<High Camps> <Summit
Right from the Ranger Station at the foot of the Horcones Valley we had great
views of the South Face of Aconcagua looming way in the distance. It was a
beautiful day and it was nice being one step closer to the summit. Trails and
roads wove towards the peak with a gentle rise in elevation, there were tall
peaks all around and lush green hillsides. We eventually climbed out of the
green and hit the dusty trails that followed the muddy river. This day we had to
hike about 4 miles to Confluencia Camp at ~11,500ft. It wasn't long before we
popped around a corner and saw the sea of tents below. Just had to find tent
spots and chill for the rest of the day. First night on the mountain, three of
us shared a Mountain Hardware Trango-4 and it was great. A huge tent that was
easy to setup and as big as a palace. It was hard to believe that our first
summit day was still 9 days away!
We soon found out that the breakfasts supplied by the outfitter on the mountain
wouldn't be more than toast, cereal and cookies. Better then cooking our own
every morning though! As we were packing up to head to
Base Camp the mules
worked their way into camp and it was amazing how much these guys strapped to
them. They were about $100 each and could carry up to 70kgs.....worth every
single penny too. Our hike continued across the river and further up the
Horcones Valley. After a short uphill the valley widened to easily one mile
across, it was awesome. There were high peaks all around again and Aconcagua
slowly disappeared as we worked our way north then west towards the backside.
Piedra Grande came up soon, it's a freakin huge boulder dropped in the middle of
the valley out of nowhere. It was getting obvious that we would have a much
longer day today slowly gaining elevation and negotiating several streams.
Without finding just the right spot or taking a good leap, you were doomed to
get a wet foot. Mules came flying by every couple hours piled high with stuff
for Base Camp, occasionally you would see a stray mule rolling around in the
dirt regardless of the duffels on its back. The last couple miles were the
steepest and seemed to be the headwall of a disappearing glacier. Knowing we
were close we motored on
talking smack and trying to get used to the 14K air.
We've all been on top of several of Colorado's 14ers, but this would be
different living on top of and above 14K for several days. Before long Base Camp
appeared, the best way to sum it up is that it's a bustling international
metropolis of climbers. Tents of every shape, size, and color were there! We
headed up "main street" after checking in with the ranger to find
Aymara and where we should camp, it was nice to be here after 6.5hrs of hiking.
While at Base Camp Aymara was supplying up meals, that was quite interesting.
They ranged from mule meat and potatoes to lasagna with corn and ham in it.
Gotta eat though.
Scheduled rest day at Base Camp. Despite it being warm and sunny, it was in our
best interest to stay covered in clothes or sunscreen. The nights were filled
with stars including Orion (upside down), the Magellanic cloud,
and the Southern
Cross. Huge temperature change too once the sun ducked behind the valley walls.
We had a great view of the glaciated Cerro Cuerno behind us, saddled to our
route up to the high camps and the west side of Aconcagua. Beautiful alpenglow
each night. The sun wouldn't hit the tents till about 9:15am so no one started
moving until then and the sun wouldn't set until 9pm or so. Took this day as a
chance to walk the mile over to the Refugio to check it out and stroll around
Base Camp. The only other thing we had to do was keep drinking tons of liquids,
eating tons of fat and carbs, and packing for the next day.
Today we were going to carry and cache up to Nido de Condores at 18,300ft. Our
caches consisted of crampons, ice axes, extra food, clothes, and fuel. Not too
heavy of a load and great acclimatization. The first obstacle was working
through a field of penitentes, basically upside down icicles taller then each
of us! After that it was just switch-backing up and up on the dry trail. Some of
us were making great time and feeling great the higher we got. Once up above 18K
it was a bit chillier but we just hung out up high waiting for the others. Bob
dropped down about 400 vertical feet at one point to help carry up the
packs of some folks, good mountain karma we were hoping! It took about 4hrs to
tackle the 4000ft and less than an hour to get down.
Another scheduled rest day consisting of lounging, laughing, and packing for a
move to a higher camp the following day. As luck would have it the clouds that
would typically roll in each afternoon came earlier and decided to start
dropping snow that evening! I was so anxious to get moving up the mountain and
this had to happen. My first lesson in patience and just roll with what happens!
To help pass time in the tent we hung up a picture of bacon, eggs, and hash browns
to drool over. On to the
The day after summitting. From Nido we had to somehow pack all of our stuff into
one backpack and get it down 4,000 vertical feet to Base Camp. This is when I
was really thankful for packing light! Our packs looked like something out of
"The Beverly Hillbillies", but had to be done. Alex and Bob bought
wine at the Refugio for dinner, but wine doesn't go too well with a sunburnt
tongue! Man, that sucked. There are a few tents that sold $3 beers, a few of us
went to one but actually had 3 different types of beer cause they run out
quickly and have to bum beers from the other tents! Leaving we all forgot our
headlamps and stumbled back towards our tents and a simultaneous pee after we
For the past few afternoons and nights a huge lenticular cloud and "viento
blanco" (stands for white wind) would form over the summit. They are really
spectacular to look at, but is a good indication of adverse weather up at the
After night 12 in a tent we packed up and gave the mules our duffels and had ~14
miles separating the mountain and our ticket to beers, showers, and a real bed.
We had to check out with the Base Camp Ranger and according to his list, not
many people had been on the summit recently. The hike out was easy going and
nice to see the Horcones Valley heading the other direction. I sure was glad we
were heading this way and not towards Base Camp! Somewhere below 14K ft your own
stink and body odor defrosts and smacks ya right in the face. After 6 hrs we
were back at the Ranger Station with Aymara's van on the way to take us out to
Puente del Inca. What a great feeling and accomplishment........
<High Camps> <Summit
Sides of Horcones Valley; Hiking up Horcones Valley, Aconcagua in background
Bob eyeing up the surrounding peaks; mules at Confluencia
One of the many stream crossings; Mule coming up the valley
Looking back down the valley; One of many many many breaks
West face through Penitentes; View from the tent
Chillin' at Nido after a carry; Caching stuff at Nido
Great views all around from Base Camp; Sunrise at Base Camp
Roger about halfway through the hike back to Puente del Inca; Me
The last views of the Horcones Valley before civilization once again
<High Camps> <Summit