents.  And it was definitely exciting, we're hoping that the weather system of electrical activity has ceased, and will allow us to go up to high camp and continue with our summit climb on schedule.  So that's about it for excitement from Camp III. I would like to say that our group is going extremely well, everybody is sleeping well, eating well and acclimatizing beyond my wildest expectations.  So we are looking forward to a strong summit climb in the next couple of days.  We'll be keeping you informed as to our progress.  This is Allen and Dmitry signing out.

Ellie:  So now it's the morning of Tuesday February 20th.  They are having a rest day up there at Camp III.  We've got beautiful sunshine, and were crossing our fingers there's a light breeze this morning and were hoping that that's going to keep the updrafts from happening that form those big electrical clouds, and maybe that will be the end of our electrical excitement.  I'll be calling back soon with some personal messages from the group so this is Ellie signing off from Aconcagua Base Camp, and I'll be right back with you. 

Second Call:  Today the group is spending a nice rest day hanging around camp, they had a nice breakfast of ham and potatoes this morning, and soon they'll be headed out for an acclimatization hike out to a big ice cliff right at the edge of the Polish Glacier.  Very spectacular views up there.  Tomorrow they'll be heading up to high camp, Camp IV,  and while they're waiting today everybody's speaking to family and friends and we've got some messages from most of the folks.  "Ellie this is Charles, I'd like to say hi to my sons Jacob and Taylor, and I'd like to say hi to Christine my friends, and I wish you all well, and we're at Camp III at 19,300 feet. Bye.  "Hello this is Jeff and I'd like to say hello to my family and friends and we are poised for the summit and all feeling strong and we can't wait to see you all soon"  "Hi its Chris I'd like to say hello to the entire family, thank you everybody for watching us and all you well wishes, I'd like to say hello to of course all of my friends, Hello my peanut, I miss you hello Jacob and Ann.  Hello Cool Girl and Woody, thanks again for watching, talk to you again after the summit.  "Ok this Camilo,  at 19,300 feet, Camp III.  We are moving up to high camp tomorrow, just wanted to send my love and good wishes to my whole family and everyone back home.  And we are doing well at camp here, and we are hoping we don't get some more thunderstorms.  "Hello I just want to say hello to my mom and I want to say hello to Orla(?) and my dad in Ohio, and my three sisters, this is Allen, and I will be thinking of you at the summit. And that's about it.  Okay I think that's all of our messages from everyone, hopefully they'll have a good rest day up there and well be hearing from them tomorrow as they move up to Camp IV. 

Dispatch #40:  2/19/01 10:20am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hi Alpine Ascents this is Ellie calling in from Aconcagua Base Camp its Monday February 19th. A bright clear sunshiny morning.  But we had a little bit of excitement last night.  The crew, Group 6, with Allen and Dmitry moved up to Camp II at Amagino Col last night, and got all settled in when the thunderstorm hit.  Here's the report from Allen at Camp II last night:  "Good morning this is Allen working with Dmitry reporting in we are up at Amagino Col from Camp II .We had a rough night last night, we've seen a weather pattern for the last three days of electrical storms occurring late afternoon and evening, and last night was no exception.  We had lightning strikes probably no more that two or three hundred yards away form our camp.  Fortunately we are in a little col with high rock pinnacles surrounding us.  So we took the necessary precautions, putting everybody on their foam pads squatting on their pads, hands on their knees sort of a typical procedure when that first bit of lightning strikes.  We expect that the same pattern will develop again today as the snow falls we see the moisture evaporating up into the atmosphere. Once this moisture rises up high enough it will crystallize, assembling a snowflake. When those flakes begin to fall, an electromagnetic charge will develop...as moisture rises and the snowflake tries to fall the electrical charge (unintelligible) so these are clear warnings of the type of weather pattern we need to watch out for we'll definitely make sure we are in a good safe place. 

Hi guys Ellie calling back, Sorry about the static on the message from Allen Camp II is our worst connection.  Also as a sideline, we're hoping if the weather cooperates should be summiting on the 22nd back to base camp by the 23rd.  

Dispatch #39:  2/17/01 8:40am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hi Alpine Ascents and friends and family this is Ellie calling from Aconcagua Base Camp.  And today's message comes from Dmitry and the group up at Camp I:  "Hello everybody out there in the real world, This is Allen Carbert, Dmitry Sidorov and Alpine Ascents International Group 6,  reporting from Argentina, from the beautiful mountain, Aconcagua.  Currently we are at Camp I and we have a carry today to our Camp II at Amagino Col.  Yesterday, the weather presented us with a surprise:  we got about 3-5 inches of fresh snow. (unintelligible) thunder and lightning a lot.  (Unintelligible) So the carry went quite well...(unintelligible)  Lhakpa Sherpa till tomorrow when we are at Amagino Col at 17, 500 feet (Unintelligible) So that's about it for the night and we hope you have a very god night, thanks you very much, bye bye.

Ellie: So that was Dmitry from February 17, Saturday and we expect them to be moving up to Amagino Col on Sunday. We also have a message from Cam, he says "Hello to Anthony, Jim and AJ and the rest of the class, class 5D at Parliament Place Elementary School, also hello to Mom and Dad Bruno Allesander and family and everyone at Ocean Rock, Tracy's Karate and Tree Guy. Also love to Spruce and Shaggy.  That's from Cam. So that's it from Base Camp and we'll be bringing you the news as the group moves up to Amagino Col on February 18th, and hopefully our sunshine and the morning's good weather holds and the winds and the clouds don't hit them too hard.

Dispatch #38:  2/16/01 10:02am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hi Alpine Ascents this is Ellie calling in from Aconcagua Base Camp on February 16th.  The team is doing very well, they're moving up to Camp I, but we have a few words from Allen Carbert: "Hello this is Allen Carbert working with Dmitry Sidorov, Ellie Henke and Lhakpa Sherpa. (transmission fails)

(resumed)...with Dmitry here on the mountain.  As mountain guides there are some things are of primary concern, of primary concern for all a a expeditions the first thing are positive forces. We also have certain types of (unintelligible) This is a long trip and its important that people have as much fun, a positive experience whether they make the summit or not. So we want to make sure that people enjoy themselves...(unintelligible)

The third thing that we want to do is reach the summit.  This is what we are all here for.  Although Dmitry and I have our share high altitude climbing we will certainly do everything we can to get as many of these people safely to the top of the mountain as we can.  Fourth thing we really want to do is really educated people as to what high altitude climbing entails and what expedition climbing  entails.  For many people on this expedition this is their first high altitude climb, it is their first experience in an expedition effort, so we want to give them as much knowledge as we can so that when they come back to climb Denali or Mt. Vinson, they have a good foundation from which to climb on for their attempt.  So we educate people as to some of the fundamental skills involved in climbing such as river crossing, personal maintenance like staying well fed, well hydrated wearing lots of clothing, protecting yourself from the sun's effects etc.  We also try to emphasize that expedition climbing at high altitude on a mountain like Aconcagua is a process not an event. We need to fulfill intermediate goals before we can really look towards the summit:  establishing various camps higher on the mountain acclimatizing properly these are all components of a successful climb that need to be accomplished before we can consider summit day.  So that's just a bit of background on how it is that Dmitry and I will operate and in general how all of our expeditions are run. Look forward to be filling you on some more progress as the days go by.  For Dmitry, Ellie, Lhakpa, and the rest of the group, this is Allen signing off.

2/16/01 #2:  Hi Alpine Ascents and friends and family of Aconcagua Group 6 led by Allen Carbert and Dmitry Sidorov.  As we heard earlier they took off from Base Camp this morning February 16 and packed up their things and moved on up the mountain and established a new camp up at Camp I,  at 16,100 feet. The weather was really good in the morning, but toward the afternoon we had a big cloud buildup and by the time they reached Camp I it was dumping snow pretty good up there.  We had about and inch or two here at base camp and Allen reported that they had about 4 inches of snow up there at Camp I so they got heir tents up and snuggled into their sleeping bags, had hot drinks and a good dinner, and sounds like everything went very well, there wasn't a lot of wind, it wasn't a major storm, just afternoon snow.  By the evening, the clouds cleared off and we had a beautiful starlit night it was fairly cold, but it has definitely cleared off and should be an excellent day tomorrow for their carry up to Camp II.  So we'll have an update on that tomorrow morning or tomorrow evening when they have completed that carry. Everybody's healthy.,  I would also like to report that we lost two of our members Chris Y. and Richard S. to non-serious medical problems.  We sent them down to Mendoza and the lower elevations and they are doing much better.  So we are sorry to miss those two.  But in the meantime the remaining six are going strong and happy and were wishing them the best up there on the mountain.  So that's it from Base Camp and we'll be updating you with news from here soon.

Dispatch #37:  2/15/01 9:50am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hello Alpine Ascents family and friends, this is Ellie calling in from Aconcagua Base Camp and reporting in for Group 6 led by Allen and Dmitry.  The group had a successful carry up to Camp I yesterday.  This is the first time moving above base camp.  The group got everything organized to carry various gear that is not needed here at Base Camp but they will  needed higher up on the mountain.  So everybody packed up their packs with parkas, down pants, with food, dinners breakfast, fuel for running the stoves, everything that is not needed down here but will be needed higher up.  And they left a little after ten o'clock in the morning and they got up to Camp I in about 5 hours, and had a very nice sunny day. The group arrived back in Base Camp in time for a delicious dinner made by Ellie. And actually we were awake enough and still had enough energy to stay up chatting a little bit into the evening and slept in a little bit for today's rest day. 

Today's rest day has been a fun one.  The big activity for the day has been deciding who is and who is not on the summit team.  It's easy to get kicked off of the summit team for such things as refusing to eat fourth helpings at dinner or some particularly bad jokes, that type of thing.  However it's also easy to get back on the summit team for such things as helping to crush cans that are left over form the kitchen, washing dishes, or generally helping out around.  So at this point most of the team has been on and off of the summit team at least 3 or 4 times per person and I'm sure this will continue as we go on up the mountain.

And in closing, we've got a special hello from Chris Wayne says "Hello to family and friends, peanut, Mrs. Wayne and Miss Hogan's third grade class, we are glad to have you folks with us and the land rover."  He says everything is fine, he's feeling great they have been resting today to get ready to move up to Camp I tomorrow. He hopes everything is okay at home and everything here has been just great, so Chris says hi to everybody.  And so do we all.  Hope everybody had a good Valentine's Day yesterday and we'll be reporting in tomorrow probably with a message from Allen.

Dispatch #36:  2/14/01 9:30am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Hello Alpine Ascents folks, we're playing catch up here now that we have the satellite phone back in operation. With all the intense activity in Mendoza getting ready for the last expedition and we're making sure all the radio batteries got charged up and it the midst of all the chaos, we neglected to charge up the battery on the satellite phone.   So with our first dispatch attempt we discovered we would indeed have to wait until base camp.

So let me backtrack a bit to the beginning of the expedition and first of all say hello to Darien School Groups, we'll be giving you some personal recognition as we go, and glad to have you listening in.  The group arrived in Mendoza on Thursday, February 8th.  Everybody arrived all in one piece.  All of the luggage was here and the following day, February 9th, We caught the bus, Our personal bus picked us up, took us by the Aconcagua Park office where everybody went in and signed for our climbing permit.  And then we took off for the mountain stopping on the way in Uspallata, which is famed for the filming of Seven Years in Tibet.  We had lunch in Uspallata and then continued on up to the small community of Penitentes.  And Penitentes is our jumping off place for the mountain.  So we unloaded all of our gear there and immediately set up an operation to weigh everything.  Each bag can weigh a maximum of thirty kilos.  For all you school folks out there you can figure out how much that is in pounds.  All of thee bags are sent up to base camp on mules.  Each mule can carry up to 60 kilos, they put 30 kilos on each side so we have to be very careful in how we pack these bags.  So the whole group filled in and participated we set up a line for getting all of our bags passed through a scales getting them all weighed and we used chalk and a magic marker to write the weight on each bag and end up with a whole pile so that we can tell the Arrieros, the mule skinners, how much weight we have, and they know how many mules to bring in to carry our gear to base camp.  So that started us off on the first day. We finished up with  wonderful Steak Milanese, which is breaded steak dinner, and we were all very glad to hit the hay, it was our last evening in a hotel room.

Second Call: Howdy Alpine Ascents,  Ellie calling back from Aconcagua Base Camp for group 6.  Group 6 is still trying to come up with a group name, "Group 6" is not very flattering so stay posted and hopefully they'll come up with something better sooner or later.  Calling in with another update from February 10, Saturday, which was our first day on the trail leaving penitentes and heading  to our first camp at at Pampa de Lena.   And the group was hot, the group was so hot, we were sweating, we heard rumors of it being 40 degrees Celsius in Mendoza and it sure felt like it was almost that hot up here on the trail hiking up.  Luckily there was a little bit of a breeze most of the way so it cooled us down a little bit, but we were looking for every bit of shade we could find, and there wasn't much.  Hiking into Aconcagua is like high desert: the only plants we see are small scrub and within twenty minutes of leaving the trailhead we saw our last trees for the duration of the entire hike.  So we took lots of breaks, everybody was drinking lots of water.  That's one of the important things for climbing a mountain especially when it is hot, is to stay well-hydrated, so we stopped at every stream and drank and filled our water bottles and finally arrived at Pampa de Lena at 5:30 Saturday evening.  And luckily our mule loads beat us up there so we had a nice session of everybody learning how to set up our VE-25 tents and had a delicious spaghetti dinner and everybody settled in for the night at Pampa de Lena. 

The next morning we crossed the Vacas River.  This year they actually have a bridge in instead of us riding mules across the river.  The water is very high, it seems like it keeps getting higher all season.  And we continued on up the trail to the next camp site called Casa Piedra. And our hike all during this day takes us across huge alluvial fans which are big fans of dirt formed with water coming down from the hillside, and they carry soil and rocks and particulate down the mountain and when it hits the bottom it slows down and causes all this soil in a big fan.  And we crossed quite a few of these before we got to our camp site.  By the time we got towards Casa Piedra the wind had picked up and was blowing pretty hard so we had to use extra energy walking into the wind.

Third call: Hello Ellie calling back again for Group 6.  We left off arriving at our second camp site, Casa Piedra, fighting the head winds all the way to get up there, but it turned out that the winds were a good thing, because this gave everybody a chance to practice putting up the tents with the wind blowing and they've been learning lots of techniques and how to build really really good anchors so when we hit the real winds up on the mountain we wont lose any of our tents up there. So everybody practiced making real solid anchors, we put about 100 pounds of rock on each line coming off the tent and we also put the tents behind rock wind walls that are usually about three feet high, and put them in real solid so that the wind won't blow the tents over.  We also keep them all zipped up and buttoned down real good so we protect our tents very very well.  So we spent the night at Casa Piedra and on the morning of Monday February 12th we got up early. We were up about 6 o'clock which here in the southern hemisphere of course, it is summer her but we are heading towards the fall and at 6 in the morning we can still see stars out and the moon was still up.  But by the time we were ready to move out of camp at about 8 o'clock, the sun hadn't hit the camp yet but at least it was daylight.  The first thing we did was cross the Vacas river which involves putting our Tevas on instead of shoes and using our ski poles for balance and wading across the Vacas and boy was it cold. 

From there we headed up the Relenchos Valley.  The Relenchos River is named after the lead guanacos.  Guanacos are the wild equivalent of lamas and one of the lead guanacos in the herd is called a "relencho" ,which in Spanish means: winning or the winner, because they're the ones that keep their heads up and alert the rest of the herd when danger is coming, which could be our group coming.  So we headed up the canyon of the Relenchos River, and the place we usually cross the water was very high and we couldn't use the usual rock, so we used a new high route that goes up along on shelves of rock along the river and saved us a lot of time from having to change into our Tevas for two or three river crossings,  and got ourselves through the canyon very well. At the top of the canyon we...

Fourth call: Okay Ellie calling back again for Group 6 from Advanced Base Camp. At the end of my last call we were continuing up the Relenchos Valley we topped out from the canyon and reached the wide open valley at the top of the canyon.  We continued on that for the rest of the day we had beautiful views of Aconcagua. The day was perfectly gorgeous, and we are glad to be going up in elevation.  Where its cooling down up here, we are very thankful for the cooler temperatures.  We got into base camp at about 4:30, people were  feeling a little draggy, its a big elevation gain, you know we came up about 2,800 feet during the day and Base Camp is located at 13,800 feet. So the air up here is a little thin so people were feeling that:  there were a few headaches, but nothing serious.  Everybody did a real good job of getting all the tents put up. We did have a little problem with our base camp tent.  While we were gone with everybody down in Mendoza we dropped the base camp tent and rocked it down, puts rocks to hold it from the wind.  When we arrived back up here, there was a lot of ultraviolet damage on the rain fly on the big base camp tent.  And it had a few tears and shreds in it, so we took the old one off and replaced it with a new one and now its in good shape.  So we moved into that and had a wonderful dinner and everybody turned in early, because they were plenty tired after coming all the way up here.  The following day will be a rest day before carrying equipment up to Camp I.  So we will continue with our next report which will be an update on how our rest day at Base Camp is going. So we'll be calling back later this is Ellie signing off from Base Camp.

Fifth Call. Hello Alpine Ascents,  this is Ellie calling in from Aconcagua Base Camp.  Reporting in for Group 6 led by Allen and Dmitry.  And they have not chosen a name for themselves yet so they are still "Group 6".  They had a wonderful rest day in base camp: the weather here has been gorgeous bright sun, hardly any wind at all everybody is almost complaining about too much heat.  Which once they get higher on the mountain they'll be wishing they had a little bit more of it up there. They had a really good day in base camp eating and sleeping and walking around the area here.  We have no water right in the Base Camp proper so various people helped out hauling water from a stream that is running a little bit farther away, maybe a quarter of a mile away or so so we appreciated their help on that, everybody had a good time. 

A couple of special messages here.  We have one from Cam" happy Valentine's Day and love to Anthony Spruce and Shaggy.  He's feeling good."  I'm getting another battery low sign so ill call back with the next message and reports from the carry to camp I when I get the battery charged. 

Dispatch #35:  2/10/01 9:10am, Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina (Group VI) Yo Alpine Ascents, this is group six doing our first cybercast on the first morning of our first night out heading up the mountain.  We've had an exciting time.  The group is hot and The weather has been even  hotter: we had reports yesterday that down in Mendoza it was 40 degrees Celsius.  For all you school classes listening in for us, we have several,...Our battery is low we'll have to call in later, it may be a couple of days.

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