Aconcagua 2002!

Dispatch#56 February 20th, 2002.  Aconcagua Base Camp, Argentina. Team V Hi this is Matt Szundy and Cecelia Mortensen calling from Base Camp, after a few long difficult days.  So yes we summited in good style and with smiles.  To brief you on our summit day, Cece and I had the honor, experience and strength of Willi Prittie joining us at high camp. This made our climber-to-guide ratio 1:1, allowing us a lot of flexibility.  Glen hung with Willi at The Independencia Hut, after a very strong comeback from intense oxygen deprivation and AMS.  He reports a mental brown-out on summit day, but attained several personal goals.  We are all quite pleased with his efforts and perspective on his experience.  John and Cece cruised to the summit in 6 hours from High Camp, at 20,300 feet, at an incredible pace.  They were among the first to the summit, racing the winds and the building lenticular cloud.  In the mountains, the lenticular over the summit always means high winds, and a potential storm, a phenomenon that all climbers are wary of, especially on Aconcagua.  

Our summit morning began at 10:00pm the night before.  While I was trying to sleep in preparation for our 1:00am start, Cece was quietly melting snow for our water bottles.  Outside our tents, a very cold and overdue climber asked for directions to the normal route high camp. Cece and I knew he would never make it alive, so we squeezed him into our two-person tent, and spent the next few hours warming him.  I woke Doug up at 1:30am, we left camp at 3:00am.  We descended the Polish Falso, picked up our cache of pickets, ice screws and technical tools, and traversed onto the Polish Glacier.  The Polish Direct Route is about 3,500 feet of up to 70 degree ice.  Doug climbed so consistently, and the conditions were so good, that we were quite high and committed on the route when we saw the first signs of the lenticular.  Our only option was to top out on the summit ridge and to go over the summit to our descent route on the Canaleta.  The decision was made and we pressed on.  We summited at 6pm and were in camp greeted by hot drinks and hugs by 8:00pm, making it a 17-hour day.  We were both fully exhausted.  Doug's consistent energy, fantastic attitude and honesty with me and himself, combined with the outstanding Polish Direct Route, made for an unforgettable experience.  So for now, that's it from Aconcagua base Camp.  We are hiking out in two days starting tomorrow, love to all our friends and family we can't wait to see you soon.  This is Matt Szundy from Aconcagua Base Camp, bye bye.

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