Aconcagua & Everest 2014
Fortune favors the brave. – Publius Terence
Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true. – Leon J. Suenes
Only 38 days until I head back to Nepal! This time it is the official Everest climb. I have to say the training process and the past few years have been a long road, but necessary for what I am undertaking. Although, I am extremely excited and ready for this challenge and I have missed Nepal since I was there last in late 2013. Right now it’s all about the final preparation, last phase of training, and finalising any logistics to ensure success on Everest.
Although I am excited I also had a great start to the year with some climbing and training over in the Andes, attempting Mt Aconcagua. This was really the last opportunity for me to be in the mountains prior to Everest and remove any last doubts and prove to myself that my skills and my capabilities have improved. I was happy with how I performed on this mountain, although with weather again there was no summit. My focus was more on my mental approach and how to control myself and my thoughts when climbing. All in all it was an amazing trip and I’ll definitely head back to the Andes for some climbing post-Everest!
The beginning of the trip was hectic and a little stressful. Due to being underage and not quite 18 yet my paperwork required me to have not only parental signatures which it had but also a particular stamp which we were unaware of. I found this out over in Mendoza, Argentina and after some back and forth with my Dad in Australia he’d somehow managed to get it all sorted and after and extra day in Mendoza I was finally given permission to enter the National Park and away we went. Most of the team had already gone ahead besides Stephen Bock, Angel and I. We arrived a day later and hit the trail as soon as we had our gear organised. We went mostly non-stop at a solid pace for 4 hours before hitting the first night’s camp and meeting the rest of the team.
We got in around 9pm, had some dinner and went to sleep, camping outside under the stars. The next day it was another day trekking through the foothills of the Andes, which was amazing in itself but I was ready to get up higher. I wasn’t feeling great in my stomach and had a bit of sickness but wouldn’t let that stop me from moving. Really that’s nothing in the grand scheme of things and I didn’t want to let little things interfere with me particularly with Everest coming up where things will be extremely uncomfortable.
On the third day it was time to trek into base camp. We had a solid day but it was my favourite of actual trekking, except maybe the long walk out we did in the end. Getting into Base Camp it started getting cool and windy. We arrived and took some photos, followed by a late lunch in the mess tent before setting up our tents. The next day was a rest day at base camp to hang out, get a standard medical check-up before going up higher and to fuel ourselves before a carry day to camp one.
After our rest day we carried some personal items as well as communal gear such as food, etc. Heading to camp one for the first time I was excited to be past base camp and to be finally climbing between camps and getting higher. It started off with some small hills slowly taking us up before reaching a middle section with small hills winding to the base of the last hill (the biggest part between base camp and camp one.) We zig-zagged up and just at the top of the hill on a plateau was camp one. We hung out for about an hour before heading back down which was a lot quicker than going up. We got in for dinner and a shower at base camp.
The next day was a carry day from base camp to camp one, meaning the same climb as the day before but this time we were packing up our base camp and moving higher up officially. We left about midday and headed up the same route to camp one. I felt fitter and stronger the second time round and it was amazing the difference a day of climbing made – physically and mentally. I got into camp as some snow and wind were coming in. I managed to get all my gear sorted and away pretty quick and then the plan was to acclimatise, eat and sleep. We also followed up with a rest and acclimatisation day at camp one.
The day after our rest we moved up to camp two. There were now no more carry days or rest days. We knew some bad weather was going to hit soon which meant a tight summit window. I was feeling a bit off on the morning of our move to camp two but within 10 minutes I was feeling good and into my climbing rhythm and feeling strong. From that point I was loving the climbing. We had a few hours zig-zagging uphill to another plateau where we then traversed around and came up to a rock ledge where we could see camp two directly across from us.
Once again, not long after camp some snow and wind hit and camp two was a blanket of white. It looked amazing although I was hoping for some good weather on our summit attempt and trying to push the thought out of my mind, just enjoying each day for what it was and taking it all in. The next morning we were up and ready and at 9am it was up to the last camp – camp three. This climb took longer than I had imagined but enjoyed it nonetheless and it was great training. More snow and wind came in just before reaching camp three so I went straight into my tent to relax and fuel my body for our summit attempt at 4am the next morning.
We began our summit attempt at 4am, so were up an hour or so earlier to prepare. Everything takes effort up higher so it takes a while to get it all together. The good thing though was we didn’t need to pack everything, only the basics that we’d need to summit and come back down. So we started up the trail, with all teams at camp working together (with guides up front) breaking trail after heavy snow the night before. It was an amazing view, being in the mountains but also seeing all the headlights lighting up in front and behind us. We reached a snowy plateau and took a quick break and drink before once again zig-zagging up through the snow. I was quite sleepy the first part of the night but by this point my body had woken up and was in a rhythm.
The sun hadn’t come out at this point and slowly the weather was getting worse. Snow, wind and cloud were creeping in but we kept climbing higher, just taking it one step at a time. We eventually hit a place at 6,500m called Independencia. It was full with climbers in the snow taking a quick break and usually preparing to climb the last 400m in altitude to the summit. However, it was at this point that the weather had turned us around. There was talk of a high avalanche risk due to the amount of climbers. I really wanted to keep climbing and was disappointed but I definitely respected the decision made by the team staff, who were much more experience than me.
After our summit attempt we headed back down to camp three via a different route (traversing around) and had a couple of hours to pack up camp and from there we headed all the way back down to base camp on the other side of the mountain. By the time we got down everyone was tired but that’s always the best feeling. The next day was a rest day and a shower at base camp before we smashed a walk out (roughly 27km) back to the trail head. I came back with some nasty blisters but otherwise I felt good and from the moment I got back to the trail head Everest was on my mind.
Now being back home I am preparing and getting final preparation done for the biggest challenge of my life.
Yours in Adventure,