Aconcagua Expedition

Most of the Aconcagua team made it back to SA safely yesterday. Lorna remains in Argentina to climb other mountains and spend some time in Patagonia. The trip in brief: - our route was fantastic - we even had the camps to ourselves for the first 2 nights, and the 'False Polish' route proved to be both tough, scenic, and much less densely populated than the normal route on the way up, while the normal route provided welcome human contact and a different perspective on the way down. - the weather was great - none of the storms of my last attempt, so I don't think anyone still believes me as to how bad it can be. :) We had sunny days on most and moderate winds on only a few. Summit day was cold but windless which made it all possible. - the team - what a combination of personalities and what great fun. We had a ball and learned a lot about each other and ourselves while there. I think its safe to say that we made an impression on the locals and on the other climbers. You can read between the lines on this one! :) - so how did it go? We'll, Shanta got AMS (cerebral) when hiking above Base camp and had to turn around, only to be given Dex. by the base camp doctor and evacuated on the next helicopter flight. It was terribly disappointing to see her go but at least she was out of danger.The rest of us all moved onto the high mountain and celebrated Christmas by climbing for 7 hours from Camp 1 to Camp 2. All of us had nasty headaches on arrival and Tanya got a special Christmas present in the form of AMS (Pulmonary). This resulted in a rough night and a speedy evacuation the following morning. A day or so later Tanya then got taken off the mountain from base-camp in a Helicopter. Again, seeing Tanya head down the mountain was wrenching but safety comes first and we were very relieved to have the radio reports of her reaching base camp safely. This left Piers, Lorna, and myself to continue with our route and on the 27th we traversed to our high camp at 5970m. Here we spent the night, and using anti-nausea tablets to maintain our appetites and paracetomol to quell some our throbbing headaches, we prepared for the summit. On the 28th we left camp in the dark and cold (-18 below) and headed off up the mountain. At our 2nd stop at around 6370m I decided to turn around due to the extremely disconcerting dizzyness I was experiencing - this left me feeling quite unstable on my feet and with much steeper ground ahead was the right decision. Piers and Lorna continued up and after what they described as a really tough day made the summit at around 15h00. They descended safely and after another night at high camp we all dropped to base camp (4300m) on the normal route the following day. We hiked another 1km down the following day and on New Years eve we left Ac to arrive in Mendoza in time to join the others for a soundly rocking party.- after a couple of lazy days drinking, eating, and wine-routing in Mendoza we headed off to San Rafael for some more drinking, eating, chilling and some great whitewater kayaking and rafting. We are now all officially eaters of goat-meat too. really cool... So, a great trip by some ESSA folk with a mix of adventures in a foreign country and a success rate (2/5) that was far higher than most group's (1/10) that we heard of. Thanks to Piers, Lorna, Shanta and Tanya for making the trip so wonderful and we'll catch you all at the next meeting. later, Gareth Ochse Hola Me Hearties I hope you started the new year with a pleasant BANG and your festive season was all you hoped it to be. Happy 2006!! I got back yesterday from one of my loveliest of holidays even tho' the summit of Ac eluded me by more than 2000m. Just briefly: First night in Arg I had to quarrel with my team (Gareth,Piers, Tania, Lorna) for a single room!! At this point I felt that my trip was going to be a disaster.Fortunately I was forgiven and the team dynamics turned out fine. Met our very competent guides Mickey (a real darling & ex Ac park-ranger ) & Mili (very cute, need I say more), sorted final gear and then drove thru the beautiful scenic Andes and its gushing rivers to the sound of Arg folk music. Got to Puenta del Inca with all gear and started trekking from Punta de Vacas. 2 perfect days and wonderful scenery and people, then I fell into a raging river but there were heros to the rescue. 3 days later @ 4480m (just past base camp) cerebral oedema set in and I was told my trip on Ac was over & I should get down asap. Was immediately given medication (Dex) at Base Camp with regular checks by the Doc and the condition was stabilised. Took 2 days to get off the mountain as it was too windy for the 'copter to pick me up, eventually on 23 Dec I got off Ac via helicopter and cried like a baby! No mountain, no friends, no Spanish and little money. By 24 Dec got adopted by an Argentine family for Christmas. Went on a quick shop around for gifts for Christmas and gift wrapping them was a challenge.Celebratory drinks with all the loacl shop keepers and then a Christmas Meal and breakfast with "La Familia". These events were great and memorable experiences. As most of my money was tied on the Ac trip, I had to be resourceful re: accom & trips. Also had to crash- learn Spanish with a dictionary which in the end was great fun, as the children tried to teach me the basics!Went back to Mendoza, a wonderful city, then decided to go to Merlo another smaller town where the locals go.Got caught in a hail storm . Beautiful but too quiet for me. Did some sight seeing,gorgeous sunsets, saw loads of parakeets (??), solo trekked parks and forests & 4x4'ing in a wetland area that was filled with prehistoric fossils and lakes. After 2 days returned to Mendoza and caught up with T who had to return as well as she suffered from pulmonary oedema.We celebrated with wine and STEAKS and later pub-crawled and ate some more!! We got attention wherever we went.It was either the tall and short of it or the light and dark contrasts that we made or both. The next day the others returned in time to celebrate New Years together. Piers and Lorna summited Ac ie: 40% of our group were successful on a mountain that has a reputation for a 20% success rate. Mind you, 50% of the men and 33.3% of the women of our team summited...I think we did extremely well. Spent the night looking for a place to eat with a table for 12. Drank, ate,counted down 2006, hugged kissed and danced in a club in the red- light district (only found that out later)'til the wee hours of the morning, later in the day slouched with new friends at the pool and drank beer and milkshakes. I then went (together with Piers) paragliding and wine tasting (shoe-string budget - < 10 pesos- but we did meet a Queen) whilst the others went on a grand wine tour.Then all of our team together with 2 new "friends" went to San Rafel. This was a real lovely part of the holiday. Went river rafting (my 1st ever) on Grade 2 and 3+ rivers (some were also 4 but G & P our local river experts disagree on this!!) on the River Atuel. T, P & I spent an extra day here before returning to Mendoza for our trip home. Lazed around a beautiful dam, drank beer shandies. I even got in and splashed about with help from P but was too tense to even float as I was totally out of my depth. Then did the club scene with our guide and his cronies Every incident related here has a story but will tell that later.Did take loads of pics that tell their own stories. All in all this was an amazing trip that was good for me in all respects.I cried, laughed, pondered and danced.The icecream was delicious and so was the champagne. Was thought to be a curiosity as well as Brazilian and ended up teaching the Spanish-only speaking hotel staff English. Even got a lift by a handsome Argentine. Made friends wherever I went and I was in chat mode and for most of the time trying to find out where I was and where were the places I should go to. I loved every moment and even the bad ones created excellent memories. I so glad I started on an adventure and ended with memories of a life time.Argentina is a beautiful country with lovely people with big hearts, tasty wines and HUGE steaks however flights by Malaysian Airlines can be a nightmare when filled with crying babies ;-)) It was great to be in my own bed and bath after this wonderful experience. Hope I get to chat/catch up with you soon. Hugs and love Shanta



Sunday, December 18, 2005 (All day) to Saturday, January 14, 2006 (All day)




Gareth Osche
Piers Pirow