The tallest peak in the southern and western hemispheres at 6962m (22,840ft) and one of the Seven Summits – the tallest peaks on each continent. Seemed like a good challenge! It would be Craig’s first big mountain expedition and altitude records for both of us.
Starting Christmas day with breakfast in the Brisbane Qantas lounge, 4 countries and 5 cities later we had Christmas dinner in Mendoza, Argentina. A few days to explore the city and lose the jetlag before we met the guides and the rest of the team who flew in from USA and South Africa. Then the work of buying last supplies, packing and re-packing gear for Mule transport before heading off towards Chile and Punta de Vacas in the Andes mountains. Two days following the Rio de Las Vacas (river) before a big left turn and a much steeper valley up to basecamp at 4200m.
The next 4 days were spent on acclimatisation hikes, resting, obtaining medical clearance to go higher and a carry day to move some of our mountain gear up to camp 1 at 5000m. Finally we had to leave the relative comfort of basecamp for camp 1 and our first night of paper bag poops! Yes, from here up there’s no toilets and everything that goes up must come down!
The pattern of carry days, rest day and move day continued through camp 2 (5500m) and to camp 3 at 6000m. With a nasty weather system closing in the decision to skip a rest day and move summit day forward was made and preparations made for an alpine start in the early hours.
Unfortunately during the night Craig had a repeat of Vertigo experienced a bit earlier in the trip with no other symptoms pointing to a cause, he made the difficult decision to stay in camp and not go for the top. Caroline’s altitude cough was not giving up, but she kitted up and headed up the mountain. The cough got the better of her and impacted her breathing too much to be able to maintain the pace required for summit day (already a 12 hour day) and had to turn back.
While the summit eluded us (this time), the experience was simply amazing, the location sensational and the RMI guides great in getting us safely up and down again. A winery tour by bike seemed a fitting way to celebrate the end of the trip and the Malbec the Mendoza region is known for.