Wow, what a whirlwind these last couple weeks have been. I last shared an update with you on January 3, shortly after Bobby had to abort the climb at basecamp due to pulmonary edema; a lot has happened since then.
- With Bobby's departure, the team morphed from co-ed to an all-ladies configuration.
- We sat out a 36-hour windstorm at Canada (Camp I at ~16,400ft), which seems to be turning into an annual tradition for me: I am 3 for 3 in that department now.
- We got snow. LOTS of snow. Every day. Clear sunny mornings but snow every afternoon - sometimes more than a foot at a time. There were reports of summit hopefuls breaking trail through waist-deep snow in the Canaletta (the crux of Aconcagua's Normal Route some 1200ft below the summit).
- We got to work hard at getting higher and higher up the mountain, completing a series of load carries and moving camp three times. It was hard work in the cold and thin air, but with it came many of moments of beauty and light-heartedness. Turns out that once again it's all about the company!
- We successfully established Camp III to get into position for a summit bid, and set out at 3:30am on January 9 with high hopes of making it to the top. It was a beautiful calm night followed by a glorious sunrise but after five hours of climbing we had just barely reached the halfway point to the summit. Knowing that there was bad weather in the forecast for the afternoon I had to make the call to turn the team around. A few teams succeeded in putting members on the top that day, but many struggled and some returned with frostbitten digits.
Not getting to the summit isn't fun, no matter if your turnaround point is three days into the approach or thirty minutes from the top. But one of the biggest lessons that the mountains have taught me is that climbing is not about getting to a semi-arbitrary highpoint. It's about discovery and discipline and self-awareness and sound decision-making; any summit is just the icing on the cake. And with that... the Aconcagua saga continues.
Scroll down for a couple more photos from the last week.