2003 Aconcagua NSR Team Expedition

16 Jan - 2 Feb 2003 - by Mike Gigliotti

Jan 16 Depart Mendoza, arrive Los Penitentes 2750 m (9000 feet); 3 hours pre-Aconcagua hike to 3100 m (10300 feet)

Jan 17 Second 3 hours pre-Aconcagua hike to 3250 m (10800 feet)

Jan 18 Depart Los Penitentes (mules carrying 191 kg), arrive Punta de Vacas trailhead 2380 m (7900 feet), depart Punta de Vacas 1230, arrive Pampas las Lenas camp 1630 @ 2870 m (9400 feet) after 11.8 km following the Vacas River Valley; gusty winds to 70 kph

Jan 19 Depart Pampas las Lenas 0815, arrive Casa de Piedra 1330 @ 3200 m (10600 feet) after 13.7 km, gusty winds to 65 kph, first view of Aconcagua

Jan 20 Depart Casa de Piedra 0800, arrive Plaza Argentina 1220 @ 4200 m (13,800 feet) after 10 km following the Relinchos Valley; first real indications of thin air, can see the Penitentes on the glacier, temperature subzero and snowing; gusty winds to 80 kph blowing at us; mules gone; took first Diamox

Jan 21 Rest day, thin layer of new snow, -4 C last night, wind has tapered off, 35 C in tent at 1300; blood oxygen 87 resting pulse 84 (people measuring less than 70 blood oxygen advised not to proceed, at 75 advised of warning); Climber discovered dead day after descending to Casa de Piedra who had been diagnosed with pulmonary edema at Plaza Argentina

Jan 22 Rest day, 0730 windy again and snowing, accumulation to 3 inches; 1730 continued snow and wind, accumulation to 10 inches; 2100 temperature at -15 C and snow has stopped, accumulation 12 to 18 inches from drifting; snow regularly sluffing off steep faces

Jan 23 Rest day (due to avalanche risk); temperature at -16 C last night with hoar frost covering inside of tent; brief strong wind in morning but now calm and snow is quickly melting (although there is apparently 4 feet of snow at Camp 2); daytime temperature now 24 C; A. diagnosed with suspected pulmonary edema and is evacuated at 1900 to Los Penitentes; many climbers from camps above are being evacuated due mainly to frostbite

Jan 24 First carry to Camp 1 3:30 hours up to 5000 m (16600 feet) 1:10 hours down; climbing through Penitentes was challenging; 3.1 km each way

Jan 25 Move to Camp 1 3.0 hours; K. decided he could not make the move to C1 and has elected to wait in Plaza Argentina for a few days or until our return; feels good to be at C1; although tired from two days of climbing I feel good

Jan 26 Rest day; didn't sleep well last night (cold and occasional difficulty breathing)

Jan 27 First carry to Camp 2 3:45 hours up to 5850 m (19200 feet) to base of Polish Glacier (very difficult climb today) 0:50 hours down; again didn't sleep well last night (Cheynes-Stokes breathing); feel a cold coming on; magnificent views all around; C2 very wet

Jan 28 Rest day (even though we are concerned the weather may not hold - high pressure 6 days old now); good sleep

Jan 29 Move to Camp 2 3:00 hours; throat is very sore from the heavy breathing; all movement is slow; no sleep at all

Jan 30 Summit day; woke at 0300 for planned start at 0430, didn't start until 0530; via Polish Falso traverse; felt immediately ill moving slowly along the traverse but gradually got better; vomit on snow shows others feeling same; several earlier climbers quit closing in on 6000 m (20000 feet); I leave group to move ahead soon after starting as getting too cold; spectacular scenery as night becomes day; first rest stop where traverse meets with Normal route; all climbers moving very slowly; second rest stop @ 6300m (21000 feet) Independencia Hut; moved fairly easily along a long traverse (the Gran Acero) leading to the last steep snow/ice and scree slope (Canaletta); begin using crampons and ice axe at bottom; pace slowed considerably moving towards 6600 m (22000 feet); body wants to stop; pace first 4 steps 3 breaths, then 3 steps 4 breaths, and finally 2 steps 6 breaths; 1330 reached summit @ 6962 m (22841 feet); temperatures estimated -20 C but strong gusty wind makes it hard to stay warm; descent not much easier, much care taken not to cause rockfall on approaching climbers; meet two of the Calgary climbers who inform G. and F. have turned around; 8:00 hours up and 3:30 hours down; too tired to eat, went to bed at 2000; G. and I experience tremendous winds (no one appears to be ascending this morning); very little sleep and very cold (had on all my clothes and finally added my down jacket); lips are thrashed

Jan 31 Move to Plaza Argentina with extra heavy packs; beautiful clear day; feels great to be descending into thicker warmer air; steak, egg, onions, potatoes, tea, juice, biscuits make a feast provided by Lanko; slept much better

Feb 01 Move to Pampas la Lenas; 7:30 hours hiked alone and felt strong; continued sore throat and lips; good sleep

Feb 02 Move to Punta de Vacas and ride to Los Penitentes; very tired hiking out 3:30 hours; drank two litres of Coke at truck stop; major feasting begins at Hosteria Penitentes; mules to arrive tomorrow with our gear

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