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Ascent to Aconcagua-Nido de Condores on 2012-02-24

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Date:Friday, February 24, 2012
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Aconcagua - Nido de Condores
    Location:Argentina
    Elevation:5565 m / 18261 ft
    Remaining Elevation:1396 m / 4580 ft (14% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

This was the first climb in my life that I joined a commerically guided group. The $3200 cost plus over $500 park entrance fee was more than I wanted to spend for a recreational pursuit, but I was unable to form my own team with my usual climbing buddies. This mountain is, of course, too risky to go solo, so I was forced to spend the money and join a guided group. Now that the trip is over, I must admit that the price was actually a bargain. I have never eaten better on any climb or adventure in my entire life, including watermelon over 14,000 feet several times and baked chicken and steak for several meals. The task of obtaining a permit without the aid of the guides would have been VERY difficult and not having to arrange for our transportation to the National Park and mule train was a huge relief with my limited Spanish speaking ability. Water so late in the season was also a problem, but I did not have to worry because the guides took care of that concern. In addition, all tents and cooking equipment were carried to the higher camps by porters and not a part of our pack weight. The only negative comment I have about the guides and company I used was that the itinerary did not allow for enough bad weather days and this resulted in my lack of summit success. At Camp 2, Nido de Condores, we experienced 50 mile/hour winds in 15 degree F temperatures. The forecast was for worse weather, so my tent mate and I decided to make an early descent. After we reached Plaza de Mulas, a brief weather window opened and the guides decided to make an alpine style ascent beginning at 1:00AM, bypass Camp 3 and go straight for the summit in one day! This would have been beyond my ability, but 3 members of our 10 person team actually did summit. It took them 19 hours to return back to Camp 2! Such an ascent in the weather I experienced seemed dangerous to me. In addition, I learned later that the guides made all members of the team to put on their crampons at Camp 2, even though they were not needed for, at least, 2000 feet of climbing. An ascent of over 4500 feet above 18,000 feet in one day is difficult enough, but being forced to do it in crampons the entire distance, even over rocks, seems stupid. This could have made the difference keeping a few more members of the team from summiting. If I ever return for a second attempt on Aconcagua, it will be a hard decision whether to use a guided group or form my own team. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
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