My climbing team was truly amazing. There were 9 of us – 4 woman and 5 men, mostly American with a German, an Aussie and a Dane added to the mix. There was one current military NCO and 2 vets. It wasn’t a terribly hard approach to base camp, but it was cold and dusty. Some things that stuck out for me: no one complained; there was lots of joking around (even as we got higher up on the mountain and everything got tougher, folks made light of the difficult situation); everyone worked together often taking weight out of the packs of weaker climbers and sharing personal items. That type of camaraderie is sometimes at odds with a climber’s tendency to be self-centered. The 4 women on the trip were so strong! They moved faster and carried as much weight as I did, something they rightfully didn’t let go unnoticed.
After 10 days of approach and acclimatization we left basecamp at 14,500 feet and started working up to the high camps. We made it to Camp 1 then Camp 2 without any issues. Camp 2 at 18,500’was about survival. The wind was brutal and the temps dropped to -10. Our tent flapped and deformed under the constant hammering. The flapping tent was so noisy I used ear plugs to sleep and it never stopped. We were about to move to Camp 3 for a night and then to the summit but the wind didn’t stop and got worse. It was 60+ mph on the summit and those are dangerous, not to mention impossible, conditions. With a quick huddle we all agreed to go down without summiting. Some on the team were pissed and angry about not summiting. I have been blown off mountains due to bad weather and know that it is part of the sport. Sometimes the universe lets you summit, sometimes it doesn’t. You can do everything right and still get denied. If you don’t listen, you can end up getting killed by what you want most.
The one upside of getting blown off the mountain was getting back to town where it was 85 degrees (30c)! I got to fill my belly with two of Argentina’s biggest exports – amazing beef and Malbec wine. I don’t think I will go back anytime soon for another crack at the summit. It was a long trip away from home, family and kids, not to mention work. Plus, I have other places to check out before I head back. After all, it’s the journey, not the destination.
OTTE GEAR ALL PURPOSE PACKING CUBES (Shown below) kept me organized.
January 2020 – William Todd Fairbairn, Founder & CEO of OTTE Gear
Climbing is a sport where no matter how hard you train and prepare there are always elements that are out of your control, not least of which are the weather and your DNA. This was front and center as I attempted to climb Aconcagua last month, Argentina’s and South America’s tallest mountain. The mountain reaches 23,000 feet. The air gets thin and hard to breath the higher you climb. It is not considered tall enough to require bottled oxygen and while there are drugs you can take to help mask the physical pain of the high altitude, only your DNA will predict how you perform up high. Needless to say, my DNA did not help me. I woke up gasping for air and moved extremely slowly above 14,000’.