It's Sunday afternoon, and Libby and I are sitting in Penitentes yet again; I have lost count of how many days we've spent in this sleepy little ski station at the foot of the mountain since the start of our Aconcagua adventures over six weeks ago.
Well. This is bound to be one of the last times, because tomorrow afternoon we shall be on our way again to attempt the big push from the Horcones trailhead to the summit and back - the same mission that we failed on just over two weeks ago. We're hoping that this time will be different: Libby and I are both healthy now, and we have an incredibly lean setup on the mountain. The last go-around was designed as a supported push with photographer and ultarunner John Evans in position to assist us on the upper mountain, and fully equipped aid/sleeping station tents in place both at 14,500ft as well as at 18,300ft. This time it's just Libby and me with a bit of coordination help from our local friend Juli who will ensure that we have potable water waiting for us at Camp II, where the only way to find drinking water is to melt snow. We stashed warm clothes and extra food on the mountain, and we do have emergency sleeping bags... but no tents, and no pacer support for the upper mountain.
You may wonder - why do we believe that we can pull off the 70km roundtrip climb now when we didn't manage to do it with higher levels of support the last time? Here are the lessons that we internalized from the last attempt:
- This is a team effort. We will support each other, encourage each other, not split up, and get it done together or not at all. On the last go we knew from the start that I had very little chances of getting high on the mountain (due to my lingering respiratory infection) so it was going to be up to Libby to push through solo for big stretches of the run.
- Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Our pace up to basecamp was stiff last time - likely a bit too stiff for the two of us. We're planning to slow down the approach and save steam, our breath and strong legs for the upper mountain where they're needed most!
- PowerBar, Trail Butter and HalfPops have been awesome in keeping us fueled on the go, but we squarely did not take in enough calories early on the last go. Yet another reason for us slow things down and make sure we're fueling frequently and sufficiently.
- We've got very little incentive to stop since we don't have tents set up on the mountain, and lots of incentive to keep going - there is a frenzy of record and big push activity on the mountain right now, which makes everything more exciting! Ecuadorian Nicolas Miranda just set a new speed record on the 360 route (which traverses both the Vacas Valley and the Horcones Valley) yesterday, and his fifteen year old team mate Daniela Calapiña is vying to best my recent basecamp-summit women's FKT on the same day that Libby and I are planning to summit during the big push.
The weather is looking good, we are rested and anxious to get moving, and now all there is to do is show up at the trailhead and get 'er done. Let's do this!!
PS - we'll have live GPS again if you want to see how we're faring this time, and Paul will keep my Instagram up-to-date on go day. Thank you all for the amazing support and encouragement you've been giving us along the way!