Archive for January, 2012

23rd Jan( overview )

neil On January - 30 - 2012Comments Off

23rd Jan( overview )
I’m sitting in Paris airport looking over what I have written.
I feel that I have captured the whole summit bit and relayed how things happened to the best of my ability. The thin air defiantly affects the brain. I was very emotional on the mountain and saw everything through different eyes, I even said over the final 4 days up in the mountain that there was no way that I would go to Everest, that I would not go there and suffer for two months. But as you come out of the thin air your brain starts to re-evaluate things. On the summit day in the mountains I genuinely didn’t care if I summited or not, even thinking about the two and a bit years of hard training that I had put in made no difference. You will never truly know how things change within yourself in the thin air unless you experience it for yourself.
Now for me I am so so unbelievably happy that I made it to the top, I think that if I had failed on Aconcagua my mental strength would have been depleted for Everest. I have learned a lot over the past three weeks and now know what I have to do to prepare for the big one. Peter did Everest in 2005 and said that there is no comparison between it and Aconcagua, so now I need to dig deep and train as hard as I can. I have to gain the stone of muscle weight that I have lost and be as strong as I can possibly be when we leave. It is nearly guaranteed that I will go through the same altitude sickness process, but at least this time I can prepare myself for it, we have double the baggage allowance so I can stock up on the things that will make drinking and eating easier. The two months that I have will pass very quickly and Everest will very shortly be towering in front of me, but I will be ready!

Thanks to Andreas, Ariel and Matius for looking after me on the mountain and thanks to Harold, Peter and Regina for making the experience what it was.
And of course thanks to Radek for giving up two years of his life for training and for being the right person on the mountain with me, with out his map reading and general knowledge of the expedition there is no doubt that I would still be wandering around in the Andes lost.

Aconcagua – 20th January 2012

neil On January - 30 - 2012Comments Off

20th Jan
We got up at 8.00 am packed the bags and took down the tent. We had breakfast and headed out of base camp. We had a long hike ahead of us, about 26 km, some of it down slopes of 45 degs. It was cold at first but once the sun was up it got real hot. The whole group gradually split up and we all travelled at our own pace. It seemed to go on forever, the slopes gradually faded into flat planes at the base of the mountains. I followed the river as it grew, it snaked back and forth across the plane and I was forced to cross it several times. We regrouped at the camp that lay approx two thirds of the way down. Then headed again after lunch. Radek, Harold and I stayed together for the last part of the hike. When we reached the end we were all bushed.
As the bus left we caught a glimpse of Aconcagua way in the distance, I stuck my fingers up at it and laughed with Harold. As we left, we all joked about going back to climb it again.

But I ain’t !

Aconcagua – 19th January 2012

neil On January - 30 - 2012Comments Off

19th Jan
I awoke this morning feeling like a heard of horses had run a mock over me.
I had went straight to bed last night when we got back, no dinner nothing, I could hardly get my boots off. I can’t explain hard enough of how hard every day things are at altitude, let alone spending 16 hours on the mountain climbing and down climbing. I lay there in my bed with the only thought that I wanted in my head, that I was going home! I now just wanted off the mountain. But we were far from home, today we leave camp 3 and make our way all the way to base camp on the other side of the mountain. It will be tough as we have to carry everything that we have and we go down 1800mtrs in one go. I used porters on the way up because I was not well, I don’t feel any better today but I’m going home so I’ll carry what I have to.
It took about 5 hours to down climb, it’s so sore on the legs, but we got there in the end. The further that I climbed down the better I felt, it honestly felt like I was being cured of some type of illness that had slowly being sapping the life out of me. By the time that I could see the base camp I was talking to Andreas about pizza, chicken and chips, cheese burgers and beer!!!!
Our group had split up so we were the last 4 to arrive at camp. When we got there guess what we were greeted with ……… a tin of beer and two cheese burgers! That’s more than I’ve eaten in the last three days, and I ate it!
Tomorrow we have a 26km hike to reality.
Can’t wait as every step is getting me closer to home.
L x D x F

Aconcagua – 18th January 2012 SUMMIT DAY

neil On January - 30 - 2012Comments Off

18th Jan summit day
We woke as usual at 4 am got our gear ready and got dressed. We had been told the night before that the weather for today was forecast as good, low winds as needed to summit Aconcagua. But during the night the tent tossed around. I lay there in my sleeping bag wondering what the day would bring, I wondered whether we would attempt a summit bid or not.
We gathered ready to leave and then headed into the darkness, you could see a stream of lights heading up the mountain. It’s so cold at that time of day up the mountain, maybe -25 + wind chill, it’s so hard to get your hands warm even with all your expedition gear on. We plodded on up the mountain for about 4 hours till we reached 6400 mtrs. Radek was in the group ahead of me. We had spoken the night before about the last time that we had reached this hight we had discussed how we had both felt. I wanted to talk to him, I was finished I couldn’t go any farther. We still had 600 attitude mtrs to climb, I just didn’t have it in me. I wanted to speak to him as he looked bushed too. But Andreas our guide is no fool. When I said ” I need to speak with Radek” he knew straight away what my intention was. He shouted at me “move on up, you can talk to him later” so I did. At the top of the next ridge our groups caught up and Andreas offered me to talk to Radek, but by this time I didn’t know what to do, so I mumbled something to Radek about going down and moved away.
All I did was confuse Radek, he didn’t know after that what was happening.
The strong group traversed across the face, it was about half a kilometre across. Regina, Andreas and I followed. This was an open face that we had to pass, to the right lay your death, from the left anything falling sent you to your right. The wind was coming in at about 70 or 80 km per hour it bit into my exposed skin on my face like sharp talons of a cat being sunk into the flesh. The three of us made it about one fifth of the way to a giant rock that sheltered us mildly from the storm. Regina was slowing down. Andreas spoke with her, he took a mask from his bag and put it around her face. Then he looked at me, I had my gloves off trying to fix something he shouted at me to put them back on and then marched over and pulled at my down jacket at the zip, pulling it over my face, virtually stopping me from breathing. He said “your face, your nose it’s Freezing, you must keep it covered up. I said I will.
He said ” don’t take your gloves off for anything, I will help you” ( the backs of my hands lost the skin like burns because of that five min! ) Not much further along Regina was slowing down and I said to Andreas ” should I move on with the other group?” They were sheltering about 100 mtrs along the traverse, he said yes and signalled to Ariel that I was coming across. I was immediately placed behind Ariel and we moved on. We made it to the cave, a rest point at the end of the traverse. From here you could see the summit and everything changed, there was no going back now only up. Harold said to me “Neil the summit is ours!” It was still some 400 mtrs above but you could see it. We moved up one step for four breaths of air. Slowly we moved up the mountain. Everyone on the mountain moved at this speed. From setting off it took us 10 gruelling hours to reach the summit. At the top Ariel stepped aside and let me go first. Relief, followed by fear of having to go down, followed by tears, followed by embraces from everyone, followed by some American twat speaking into his own video camera about how great he was.
We had done it we were on the top, we had conquered the mountain. What a feeling, I couldn’t believe it, I never thought that I would have got past 6400mtrs. Amazingly Andreas and Regina also made it to the top only about 20mins after us. Andreas is truly an amazing mountain guide! Only thing now was that we were only half way and my fuel gauge was reading 5%. We made our way down slowly every step that I placed Ariel watched, he practically went down the mountaintop back wards. It took about 6 hours to get back to the tents and when I got there I could hardly get my kit off. I crawled into my sleeping bag and didn’t wake for 12 hours.
We are the champions!!!!!!!!

Aconcagua – 17th January 2012

neil On January - 30 - 2012Comments Off

17th Jan
This is our 3rd night at 6000mtrs
Our bodies are failing us now and tomorrow we go for the summit bid again. As I lay in my sleeping bag trying to sleep the wind whips the side of the tent. I hate this mountain, I hate everything about this trip, I hate not feeling well and tomorrow will be the most difficult day of my entire life. The last summit day we only made it up to 6400 mtrs and I was spent. I can’t comprehend going further as we have been at this altitude for too long and I’m so weak!
Wish I were home!

Aconcagua -16th January 2012

neil On January - 26 - 2012Comments Off

16th Jan
We left the tents at 5.30am as intended, I had been up since 4 am changing clothes and re fixing my bag. The brain just doesn’t function at that altitude and it was still about -20 inside the tent and about -30 with the wind chill outside. I was in a right state. I hadn’t tried on my down jacket and I had put on new straps to my crampons, the jacket needs to be altered in about 5 places, which I didn’t have time to do and the crampon straps ended up fastening on the inside, which is defiantly one of the reasons that I tripped and fell on the way down.
When I got out the tent everyone was leaving. Andreus gave me a hand to pull on my rucksack, which I also couldn’t fasten because of the down jacket and handed me my poles which he had set to the wrong settings. I’m not blaming Andreas for doing these things in any way, these were my things that I should have prepared for. But it’s back to this ability to do anything, you can’t focus on simple tasks. But all of these small things make it a far more uncomfortable trip.
About 200 mtrs up Regina quit saying that it was two cold, then Peter decided that he would go back too.
The rest of us plodded on into the dark. It wasn’t long before I lost the feeling in both hands and that’s with expedition gloves on, I tried to heat them up one at a time by placing my pole under my arm and rubbing my fingers and hand together, this does work but by the time you get one ok the next one is frozen again. The most simplest of tasks are so hard to carry out like switching off your head torch or putting on your goggles as both of them require you to take off your gloves. Every 2-3 min your body takes a panic attack and sends you gasping for breath because off the lack of oxygen. Each step has to be forced out of you as you plod on. Your brain races trying to make sense of what you are doing, giving you little scenarios of what could happen on this waste land.
We were the only people trying to summit and as the wind picked up it became unbelievably colder and it seemed to get harder. Up ahead I could see Ariel our Argentinian guide stopped with Harrold and Radek when we got there he said that the wind was too strong and that we would have to go back to camp. I was gutted, I didn’t know if I had it in me to go up again, I’m still not eating and feeling weaker by the day.
I miss my wife and kids!

Aconcagua 15th January 2012

neil On January - 26 - 2012Comments Off

15th Jan
Today we made the trip to camp 3, I can’t believe how difficult things are getting. It shows on everyone, it took over 4 hours make the trip and that’s with a porter to help with my stuff and most of Reginas heavy things, she had a very bad day yesterday. Peter and her took nearly an hour longer than the group to get to camp 2.
When we arrived we had to help set up the tents, you can’t imagine how difficult it is to do the simplest of tasks. Clearing the snow and moving stones to tie the tent to, it took us about an hour to complete each tent. We intend to go for a summit push tomorrow, I don’t think it’s a great idea. We have all had two very hard days and one of our local guides says that the weather isn’t suppose to be very good. To make thinks worse I still haven’t really eaten anything, it’s going on for ten days now, I must have lost about a stone in weight. It’s just so difficult to do anything at all, you sit and look at a biscuit in the packet, but the effort to reach over and pick it up is just too much and the thought of eating it is worse.
Using the pee bottle at night is a classic as the inside of the tent is about -20 degrees so you don’t really want to get out your sleeping bag because of the cold and the massive amount of effort it will take. So you just lay there thinking about it for hours.
We leave at 5 am for our summit bid tomorrow.
Wish me and Mc Flee were in the sand pit at home!!!

Aconcagua 14th January 2012

neil On January - 26 - 2012Comments Off

14th Jan
We headed up to camp 2 today, it was very difficult as the sun was very strong. I hired my porter who emptied virtually everything out of my bag and still had nearly the same capacity left to take so I convinced Radek to put some of his kit in and the rest was made up by the rest of the group. It still murdered me though my body just won’t adapt to the altitude and I’ve not eaten properly since the second night.
Every day from now on gets more difficult, we head for camp 3 tomorrow, we will spend the night at 6000mtrs the body stops regenerating at that altitude.
Missing my family!!!!

Friday 13th January 2012

neil On January - 26 - 2012Comments Off

13th Jan
(Friday the 13th) WWOOOHH
Aw it’s ok we have a rest day to day, we do nothing today. The worst thing that could happen is an accident with your personal toilet bag!!!
I did drink through the night and am feeling better today. We need this recoup as our big challenge lies ahead of us tomorrow, we head to camp 2 spend the night then move up to camp 3 and spend the night then we go for the summit.
L x D x F

Aconcagua 12th January 2012

neil On January - 26 - 2012Comments Off

12th Jan
We had a heavy snow fall last night. I’ve never been in a tent when it snows all night, we’ve been up the Cairngorms and a heavy fall come down during the night but nothing like I thought this one was going to be. We started taking emergency procedures like clearing the snow from around the base of the tent and when we went to bed we made sure that we kept the uppers of the doors open by 10 inches for ventilation. It wouldn’t be the first time for climbers to be suffocated in their tents at night.
Not feeling so good today, I’m struggling to take on board the liquids that I need. We went from camp 1 up to camp 2 this morning with our heavy packs and the lack of fluids really showed on me. I was like Elvis coming back down, I kept falling in the snow. So I made the decision that when we move the last of our gear up to camp 2 I will hire a mountain porter. We still have a lot of our kit at camp 1 as we have a rest day tomorrow. The heavy packs this morning were down to food that we helped ship up the mountain. But the move between 2 and 3 is the big one as we do not come back to this camp 2, we head down the other side of the mountain hence the name Aconcagua 360.
So when we arrived back at camp 1 I just collapsed in my tent and lay there for about two hours not drinking or anything, this made me even worse. It’s very difficult to imagine was it’s like your every day things that you do can be weird, you put your gloves in your bag and a min later you can’t remember if you did it or not, this happens with everything. I’m a very strong minded person and I know if I read this back when I’m home that I’ll be thinking “man up you poof and just drink the fluid” or ” why are you lying in the tent you know you have to drink the fluid or you’ll feel worse”. But you can’t, it’s so difficult to force yourself to do it.
I fully intend to drink through the night so I feel better tomorrow.
L x D x F