After my trip with the infamous Rouge Mules there was no time to relax. My next trip was starting and Christmas was going to shut the entire city of Mendoza down for a few days. Quick shower, and then back to buying food and sorting out paperwork for my first trip as lead guide on the Stone Sentinel.
I felt fortunate to have Pasang Sherpa and Juan Araya as co-guides for this expedition. Juan is the local master with over 20 seasons and 41 summits of the mountain. Pasang a living legend of sorts, and one the nicest, humblest people I have ever known. So we spent a day packing all of our food and doing last minute purchases before the clients arrived.
Everyone arrived in good spirits, save one climber whose bags somehow got waylaid in Chile (we sorted it out). Straight into gear checks at the Hyatt and then a great team dinner at Ocho Cepas. At some point we couldn't remember the name for a person that makes wine (vintner) and hence the name Wine farmers was born. It wasn't until we started cyberblasting that we added the hashtag, you know cause we have a media presence and all.
A stop over in Ayelen to see our favorite concierge Steve, then we promptly made our way up the Vacas Valley. New Years at Casa de Piedra called for libations and a round of thankfulness. Great weather and company got us to Plaza Argentina in a flash.
Our move up to Campo 1 was difficult , and one climber was unable to continue do to fluid in the lungs. The condition was not serious but did make us take caution, especially with the upper mountain ahead. He decided, in good spirits, to make Plaza Argentina his high point and flew out before the group moved higher up the mountain.
All the days become a blur on the upper mountain. Without the comforts of chairs, cooks, beer, wifi, etc. it is easy to be consumed by the grind of mountain life. Wake up - eat - move - eat - sleep - repeat.
In no time we had made our way to Camp Colera at 6000m / 19,600ft and ready to make our summit bid. Our Alpine Ascents compatriots, the Guanacos Locos, also headed up on the same day. Summit day is always long and hard. To compound the difficulties a few of our team had been sick from stomach and altitude issues, making us skeptical of their ability to climb. However, one step at a time we got everyone on the team to the summit in good style for one of the most beautiful days I have had in the mountains. Windless and sunny we lingered longer than normal before descending.
No one ever really writes about the way down the mountain, so I will fill you in on the details. Our true summit was not the top of Aconcagua, but rather the warmth and safety of Mendoza. Getting back safe and sound is always the number two priority (after looking good). Hiking down to Plaza de Mulas and then to the Horcones Valley entrance were brutal days on the knees and joints, but we all got down, more or less.
Alas, we concluded our trip by returning to our roots at Casa de Enemigo vineyard. Delicious food and top notch wine helped us dream away the hardships of expedition life and discover a new found reverence for the simple pleasures in life.
Big thanks to all of my climbers and co-guides for making this a truly memorable experience!
Below is a more detailed day by day account of our adventures:
- Dec. 28: Climbers arrived
- Dec. 29: Permits and transfer to Ayelen
- Dec. 30: Trek to Pampa de Lenas
- Dec. 31: Trek to Casa de Piedra
- Jan. 1: Trek to Plaza Argentina
- Jan. 2: Rest day
- Jan. 3: Carry to Campo 1
- Jan. 4: Rest day
- Jan. 5: Move to Campo 1
- Jan. 6: Carry to Campo Guanacos
- Jan. 7: Rest day Campo 1
- Jan. 8: Move to Campo Guanacos
- Jan. 9: Rest day
- Jan. 10: Weather day
- Jan. 11: Move to Campo Colera
- Jan. 12: Summit
- Jan. 13: Descent to Plaza de Mulas
- Jan. 14: Trek to Horcones Valley trailhead / Ayelen
- Jan. 15: Transport to Mendoza
- Jan. 16: Wine tour and final meal