Aconcagua 2002!

Latest Dispatch: Dispatch#60 February 28th, 2002.  Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina. Team High Exposure Hello everybody out there in cybercast world, this is Allen Carbert working with Forrest McCarthy on Alpine Ascents' last Aconcagua expedition of the season.  Let me start off this cybercast by wishing all of our best to Matt Lepisto in hopes that he has a speedy recovery, we understand that he has been feeling a little under the weather lately with viral meningitis... Click here for the full Dispatch

Welcome to the Winter 2002 cybercast of the Alpine Ascents International season on Aconcagua. 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 teams on the adventures, as they radio base camp from the higher camps in periodic dispatches when they highlight the day's events, and keep us updated on their progress.

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The 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. Alpine Ascents International has a long standing reputation of leading successful climbs as well as acting as a prime resource for guide books, climbers and the media.

At 22,840ft, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Americas, and the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. Located along the Chilean/Argentinean border, the ascent to the summit offers stunning views of the Andes mountain range. The "stone sentinel" rises approximately 4,000ft above its neighboring peaks and truly dominates the rugged Andean landscape. Aconcagua is a part of the Parque Provincial Aconcagua which protects over 71,000 hectares if mountainous terrain.

For those climbers who are interested and capable, an additional summit attempt via the more technically difficult Polish Direct route is possible. This option is for a select few climbers, given the rigors of climbing ice at 22,000feet. On selected trips, up to two qualified climbers may attempt the Polish, weather permitting. Guides may also decide not to take climbers up the Polish route if their skill level or fitness are deemed inappropriate during the Aconcagua climb. Alpine Ascents International makes this summit bid after the first attempt of the scheduled non-technical ascent. The climb begins from Camp III and entails a 3500 feet elevation gain on steep snow and ice. The climb averages a steepness of 35º and depending upon conditions, may have technical ice sections up to 60º. Climbers attempting this route need previous ice climbing experience and must acclimatize well to altitudes over 22,000ft. This is a very rewarding climb in itself and is an excellent training climb for those with an inclination toward Himalayan ascents. Again, only two climbers on the two selected trips will be scheduled for the Polish on a first-come, first-served, basis.

While the first summit of Aconcagua is credited to Swiss Climber Mathias Zurbriggen, there are traces of Inca civilization and culture near the summit. The name itself hearkens back to indigenous roots, the Quechua word Anco (white) and Cahuac (sentinel). Much like the explorers of the Himalayas, the passes around Aconcagua came into play during military expeditions. In 1817, General Jose de San Martin crossed the range in successful efforts to liberate Chile from Spain. By 1950 most sides of the mountain were climbed with variations of these routes being added to the long line of successful summits.

Day 1: Depart USA.

Day 2: Arrive Mendoza, Argentina.  Climbers should arrive by late afternoon to enjoy welcome dinner with group. After completing the permit process and equipment checks, we enjoy a group "welcome" dinner in Mendoza and good night’s sleep after a long day of traveling..

Day 3: The following morning we bus to the town of Penitentes. In Penitentes, we organize mule loads and spend the night.

Days 4-6: After one night in Penitentes, we drive to Punta de Vacas (8,000ft), where we begin our three-day 30 mile trek into Plaza Argentina (13,800ft.), base camp for our expedition. Mules carry all of our gear so we can enjoy the trek without heavy loads. On the approach, we walk through green desert valleys dramatically enclosed between the mountains of the Andes. During the first half of the approach, our objective remains hidden by the nearby mountains. However, by the end of the second day the stunning east face of Aconcagua is dramatically revealed.

Day 7: After our arrival at Plaza Argentina, we set up camp and spend the next day preparing for the climb, exploring the local terrain and acclimatizing to the higher altitude.

Day 8: Carry to Camp I. Camp I is located behind an old moraine at 16,075ft. We double carry to keep pack weight down and help ensure good acclimatization.

Day 9: Another rest day at Base Camp to help lay a solid acclimation foundation for the rest of the expedition.

Day 10: Move to Camp I.

Days 11-12: Carry and move to Camp II. Camp II is located in a high pass at 17,700ft and provides spectacular views of surrounding mountains.

Day 13: Move to Camp III (19,200ft), located just below the Polish Glacier.

Day 14: Rest and acclimation at Camp III to maximize everyone's chance of success.

Day 15: Move to high camp, Camp IV (20,600ft), located on the North Ridge. On the approach, we enjoy magnificent views of the Polish Glacier. Camp IV offers breathtaking scenes of many of the highest peaks of the Andes.

Days 16-19: Summit day begins at 5:00am. We climb the North Ridge to Refugio Independencia at approximately 21,400ft. From there, we traverse the West Face and climb up into the Canaleta, an 800ft couloir that leads to the summit ridge. Finally, the Guanaco Ridge poses an easy traverse to the summit. On the top we have a spectacular 3600 view. All around you see the Andes Mountains consisting of several 20,000ft peaks including one of the highest peaks in South America, Mercedario (about 22,300ft). To the west lies Chile and the Pacific Ocean, and to the east, the plains of Argentina. From the summit you peer directly down the 9,000ft South Face of Aconcagua, considered one of the great faces of the world. Also included are acclimatization, rest and bad weather days. These extra days are built in to provide the best possible conditions for each participant to summit.

Days 20-22: Return hike from Plaza Argentina to Penitentes.

Day 23: Return to Mendoza. Note: Should the expedition finish early, we will have the option of visiting Mendoza or other sites as the situation arises.

Day 24: Depart Mendoza.

Day 25: Arrive USA.