Once again I flew south for the austral summer to guide on the Stone Sentinel -- Aconcagua. I was fortunate to work alongside my good friend Juan Araya, who was celebrating his 22nd season on the mountain. Our team consisted of 6 climbers from the great state of Texas! This was a Clean Water Climb, with each climber raising $10,000 USD for donation to Child Legacy International.
Unfortunately, this trip would be very challenging in a number of ways. After acclimatizing on Cerro Bonete we took a rest day, at which point one of our team members had a acute sinkable event in which he did not remember hitting the ground. Due to the low oxygen saturation in his blood we were forced to evacuate him. This event scared not only the climber, but the team as a whole. No matter how many times you tell people "this is not Kilimanjaro," they never seem to get it until something like this happens. Over the course of the next few days we lost another climber to upper respiratory issues, another to physical inability, and yet another to altitude sickness. All in all we ended up with only 2 climbers left at Camp Colera (19,600ft)!
Luckily we were able to summit with the two remaining climbers, however our summit day was marked by a few notable issues. Firstly, the Argentinian military was in the midst of their annual climb, which meant they kept dashing and crashing every 10 meters......much to are astonishment they would not let other groups pass them on the trail until about 1 hour out of high camp. The other notable feature was a deceased climber about 200 vertical feet below the summit. Evidently he had passed away due to a heart attack a few days before and was not able to be taken off. Our climbers were able to come to terms with their own mortality, as these big mountains are often underestimated.
Back in Plaza de Mulas we were able to breath easier but not before the snow started flying. With over 30cm of new snow at basecamp and over 50cm at high camp we were grateful for our summit window!
Overall I think this trip was challenging in many ways, but also helped me grow as a guide. Juan and I were happy to say farewell to the group and let our minds and bodies rest. This group also sparked my concern in terms of client expectations vs. guide expectations. I hope to create another post in the coming weeks outlining specific do's and don'ts for climbers on these types of expeditions.