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

Aconcagua – 11th January 2012

neil On January - 26 - 2012Comments Off

11th Jan
We left base camp with our heavy packs for camp 1, this would be the same trip as the day before for me. 900 altitude mtrs with an estimated time of around 5 hours.
It’s all very hard and you can’t comprehend how difficult the altitude makes it. You have to drink between 4.5 -7 ltrs of fluids per day just to feel ok. The problem is what is available to drink, water is to acidic unless boiled and it flushes the body of minerals, black tea eventually ruins the stomach lining and so does the powdered juice. That’s where I am at now every time you drink or eat anything you get an acidic taste rise from the stomach. I tell you it’s the 24 hour dealing with the body that makes it tuff, you even have to drink though the night just to feel ok, if you don’t then the next day is even harder to get anything down your throat. And of course if you drink all day and night then you have to go to the loo all day and night, we have a pee bottle for the night, I know what you are thinking but the other option is get dressed put on your double boots and head out into the snow and because of the amount that you are drinking that could be 4 times.
We made it to camp 1 and I nearly collapsed in front of the tent that our local guides had set up for us, they had set off earlier to set up camp for us.
I really don’t get it the doctors have been all over me and tell me that I am very fit, yet when we get to camp 1 I see men at probably 65 yearrs old and over weight, and ladies going about there business as if we were on the streets of Aberdeen.
Im a broken man and it’s only going to get worse.
I miss Linzie, Darcey and Finn xx

Aconcagua – 10th January 2012

neil On January - 26 - 2012Comments Off

10th Jan
I’m a new man to day, I had to go back and see the doc last night as the symptoms were starting to return. They put my condition down to the fact that I was consuming plain water, you are suppose to drink 5 litres per day and I had been drinking around 4.5. So they made up two litres of fluid, one was with whole oranges sugar salt and water and the other was plain tea but with tons of sugar. I was told to drink both before I went to bed, I only managed half of each but by midnight I could feel the difference and in the morning I was brand new, I nearly slept all night!
I had made my mind up that if it was possible I would take the first pack that need up the mountain up to camp 1, all the rest of the group had went up yesterday with there packs. I had to stay back at base camp cus of my condition. That’s a rubbish situation as we have all kind of got to know each other now and to be left behind makes you feel like you are missing out on the experience.
So Andreos agreed to take me up the 900 mtr climb, that’s a big day for anyone who isn’t acclimatised, but I was determined to get up there. The rest of the group were going off to climb a 700 mtr peak.
We got up in 4 hours and down in 45 mins, I stuck to my rules and drunk 2 ltrs of tea and the orange cocktail and it seemed to work. I had no sore head and felt pretty good the whole trip, I’ve got to say that I was shattered when I got back to base camp.
L x D x F

You can follow the boys where-a-bouts on the mountain here
It is pretty amazing stuff !
It shows the terrain, altitude, satellite photo and map.

Try zooming in on the terrain to see how close they are to the Summit (labelled Aconcagua).

Enjoy ………………………….

The boys location 1900 hrs Fri 13/1/12

See my Location
-32.63818 latitude, -69.97745 longitude
Find out more at www.findmeSPOT.com