7 Summit Number: Three
Location: Mendoza Province, Argentina
Altitude: 6,962m / 22,841ft
Date Summited: February 15th, 2002
Guiding Company: Aventuras Patagonicas
Guides: Mike Hamill, Brian Hardster, Carrie Dagher
Climbing Partners: Jeff Strite, Jose Rionda
The summit of South America
Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas at 6,962 meters (22,841ft). It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the province of Mendoza, Argentina, and lies 112 kilometers (70 miles) northwest of its capital, the city of Mendoza. The summit is also located about 15 kilometers from the international border with Chile. Aconcagua is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres.
Thursday 31st January
Well, here I go, off to meet Jose and the rest of the Aconcagua expedition members in Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina.
On the flight between Buenos Aires and Santiago I had my first view of Aconcagua, “The Stone Sentinel” – it looked extremely big and rocky with little snow, except very high up, and no obvious route up. We appeared to be flying at a level with the summit which showed just how high this mountain really is.
It was quite funny upon arrival at Buenos Aires as I had spent the last month refraining from alcohol so as to be in the best possible shape for tackling this mountain and as I walked through the airport to get the connecting flight to Mendoza I came across two Americans wearing Aconcagua baseball caps – after speaking with them I discovered that they were on the same expedition as myself and I ended up sitting down with them for a few beers. Bang went my alcohol free expedition build-up!
After arrival in Mendoza, and successfully collecting all my expedition gear it was a short taxi drive to the hotel where I met fellow climbing members. It was here that I found out there would be three groups of about ten climbers departing a day apart.
Friday 1st February
Today was spent in and around the hotel in Mendoza. It was to be a day for gear checks to ensure we had suitable equipment and if not we had the chance to go off and buy the necessary extras. We had the team brief over breakfast giving us the details of the itinerary, and the chance to laze by the pool.
After the entire group had visited a local restaurant for dinner we decided to continue our evening by visiting a local nightclub – probably not a good idea as tomorrow was to be the start of the expedition!
Saturday 2nd February
We loaded all the expedition gear onto the roofs of a couple of vans and departed Mendoza at 10.30am in preparation for registering for the permits for Aconcagua – this has to be done in person.
It was a blisteringly hot day and we had a 3 hour drive to Los Penitentes at an altitude of 8,200ft. This is 8kms from the Vacas Valley trailhead where we begin our 35 mile, 3 day walk into basecamp. The trailhead name is known as “Punta de Vacas”.
Los Penitentes is a ski resort, closed for the season, where there are a number of fairly large lodges including the one we stayed in called Ayelen. We were to spend 1 night here before heading off to basecamp and another after arriving back from the mountain.
Sunday 3rd February
After breakfast all the equipment had to be weighed ready for packing onto the mules which were to carry all the heavy expedition gear to basecamp. Each duffel bag had to be within 30-31kgs limit – in the end we had a total weight of 701kgs for 12 mules.
We left our gear at the lodge and got transport to the start of the Vacas Valley trailhead, where I got collared by an army official from the base opposite. I think he was just bored and after looking through my passport and criticizing my Russian Visa was happy for me to be off.
We started the walk-in to basecamp at about midday and traveled down a very scenic, if not barren valley, with vast peaks all around us. We worked on the idea of walking for 1-1 ½ hours and stopping for a 20 minute rest. This route was mainly walking on a riverbed alongside a glacial river.
We eventually reached our first nights camp at Pampa de Lenas at an altitude of 9,200ft at around 5.30pm, and the mules arrived with our gear about 1 hour later. After erecting tents and preparing our gear we had soup followed by Thai curry cooked by Brian and Carrie – beautiful food after our first days trekking.
I felt like crashing out as it was a very dusty day giving us all sore eyes, noses, throats and on top of this my groin was causing me problems again!
Monday 4th February
Today was to be a 5-6 hour walk to Casa de Piedra at an altitude of 3,200m. We started off with cereals, followed by bacon and egg for breakfast, and left camp at 9.45am.
This was another very hot day, giving me sun burnt hands from using trekking poles. Again, we followed the riverbed up the valley in pretty much a similar way to yesterday. The best part was a few hundred meters from camp where we saw our first sighting of Aconcagua, and what an impressive sight it was, albeit giving a very daunting thought as it looked extremely high! The view was between two much smaller peaks, and we could see all of the south face, the Polish glacier, and part of our route to the summit.
Even though the walk in to basecamp was long and fairly strenuous, seeing our final goal made it all worthwhile. We had only made a 400m increase in altitude but it felt like considerably more.
We got the tents set up and camp arranged, and for dinner we had steak, and a bonus of dessert.
Tuesday 5th February
6.30am awakening, ready to leave at 8am. The muleteers wanted to drop baggage gear off by midday at basecamp, hence the early morning. After cereals for breakfast we were all set to depart.
The morning was colder than the others as it was so early, although pretty soon layers of clothing were being peeled off. It was to be a 6-7 hour walk in to basecamp – longer than the previous days. Today I had a headache on and off nearly the entire way, having a lot do with the increase in altitude.
Aconcagua was now hidden from view until we reached camp 1 which wasn’t a problem as I didn’t want to keep viewing the daunting task we had ahead! This final day we left the Vacas Valley and moved into Guanacos Valley. Normally for the Polish glacier you go off to the left for Plaza Argentina at 4,200m, but we were following on to Aventuras Patagonicas new route.
This route meant we had numerous river crossings, and went back and forth across the same river about 6 times, and as I didn’t have any neoprene booties I had to cross in my trekking shoes which meant it was easy but very cold once I got out of the water. Luckily the sun came out quite strongly, albeit on and off today. This meant that the walk was slightly more pleasurable without the sun being out permanently.
We eventually arrived at basecamp at 3.30pm, at an altitude of 3,800m. After a brief lye down my headache had subsided. Dinner was Mexican with tortillas followed by Melon and chocolate.
Basecamp had already been established by the first group as they were a day ahead of us, and were getting ready to leave for their carry up to camp 1. This was great as we didn’t have to erect the large Mountain Hardwear basecamp tent – it was a group tent for cooking, eating, and escaping from the weather, and seated us all in comfort.
Wednesday 6th February
Today was a relaxing leisure day to prepare ourselves for the multiple carries we were to do, and for the general ascent of the mountain. It wasn’t necessary for us to be up until the first team had departed from camp at 8.30am – the first (and probably last) lay in we were to get!
This morning we got the MSR Expedition stoves going ourselves, and had drinks, pancakes with syrup, and cereals.
It was another very hot day, which is a problem when your legs are already sunburnt. Still managed to collect water from the river, which was always clearer earlier in the day before it could get messed up with the fast flowing water form the glacier melt. Then bathed in it which was an extremely cold experience. It was such a good feeling slobbing out at 3,800m in the Andes!
Basecamp today was going to get busy as team 1 were carrying gear up to camp 1 then returning to basecamp for the evening, and team 3 were due to arrive. We played a bit of cards in the afternoon and then settled down for dinner, which consisted of gnocchi, and an Italian menu tonight with melon and more chocolate.
After dinner we collected our food daypacks for days 4-6 – there were loads of high carbohydrate / calorie foods, including chocolate, nuts, and raisins. To finish the evening off we prepared our bags for the carry up to camp 1. We were to take 2 packs of food, and then lots of our own gear, including ice-axe, crampons, cold weather clothing, etc.. The pack seemed heavy enough in basecamp, and that’s before having to walk with it tomorrow up to 600m in vertical ascent.
Thursday 7th February
Wake up call was at 7.15am, ready for an 8.30am departure. This was to be the first day of real hard work. After breakfast we had our final gear check for the carry up to camp 1 – the rucksack felt heavy to say the least, and this was only a carry with the equipment that we didn’t need at basecamp.
We left camp at 9am on a slight incline. As soon as we got on more of a gradient Mike showed us how to rest step, which is an efficient way of walking in this oxygen depleted environment, and how to power breathe. This was to make our uphill climb considerably easier as you get into a regular pattern, and the weight on your back doesn’t seem quite s heavy. The breathing technique works by getting more oxygen into the blood, hence reducing headaches.
Our first stop was at a waterfall for clean drinking water. It was at this point that I commented that this was easier than Elbrus (Bigmouth!). The next section was considerably steeper and took us up to some interesting ice formations. It was after this stage that I started suffering with shortness of breathe and intermittent headaches, although these subsided when I breathed properly.
We finally reached team one’s camp 1 site, although we were to continue for another half hour to a higher camp 1 location at 15,000ft, a considerable height gain of 2,800ft for the day.
We emptied our rucksacks against a rock ready for our move up to camp 1 tomorrow. This at least would make the hike down far easier with an empty sack. We could again see Aconcagua from here and it looked extremely big and impressive at 8,000ft above us. We still had a hell of a long way to go!
I had a bit of a nagging headache all the way back down and hoped things would improve for tomorrows push to camp 1. My hypoxic reading read 72 up at camp 1, which is not very good, although this doesn’t necessarily mean a problem.
Two members of team 1 didn’t even make camp 1 today.
Dinner was very nice Mexican and tortillas again, with tinned fruit, and chocolate. Bed came fairly early again at 9.30pm ready for a slightly less tough day that today was.
Friday 8th February
Up at 7.15am for breakfast and to start packing all basecamp gear – some would come up to camp 1 with us and the rest was to stay unattended at basecamp until the muleteers return to collect it in about a week. We needed to take the remainder of our cold weather gear, sleeping bag, mat, etc.. as we won’t be returning to basecamp again, unless an emergency occurs!!
We finally left basecamp at 11.10am on the same route as the previous day, with similar weight packs and 2 stops en route. Arrived at our camp 1 site at 4.30pm. The three of us found the best spot for the tent and started erecting it – this was to be more cramped now as we were used to sharing two to a tent at lower altitudes. Pretty soon the weather started closing in and it was snowing and fairly windy. The inside of the tent looked full with 3 large expedition sleeping bags, down parkas and various other kit.
A hot drink was made, along with dinner. Everyone seemed pretty shagged out tonight, even though it was only 8.30pm. The day for me was much better with no headaches and all 10 of us were finally camped at camp 1.
Sitting here now the wind is extremely noisy on the tent and you can hear the snow falling. Tomorrow we are going for a load carry up to camp 3 at 17,800ft, bypassing camp 2 if all goes well. Another big day.
Saturday 9th February
Up at 7.15am for the toughest day so far. After coffee and rice pudding porridge we got packed up with the gear we wanted to go up to camp 3 – I also had a communal food bag along with crampons, ice axe, and Goretex, among other things.
We left at 9.15am and headed up to camp 2, which involved walking through ice pinnacles, zigzagging up a scree slope. Thankfully this wasn’t too strenuous and we arrived at camp 2 at an altitude of approximately 16,500ft.
Some of the party dropped their group supplies off here but I decided to go up to camp 3 with mine, where the group of 9 was split up into those who wanted to go a bit quicker and the remainder who opted to take it easy – Jose and I pushed on at the front quicker group. This was steady but got to be hard work – we were aiming to get to camp 3 at 17,900ft which would be excellent acclimatization.
We eventually arrived there mid-afternoon and emptied out our supplies and gear, at least giving us light backpacks for the descent.
My hypoxic reading was now 62 although I felt OK. As soon as we started back down my headache came on again – I must start breathing more efficiently on descents!
Today I took the green gibbon on my backpack although Jeff removed it pretty quick – I ended up wearing it attached to the front strap, and suffered some light-hearted flack for having it! The walk down was uneventful and everyone wanted to crash out I think.
The 3 of us completely fill this three person tent giving no room to move – there’s down everywhere! Tomorrow we clear this camp and move up to camp 2, where everything must go with us. Not too bad as it’s only about 2 hours up, and the packs won’t be very heavy. I must start thinking about other things whilst walking as I keep getting Rachel on my mind!
Sunday 10th February
What a great lay-in after the windy night we had to endure last night. Got up at about 9am ready for a hot drink and breakfast. Today we had no rush as we only had to go from camp 1 up to camp 2, about 1,100ft.
We left at noon and were at camp 2 for 2pm at an altitude of 16,100ft. I had no inverse altitude effects at all. We spent the next hour or so setting up camp, pitching the tent securely, fetching water, and generally relaxing.
As usual the afternoon was windy with some snow – this seems to be the way every afternoon goes, from about 1 until 5 o’clock. Dinner was earlier than usual so we had a few hours to waste – annoying my tent mates was high on the priority as I had no book or anything else to do!
Tomorrow would be a similar day – approximately three hours up to camp 3, although the altitude gain is about 1,800ft. The loads would be the same as today thankfully. We will be spending three nights at camp 3 – a rest day and a carry up to 19,500ft. I can’t wait to get up to high camp now and have a crack at the summit! I really think it’s within reach – Denali next…
Monday 11th February
What we thought would be an easy (ish) day from camp 2 up to camp 3 turned out to be a really heavy slog. I put on my pack and it was the heaviest that I had tried – comparable to one of the guides packs!
After a hash brown breakfast we packed up and were off fully laden at about 11am. The traverse just went on and on to what looked like a giant penis – started off looking like the real thing and once we finally reached it it was an enormous rock pillar, probably 20 or 30 meters high. From there it was a further 20 minute walk up to camp 3 where I collapsed.
The rest of the night I had a bit of a headache and throughout the night I didn’t feel too good. Still managed 2 plates of pasta and gnocchi, with loads to drink. We crashed out early tonight but I think I slipped down the tent and kept waking up with a headache. Luckily tomorrow is a rest day.
This is by far the highest I have ever slept at over 5,000m.
Tuesday 12th February
Rest day, thank god. No particular time to get up but woke at 8am anyway with another headache. Watched the other team leave camp 3 for their carry up to high camp – a couple of them came back early which wasn’t a good sign for when we go!
Spent the late morning playing Scrabble and Hearts – quite enjoyable, and passed the time away nicely. Today I forgot to put sunscreen on and would regret it later! In the afternoon we went up onto the ice to try out crampons and ice-axe arrest skills, just as a precaution. It was an excellent day with great weather.
Brian and Mike did a carry up to high camp today and were still back down in a couple of hours – this would mean less for us to carry the following day.
Dinner was again full of carbohydrates for energy buildup. I thought tonight I\’d call my sister on the SAT phone and then realized that her number was stored on the mobile back in Penitentes – damn. Still cost me calling my mum and getting her answer phone, even though I called back later to arrange a dozen red roses for Rachel on Valentines Day – hope she will be in to receive them.
Steve Lee lent me a book to read called “A Painted House” by John Grisham and I got quite into it, and just managed 80 pages. Up to now the gibbon has been hung, strangled, frozen, and I daren’t imagine what else!
Wednesday 13th February
This was to be our carry up to high camp. I woke feeling pretty shitty and had another crap nights sleep. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. I managed to eat some porridge and once the pack was loaded the day felt much better.
I stuck to the back of the group for most of the way and found the going pretty straightforward, especially as the walk was nearly all snow so it made the going far better than scree. It took us less than 3 hours to make the 1,600ft ascent, and the top looked much less further away from here.
We stashed our summit equipment ready for moving up to high camp the next day. There were already a number of other tents at this camp, known as “White Rocks”, which was not much higher than the Horcones route camp, known as “Camp Berlin”. At least this would make the night at camp 3 more bearable, and give us more of a chance on summit day.
The descent was more direct and with it came s snow fight between myself and Jeff, and then we totally covered Mike from the 3rd team – this was exhausting fun at this altitude! Steve Platt from our team didn’t know who caught him in the face with a snowball – Jeff!!
We were back in camp 3 by mid-afternoon and overall I thought the day was comfortable, although we were told that to sleep at 19,500\’ for too many nights was energy sapping.
The remainder of the afternoon was the usual relaxing, eating, drinking, and chatting kind of thing. This was all in anticipation for the following evening which was to be our scheduled summit preparation and talk, before departure.
Thursday 14th February
Valentines Day! This day didn’t really feel any different to any other on the mountain, except I had left the card that Rachel gave me down at base camp – pratt! I hope Rachel got the flowers and bag from my sister – I’ll call her later tonight.
Today we had to dismantle the camp ready for erecting at high camp. It was hoped that after the Chafey’s rest day they would be ready for a move up to high camp also, and that way if we had any problems then any of us could descend via the Horcones route back to Plaza de Mulas, instead of a 4 day hike back down the Guanacos Valley.
For breakfast we had the remainder of hash browns and cereal with hot drinks. This was to be the last upwards carry for us – every load carry after this was downhill! Today I was about at the front on the way up feeling quite a bit stronger and we made the high camp in 3 hours, even with a couple of rest stops.
Team 1 was still at high camp as they didn’t leave for the summit earlier that morning due to high winds. Another 2 of their team had also gone back down due to problems leaving only 6. We must have had the best site for the tent, albeit a bit muddy in the afternoon.
I enjoyed this camp the best as the summit looked pretty close and the views from here were quite impressive. We set up camp and then waited for an eternity for the evening meal and drinks – we all wanted an early night in preparation for our 4am alarm call. That’s if anyone could get any sleep in anticipation for what was to come!
After making a call on the SAT phone to Rachel ($30!) I took some, hopefully, decent sunset photographs as this was the first time we could see a full sunset from the mountain. Bed came swiftly after our summit talk at 8.30pm, although I remember waking in the night and the wake-up call seemed to take forever – another crap nights sleep!
Friday 15th February
Our wake-up call came at 4am and we struggled to clamber out of our warm down bags and out into the bitter cold of an Andean night. Very few of us bothered with food ad drinks – I couldn’t be arsed so we just took an eternity getting prepared for a 6am start to the summit bid.
I had every item of clothing on that I had and felt like a mummy!
We left camp at 6am with backpacks containing food and drink, trekking poles, headlamps and ice-axe. Crampons were worn all the way to the summit. The start was straightforward, albeit difficult trying to keep all toes and fingers warm at the same time.
Within 2 hours Larry from our team and another member from team 1 had dropped out and had to be escorted down by a guide.
After 15 minutes of this climb we joined the normal (Horcones) route up the mountain so there was a fairly steady flow of people on the trail. After a while we had our first major stop at Independencia hut, probably close to 3 hours gone by now. This consisted only of a wooden roofless construction shaped like a tent. I took a couple of photographs here and within minutes of removing my gloves I had lost all feelings which was slightly worrying! Also I still hadn’t drunk much, and only managed to eat a rock hard frozen Snickers bar.
I was at the rear when we got moving again, and the next part took us up a steep snow-slope which led to the very windy traverse – never ending, which in turn leads to the very steep Canaletta. Some way along the traverse, which had a steep snow drop-off if you were to slip, Mike and Brian led each group of 5 and 3 climbers (roped up to aid in self / group arrest) towards the summit. The traverse made your whole face sting with the wind and we were told that this was a fairly calm day, although it was very cold even with the sun up!
My group consisted of Jose, peter, myself, and Brian, the guide. We made very slow progress along the traverse as Peter was extremely tired and we seemed to stop every 5 steps with me pulling on Jose, and him pulling on a stationary Peter. This was very frustrating, but we eventually made it to the rest stop which was about half hour into the Canaletta. This is renowned for being quite enclosed and wind free, but very steep.
Luckily there had been good snow which made our day significantly easier than when the Canaletta is all scree. From our rest stop it was about a further 2 hours to the summit, and about three quarters of the way we dropped our backpacks and continued much lighter.
The group of 5 Mike was leading were just descending from the summit when we got there with a rejuvenated Peter – what a relief to be just under 7,000m and feel so good. If I stayed still I had no adverse effects but as soon as I moved you could feel the thin air. All that is on the summit is a silver cross with decorations and a book to be signed in a metal case. We spent about 30 minutes on the top of South America with loads of photographs and congratulations before heading back for the 3 hour descent.
Our team did very well with a success rate of 8 climbers out of the 10 to start, with only the Chafey brothers not making the summit, although for them to get up to high camp at 6,000m was a personal best for them. It was a fairly uneventful descent with a small steep section where we were roped together, and then a free-for-all in getting back to high camp.
The rest of our group were already back, alongside team 3 who were preparing for their next morning bid. It was 5.30pm, eleven and a half hours after our departure, which is the average summit time. The evening went by with thick soup followed by everybody crashing out exhausted. The following morning was also to be a tough 5,000\’, 4 hour descent from high camp to Plaza de Mulas Hotel along the normal Horcones route. This is the ascent and descent that most people make to the summit, albeit a very monotonous steep slog.
Saturday 16th February
Today was to be a tough hike down to the Mulas Hotel at 4,200m where we will spend the night in relative comfort compared to the last fortnight. What should have been a 10.30am start ended up being a 12.30pm start with all the messing around – no one really cared as we were going back to civilization.
We didn’t have much of a breakfast but still had loads left from our 3 day goodie bags. Crampons were to be worn for the first part of the descent, which a few of us were a bit disappointed with – we couldn’t be bothered with them! It turned out a good call from Mike as it made the descent easier.
It wasn’t long before we passed Refugio Berlin, followed by Nido de Condores camp, which was next major camp down. The summit looked a long way off from here but there were plenty of tents around with people making their preparations to ascend to a higher camp. We rested here before continuing down more snow slopes, upon where we saw Plaza de Mulas camp and our hotel, albeit looking very small over 2,000ft below us.
It was at the time we neared Plaza Canada camp at 16,100ft that we were able to remove crampons and slide down the scree slope trail. This downhill was difficult on the knees and calves after the first couple of hours and we were glad to be sliding into Plaza de Mulas base camp which looked like a very mini town with private tents, expedition tents, muleteer companies, and various semi-permanent looking constructions. The guides did say that all the tents, etc… are removed at the end of the season and re-assembled again later in the year.
It was great to be back down as our packs were extremely heavy with all of our personal gear, a split tent, and group gear, where everything was carried down from all the gear we double carried up the other side of the mountain. It was fortunate that we were to leave our packs here, with a few exceptions of gear, ready for the muleteers to load up in the morning to carry out for us. All we needed to do was to take our sleeping bag, and a couple of other bits necessary for the 6 hour hike out the next day with us on the 20 minute walk to the high altitude hotel.
Thankfully the muleteer company – Aconcagua Express, had been instructed to have a number of pizzas ready for us here, along with loads of drink – excellent and fully deserved after a hard carry down.
By now it was 7pm and we were all ready to check in and grab our first beers in nearly 2 weeks on the mountain! Pity we were all fairly tired and the hotel had a “lights out” at 10pm, although the food was excellent after what we had been eating high on the mountain – soup, steak and fruit cocktail washed down with Andes beer. It was then time to retire to the 4 person bunked rooms ready for breakfast at 8am.
During the climb down Jeff and I even managed a hike back up from base camp to assist Larry with his bag who was most obviously suffering. Jim had left Carrie with his pack, along with her own for certain parts of the lower descent prompting Brian to go back up to assist them both.
Taking this route out which is the normal route into the mountain was an extremely steep never ending, very uninteresting scree / snow slope – totally understandable why we took the Guanacos Valley route and made the traverse back down this route.
Sunday 17th February
Almost back down now – only today to go, this is a 35 mile, 6 hour hike from Plaza de Mulas to the Horcones Valley trailhead near to the ranger or Guardaparques Station. This will get us into much thicker air as we go from 4,000m to 2,850m in altitude.
Today was an important day also as we get to wash and shower all the Aconcagua dirt and crap from our bodies finally. I have a messed up sunburnt face, particularly my nose and want to get it all clean, and get into some clean clothes.
After dropping our sleeping bags back off at Aconcagua Express we were off at about 11am and started walking down the valley, and a dried up riverbed. We passed huge glaciers which were mostly hidden under the scree we were walking on, along with the carcasses of dead mules, and made a few river crossings before finally reaching the first camp on this route called “Confluencia”, at an altitude of 3,300m – from here it is one and a half hours to the trailhead.
When we got close to the entrance it ended up with me racing Steve Lee – a bit of rivalry between the UK and US! I took the roadway but his cross country route finding was better, hence he pipped me to the ranger station. This was a fairly arduous walk out, giving me sore feet and loads of dust inhalation – extremely dry throat and blisters!
Most of us managed to get into the first minibus out and make the short drive back to Los Penitentes and civilization, although we missed out on Hamburger Complejo and beer at a bar in Punte del Inca.
Most of our gear was at the hotel so we managed to get into clean clothes whilst abusing the beer tab for our room! Jose, Jeff and I had a triple room which looked like a bomb had hit it with all the gear everywhere. After showering we met up with most of team 1 who we have been with since their delayed summit bid, and just spent the next few hours relaxing and dwelling on our goal and experiences. We had yet to hear if the third team had made the summit, but we knew that 4 from 10 of team one and 8 from 10 in our team were successful which gives a great thumbs-up to Mike, Brian and Carrie, our guides.
After the meal a few more beers and table tennis followed, with bed soon after. The evenings entertainment ended up with us playing a bit of a trick on Mike and Kitt – we managed to lodge coins in their hotel room door so it appeared that they were locked in – it made a good laugh at breakfast!
Monday 18th February
Everything had to be packed away today ready for the 4 hour drive to Santiago. This was harder that when I left the UK – there seemed to be loads more stuff for some reason! We eventually made tracks after breakfast and packing, and headed back towards Puente del Inca to stop for hamburgers and the start of our quota of beer! This was just what was needed to start off the day and our journey from Argentina to Santiago de Chile.
After numerous stops we arrived at our 4 start Hotel Aloha Independencia at 6pm and prepared for the night ahead. It was agreed that we would tip the guides $50 each per guide, although a few clients miserably never contributed this amount! Our hotel was very nice and right in the heart of the city, and as this was to be the final night of the expedition where we were all going to be together to say our farewells we decided to go out with team 1 and all the guides, plus Rodrigo (Aventuras Patagonicas owner) to a nice restaurant in the city. A good night was had by all, with Jeff giving a bit of a speech and handing over the tip to our guides – this should have made their night!
It was decided that Jose, Jeff, Steve Lee and I would pay a driver and go north to the coast, followed by Peter and Bill in a hire car. Even though I only had 2 nights we agreed that this would be relaxing and a great end to a fantastic trip. The resort was about an hour away from Via del Mar and Valparaiso, called Can Can, close to Horcon. It was a very quaint little place with beautiful 6 berth lodges and a great beach – highly recommended.
Tuesday 19th February
As it so hard to get to Jose and I left after the first day and went our separate ways in Valparaiso – he flew back to North Carolina and I stayed over for my last night and just bummed around on the beach for a few hours, then checked into a hotel, had dinner and left the next morning for the 3 hour bus drive back to Santiago airport.
Full marks to Aventuras Patagonicas and the guides for a well organized, professional expedition – www.patagonicas.com
Also see Aconcagua Traverse writeup by Stephen Platt
Next up for GGE (Green Gibbon Expeditions) is Denali in 2003…
Mike Hamill – Lead Guide
Brian Hardster – Assistant Guide
Carrie Dagher – Assistant Guide
Wayne Morris UK
Jose Rionda US
Jeff Strite US
Stephen Platt UK
Steve Lee US
Larry Chafe US
Jim Chafe US
James Considine US
Bill Whitmarsh UK/US