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Hasta Luego Bobby - Nos Vemos!

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Hasta Luego Bobby - Nos Vemos!

One more update from basecamp before we move onto the upper mountain.  Yesterday was a bit of a team change-up, and not of the kind that we like: Bobby woke up in the morning feeling off after a night of coughing and low blood oxygen saturation.  A pre-breakfast visit to the basecamp doc confirmed what we were fearing: Bobby was in the early stages of pulmonary edema.  Altitude sickness can strike anybody at any time, and the cure is simple: descent.  So within a matter of hours Bobby was on a helicopter down to the road, covering the 15 mile trek from the trailhead to basecamp (which had taken us about twelve hours of walking on the way up) in a mere eight minutes. 

Bobby on his way out.

At this point Bobby is back in Mendoza and has been given a certificate of clear health from the local doctor, but sadly won’t be able to rejoin us on the mountain due to the team’s climbing schedule.  He is slated to return to the US at the end of the week and is hopefully enjoying beautiful Mendoza between now and then.  We miss you Bobby! 

Bobby, we miss you!

With Bobby back in the lowlands the team is now only chicas - which wasn't the intent of this particular expedition, but it sure is becoming a familiar dynamic on the heels of all-women climbs on this mountain and in Nepal over the last twelve months.  

Libby and Walker on their way to Camp I on our first carry above basecamp. 

We have great weather and are moving up to Camp I in a few hours; most of our supplies are already up there.  From here on out there’ll be very little connectivity - you’ll still be able to see where we are on the GPS, and find updates on the occasional Instagram post, but that’s it until we return in (hopefully) a little over a week.  Our summit window is January 8/9/10, with Tuesday January 9 being the ideal date - weather and acclimatization permitting.  Wish us luck! 

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Oh Aconcagua...

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Oh Aconcagua...

... why do keeping luring me back! It's been three years now since I first set foot on the mountain, and I'm heading back for my third season and my 5th, 6th and possibly 7th twenty-day climbing permit. To say that Aconcagua has been a formative mountain for me would be an understatement.  

Stoked at the summit in 2014, my first time.  I lost 16lbs in 16 days during that particular climb.

Stoked at the summit in 2014, my first time.  I lost 16lbs in 16 days during that particular climb.

But the story of "why Aconcagua" is for another time.  Right now I'm mainly just stoked to finish my 42 hour transit from Potrero Chico to Mendoza (which began at 1:30am on Christmas Day...), stop dragging around 190lbs of group and personal expedition gear - I'm traveling light this year - and say hello to the most excellent team that I'll be spending the next three weeks with: Bobby, Jennifer, and Kristin.  It's a co-ed team this year, though Bobby is outnumbered 4:1 by the girls if you include our last-minute addition and volunteer team medic Libby in the count. 

I'll once again be sharing stories and pictures from the team and the expedition as we're kicking things off in Mendoza and also from the trail, connectivity permitting.  As always you'll be able to find more frequent updates on Instagram and monitor our progress on the mountain via my trusty DeLorme GPS

In the meantime, if you're just tuning in and are curious about what we're up to... you may want to check out some of the more informative posts from last season: 

Yes, wind chill in the negative twenties is considered pretty prime on Aconcagua. 

And so it starts again.  Except for a storm rolling through when we plan to hit the trail on Friday/Saturday the weather is looking pretty excellent so far, the route is dry, I'm psyched to see what surprises this season holds for me, the team, and the ever-inspiring Libby (yes there'll be some ambitious speed scheming again after the team expedition is complete.).  Thanks for coming along for the journey, and if you'd like to get blog updates delivered to your inbox there's a subscribe option, too. 

Up up we go!!

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#cardiocrawl stage 1: mission accomplished!

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#cardiocrawl stage 1: mission accomplished!

Whew.  It's been just about eight days since Libby and I hiked back into Plaza de Mulas after our better half of Team Asquerosa left (hey Teresa, Kristina - we miss you!), and SO much has happened since then.  

After a slow start and some difficulty acclimatizing in the first weeks of January Libby tagged her first Aconcagua summit this past Saturday; she was moving at an excellent clip for it, too: the trek from Nido (18,300) to the summit took Libby 7h45, where most regular climbers take around 12 hours.

On radio duty at Nido, monitoring Libby's climb

On radio duty at Nido, monitoring Libby's climb

Libby at the summit - fittingly on Saturday Jan 21, the date of the Women's March

Libby at the summit - fittingly on Saturday Jan 21, the date of the Women's March

I accompanied Libby to Nido in advance of her summit push but decided to wait and acclimatize for a while longer since I was flirting with the thought of trying for the women's speed record from basecamp to the summit. The existing speed record was set by the local guide and strong woman Chabela Farias in March 2016, who summited in a blazing 9h16 from basecamp and managed the subsequent descent in a mere 3h24 for the roundtrip record of 12h40.  

My and Libby’s main focus has always been on the “long” speed ascent from the Horcones Valley trailhead to the summit and back, but when I saw how fast I was climbing during the early weeks in January - and despite a lingering respiratory infection that I was dealing with at the time - I started to hatch plans for a “quickie” from basecamp to the summit. 

Monday Jan 23 was my go day: I left Plaza de Mulas at 5:05am under perfectly calm and starry skies with mild temperatures and started the 8,400ft climb towards the top of the Americas, feeling strong. I only had a rough idea of the splits I’d need to hit in order to have a chance at Chabela’s 9h16 record, but when I reached Nido (18,300ft) just 2 hours and 44 minutes after leaving basecamp and then hit Camp Cholera another hour later I was starting to feel optimistic.  I kept climbing briskly - interspersed by a few short breaks to refuel and transition to crampons - and stood on the summit 8 hours and 47 minutes after leaving Plaza de Mulas.  

Summit!  I tagged the cross at 1:52pm and lingered a bit for photos & refueling before starting the long way down.    

Summit!  I tagged the cross at 1:52pm and lingered a bit for photos & refueling before starting the long way down.    

Even while taking summit photos and initiating radio contact with basecamp to confirm my ascent, I had already decided that I wasn’t going to try to break Chabela’s roundtrip record since I wanted to save my legs for Libby and my big trailhead - summit - trailhead speed attempt later in the week.  That said, as soon as I started descending it became very clear that I couldn’t have matched Chabela’s descent time even if I had wanted to: while I felt strong on the way up, on the way down my lungs decided to acutely remind me that I wasn’t fully healed from my chest infection yet.  Thankfully I had plenty of daylight left, as well as support along the way - first John Evans greeted me with coffee and a much appreciated hot meal at Nido, and later in the evening Libby trekked up to Conway Rocks to escort me back to basecamp at the end of a long day. 

Tired after a big day and stoked to be back within spitting distance of basecamp

Tired after a big day and stoked to be back within spitting distance of basecamp

At this point, Libby and I are back down in Penitentes (just outside the park) and resting up for the long attempt. While I feel a lot better now than I did right after my summit push, chances are I won’t be in shape to go high on the mountain again in the next few days - so now the two key questions are: what is the best weather window for Libby to launch the big one, and how far will I be able to run with her for support and company? 

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