Aug 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm #1262330
Addie BedfordBPL Member
Companion forum thread to:Aug 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm #1638187
George MatthewsBPL Member
Great pics and report!
ThanksAug 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm #1638190
That was a good article.
It was not stated where they started from.
–B.G.–Aug 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm #1638256
Tom ClarkBPL Member
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
Nice article. I'd like to hear more on how the lightweight (speaking relative to the location) gear and techniques worked.Aug 18, 2010 at 2:26 am #1638308
i haven't read it yet, but i will surely enjoy when i get to it on my kindle.
thank you for publishing it so all people can read of your adventures. I will share this with my friends as well
Good Luck in your next adventuresAug 18, 2010 at 8:14 am #1638355
Sam HaraldsonBPL Member
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
> Nice article. I'd like to hear more on how the lightweight (speaking relative to the location) gear and techniques worked.
Tom, if you haven't read the previous article about going ultralight on big peaks, check it out as it delves into a bit more of a subjective discussion of gear.Aug 18, 2010 at 9:20 am #1638390
There are no down jackets mentioned in the gear list. Did you really go without down jackets. It looks like the person on the right of the summit photo has a down jacket.
I climbed it last March and it was very cold (-25oC) the night I was at high camp (Berlin). I also met two climbers with frostbite. One from taking his mitt off to take summit photos for ten minutes. Care needs to be taken.
I carried 36 kilos from Horcones to Mulas and after me and my sense of humour recovered I developed a keen interest in ultralight :)
This year for Bolivia and Peru my base weight for similar peaks is around 10-11 kilos minus food fuel and water. A little easier.Aug 18, 2010 at 11:04 am #1638425
We did bring our big puffies on this trip. It managed to escape the gear list. Both Matt & I brought Montbell Ventisca Down Parka weighing 26.0 ounces. Thanks for pointing out the error.Aug 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm #1639151
nanook ofthenorthBPL Member
I have to admit that I'm really surprised at the tent you took, 72oz three-season tent? I've heard the weather can really nuke there up high, what made you comfortable bringing such a light tent? I like tunnel tents in the alpine but the crossed pole pup-tent surprised meAug 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm #1640080
Sieto van der HeideMember
@sietoLocale: The Netherlands
I was up there mid februari. Our group used ~5kg Vaude heavy duty tents, and even one of those was shredded at Colera camp, the night after we summited (luckily it was the night after the summit, so we could descend to BC in the early morning).
Matt & Agnes, nice to read your story, thanks for posting. After I returned from Aconcagua, I joined this site and ready your Denali expedition report. I wondered what your Aconcagua gearlist would look like, and now I know :-) What are your future plans?Aug 27, 2010 at 11:56 am #1641008
Hi Robert-The MontBell double wall tent we took on this ascent seemed to suit the situation in a couple ways. On Denali, all of our ultralight shelters rely on digging into the snow or using snow blocks for protection. We didn't know what to expect using volcanic rock and dirt to make walls for wind protection. So we chose to bring a more standard double wall cross-pole tent. The small size of the MontBell gave it a low profile to hide behind walls that can not be built very high. It's also very compact and therefore has a very small surface area to catch wind relative to the cross-pole design. Whereas our ultralight tents need care in orientation to high winds, this little tent was able to shed gusts from any direction.
Another consideration was that the MontBell tent was made of a solid nylon. Our experience has shown volcanic rock to destroy silnylon at an alarming rate.Sep 3, 2010 at 7:19 am #1642765
Nice trip and photos. A few comments:
* People die there every year due to wind and cold, so best to know what you're doing.
* Plastic boots are the law, but I'm not sure how much the rangers check.
* The climbing is easy; the danger on this mountain is the camping. Spending nights up high is what makes you sick, tired, and dehydrated. I think traditional advice is terrible.
* Here's what I did instead, which worked fantastic:
Day 1: Fly out of Denver 5 am, transfer Buenos Aires, fly into Mendoza, make it to NP office before it closes to buy Permit.
Day 2: Take public bus to trailhead, hike to basecamp at 14k (don't need the stupid mules if you're not carrying much gear).
Day 3: Take pictures, pack summit bag, poach food from huge guided tents.
Day 4: Hike to top. 10 hrs. Back to basecamp easily in time for wine with dinner. WAY easier and safer than camping.
Day 5: Hike down to Confluencia, drop packs, run up to Plaza Francia for photo ops in front of towering South Face, pick up packs, make it to trailhead in time for last bus to Mendoza. Hot shower, really good Malbec with dinner.
That's it. 5 days total. Flew to Tierra del Fuego next day.
* Trekking poles are a must! Really help in the wind. Used crampons, so did not bring or need ice axe.
* Oversized Gore-Tex running shoes are the warmest (they flex).
* Chemical heat packs for hands and feet are also a must (guaranteed warmth for minimal weight).
* Rig a little sack for your water bladder and wear it under your coat.
* Balaclava is a must; goggles help.Sep 9, 2010 at 10:54 am #1644211
That sounds awesome Buzz! It's all about what appeals to you. We prefer to go light and slow as we really enjoy camping in amazing places for days at a time. Our permit for Aconcagua was for 20 days. We used every one of them.Sep 9, 2010 at 11:09 am #1644216
eric chanBPL Member
any issue with handwarmers at altitude … the lower oxygen levels dont reduce the performance?
thanksSep 9, 2010 at 11:15 am #1644218
Wow. I see some huge variations of opinion. I was there in January 1996, so I guess a few things have changed since then.
Trying to go from Mendoza to Plaza de Mulas in a day is a crazy way to bring on altitude sickness. We had gone up to the 9000 foot trailhead in one day, then took two days to hike to Plaza de Mulas. Even that knocked the snot out of some hikers. Trying to go from 14K to almost 23K and back does not seem like easier and safer, not by any stretch. I think we had summited on the seventh day out of Plaza de Mulas.
When I was there, there were two Japanese climbers who were trying to go up the Canaleta with crampons and no ice axes. Well, one's crampons got loose, so he sat down to adjust it. With his weight off, he slid on the ice and then fell to his death, and his body was recovered the next day. Not a good scene.
I will agree that trekking poles are good to have. The Argentine park rangers never spoke to us until we had summited and had returned to Plaza de Mulas. I had hiked in substantial leather single boots.
–B.G.–Sep 9, 2010 at 11:23 am #1644222
Handwarmers? There are many kinds.
Some use a glowing fuel stick. Some burn lighter fluid. Some use phase change of sodium acetate. Some use an iron oxide…
I don't think that you can paint them all with the same broad brush. You might want to be more specific about the kind that was used. I know that on my trip, two people were trying to use the iron oxide kind, and they weren't worth a darn. I don't know if that was a quality control problem, or altitude problem, or user error, or what. My idea of handwarmers were made out of heavy wool and nylon.
I don't think that the sodium acetate phase kind would be at all affected by altitude, since it is sealed anyway. Some of the burning kinds might, since the air pressure on the summit is only about 40% of that of sea level.
–B.G.–Sep 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm #1644237
Time: People said we were super tough to do it in a day. Matt just said he spent 20 days up there. I'd say he and his lady are the tough ones! I'm too old and lazy to camp. Seriously though, sleeping at altitude is very debilitating. Coming out of the Canaleta, we were passing people on the summit ridge like they were standing still. That's because they almost were: we were well rested, while they were shot. I believe the traditional advice should be reconsidered (read next).
Acclimatization: Most of what we've heard is old wives tales; the science is different. There is a very high variability in people's response to altitude, and a number of conflicting factors at work, but here are two quickies:
1) For most people, it is far better to go as high as you can, as fast as you can, and then get out of there even faster, rather than move slowly; that traditional method simply exposes you to the deleterious factors longer. But if you can't get out of there fast, you're screwed. It's all or nothing.
2) It takes 19 days to make a red blood cell.
Chemical Heat Packs: We used the same thing you'll find in REI or any hardware/hunting store: air activated (iron). Work great. Big mittens/boots insulate, but if your hand or foot is already cold, insulation has no effect, so don't even think of comparing these. Heat packs ADD warmth, which the most massive insulation cannot do. As someone noted, the higher you go, the less oxygen, so the less heat, but that's almost better; they are normally too hot, and the low O2 means they last longer.
Falling to your death while sitting down on ice wearing slick nylon pants to adjust your crampons: Definitely happens. I don't recommend it, as stupidity is often fatal in these environments. A great partner is probably the safest piece of equipment you can have, followed by training, experience, and judgement. Equipment would be #5.Sep 9, 2010 at 12:46 pm #1644244
Buzz, I think that it is possible for you to ascend from 14K to nearly 23K and return in a day. However, that isn't something that the average Aconcagua climber can do. I've done a 9K-foot ascent at lower elevation in a day, and I know that is not something pleasant.
You said that sleeping at high elevation is debilitating. Well, for you, maybe. For others, if it is done right, it isn't so bad. There is huge individual difference on these things.
There is huge risk in going that far above camp in a day, unless you had a rock-solid weather forecast. When I was there, we could get no weather forecast at all except for what we could see with our own eyes.
After our trip in 1996, I was contacted by a Lieutenant Colonel in the Green Berets. He was going to fly down there with his Green Beret team in January 1997 with the intention of climbing to the summit, and he was seeking advice from me. When I asked about their level of high-elevation experience, he started telling me about how they carry heavy rucksacks through the swamp, which is off the subject. I advised them that they needed to get at least a few nights of sleeping on some 14K-foot Colorado peak and then report back to me, and then I could advise them about Aconcagua. He didn't. OK. They went down there and failed. I believe they got as far as Piedra Blanca and then got pinned down by weather.
My point is that just because one person can do it in a day, that should not be a suggestion that others should even consider that.
–B.G.–Sep 9, 2010 at 1:03 pm #1644251
Good points, and good story Bob.
Yup, altitude is it's own parameter; it is somewhat unrelated to other factors. There is a big trend toward grandiosity in today's world; people swarm all over the Big A because it's one of the 7 summits, while ignoring wonderful shorter peaks, where they could hone their skills and experience.
In keeping with our shared "everyone is different" viewpoint however, I will still suggest people "consider" the best way to climb high. The higher I go, the better I feel, while others get sick at 10k. My son lives at sea level and arrived 10 hours before the starting gun to run the Pikes Peak Ascent, and reported feeling rotten until he got above 12k, whereupon he felt "great". We are told the opposite should have been true. There's a lot going on, some of which is false, and some of which science doesn't understand …
Matt's original story was terrific, you shared excellent thoughts, and I hope mine added to the available perspective's.Sep 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm #1644256
eric chanBPL Member
thanks for the info on the warmers … i always wondered how they work at altitude
now i guess ill just stuff some in my bootsSep 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm #1644259
The people who seemed to have the most problems with the iron oxide warmers had them stuck on their socks, inside their boots. However, I don't use them, so I can't say.
I have found the sodium acetate phase change warmers to be pretty good, primarily because they are reusable.
–B.G.–Sep 9, 2010 at 7:41 pm #1644379
"Acclimatization: Most of what we've heard is old wives tales; the science is different."
Buzz, I think there are many people who would like to see your references on this.
–B.G.–Sep 9, 2010 at 8:08 pm #1644386
"… many people who would like to see your references."
OK. Here's one:
"It takes 19 days to make a red blood cell."
– Dr Tom Hornbein
First ascent Everest West Ridge, first traverse of 8,000M peak, highest bivouac ever; Professor University of Washington School of Medicine, leading authority on high-altitude physiology. Direct personal quote.
Your turn.Sep 9, 2010 at 8:21 pm #1644389
I thought it was an average of 21 days. However, that is not in dispute. Sure, red blood cells transport oxygen, and it takes 19 or 21 days to produce one, on the average. But, what is your point? Red blood cells do not a mountaineer make. Production of extra red blood cells is important only for long term acclimatization and has nothing at all to do with short term acclimatization (to altitude).
Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I got the impression that you were suggesting that rushing up Aconcagua (like you apparently did) was a safer way to go than to climb it in a traditional fashion. I got the impression that your understanding of the science agreed with your way. By "safer," I meant less chance of a serious medical problem.
–B.G.–Sep 9, 2010 at 10:57 pm #1644412
Buzz, let me see if I can crystalize my thought here. In reference to Aconcagua, you stated that the climbing is easy.
(Yes, relatively so, but surface conditions can change pretty rapidly up there.)
You stated that the danger on this mountain is the camping.
(That's a pretty silly statement, if you think about it.)
If spending nights up high is what makes you sick, tired, and dehydrated, then you are doing several things wrong.
What I think maybe you meant was that the danger on this mountain is in sleeping overnight. If you are going up so terribly fast as you were, then spending a night up very high would be dangerous. However, that kind of a stunt is done successfully by only a tiny percentage of people who go there. In other words, if you are a "Viesturs" kind of guy, then I say "more power to you." However, for the remaining 99% of us, doing the rush ascent like that is extremely risky, at least from a medical risk point of view.
It has often been said that most of the severe forms of high altitude illness take 12-24 hours to set in, and they take at least 24-36 hours to become fatal. I think your strategy was to run up and down the mountain and escape before the bad problems could set in. I've only done a little of that myself, but never this seriously, and never this high. I mean, the summit is approximately 80% the height of Everest, so it is a no-fooling-around mountain.
Despite all of this, there are some forms of high-altitude illness that can be fatal in single-digit hours (ex., HACE). If you had the bad luck to get hit with something like this when you were topping out on the Canaleta, rescue would be almost impossible, and fatal consequences follow. I've been up on high mountains before when climbers got sick like that, and I would personally strive to avoid those situations as much as possible.
So, I suspect that you ought to get tested by some physiology lab. Maybe you have the same genes as Ed Viesturs. If so, that would explain a few things. The rest of us mortals may have to continue to plod up the big peaks in the traditional fashion or else risk meeting our Maker.
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