Climbing Aconcagua is more than just the mountain. It is the people, the place, the culture, and most of all the bonds that keep me motivated as a guide. As I have told many climbers, the beauty of guiding is that you see and experience people on the most intimate, real level they will ever express.
This marked my first time in both Argentina and Aconcagua. Though I have climbed and lived in Chile in the past, the feel is different here.
Our team consisted of 11 climbers, as well as our guide team Paul Koubek, Matt Weich, and myself. We kicked off the Alpine Ascents International Aconcagua season with great success.
With all of the gear checks and permits in place we headed off for Hotel Ayelen in Penitentes. The name Penitentes refers to a unique phenomenon of snow melt creating jagged ice pinnacles. After one night we set out for Plaza Argentina. En route we learned of a "rouge mule" that the local muleateers had lost the previous day. With such a fitting name in our laps we professed ourselves the Rouge Mules. This would be a reassuring theme on the trip.
Reaching Plaza Argentina we were subjected to an early season snow storm, which dropped around 1 m of snow on our side of the mountain and 2.5 m on the other side. In fact the snow was so deep near Plaza de Mulas the entire normal route was shut down for a few days. The snow provided us an extra rest day, as well as easier walking on the upper mountain. Within a few days we had moved through Campo 1, Campo 3 Guanacos, and arrived at Campo Colera. A low pressure system with gale force winds was predicted so every team in camp set out on Dec. 16th for the summit. We topped out around 16:00 with 8 climbers and promptly descended due to a localized storm forming.
The next morning after much needed rest we made our way down the normal route to Plaza de Mulas. The curse of the rouge mule struck again when half the teams duffels did not show up.....evidently they had a few mules that put up a fuss. With tired feet and hungry stomachs the Hotel Ayelen made for a festive end to the trip.
Aaron Bailey, one of our gear experts accompanied the team to Plaza Argentina, creating the short video below.