Thursday, December 31, 2009

Back to Civilization

Got a couple text messages from Bob just now. He is safe and sound back in the town of  Penitentes, cleaned up and drinking beer. His iPhone works again, so he can check emails, etc. Pretty sure he is already a few sheets to the wind, celebrating the New Year and all, so we'll probably just hear more from Bob tomorrow. Happy New Years!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Denouement

Just spoke to Bob. Here's the rest of the story that I did not get in his message yesterday:

Apparently, they woke up yesterday to find two other tents got torn overnight in the wind. The team was able to piece them together and keep them functional, if not perfect. Despite the winds, the team started out up the hill yesterday morning on the way to the summit.  They made it up about 1,100 feet above their camp (about half way to summit) and the winds were pretty terrible and it was very cold. Wind chill factor was high, people were having trouble standing upright in the wind, and trouble staying warm in the wind chill. A few team members were not feeling strong and secure in their ability to keep climbing.

The guide, Susanna, said that it got steeper and more dangerous from there on up. To continue would be quite dangerous. Clouds were moving in to the mountain. Knowing that they had supplies for at least two more days, and that the were due for a break in the weather after two weeks of cold and wind, Bob and five others decided to turn around and head back, to try again the next day. Susanna and three team members, inexplicably, decided to continue upward. One of these went up another 100 feet and turned around and descended with the others.

Remarkably, the three that went up managed to summit in a whiteout, experiencing at least one small fall along the way, no significant injuries. Upon arrival back in camp, all three including Susanna were exhausted. Wiped out. Susanna said she had no reserves left, that she had been on the edge the entire time, and Bob said she certainly looked fried.

This morning, the weather changed for the better and the skies were clear. Bob, two others and the Sherpa (my apologies, I do not know his name - mike) were to head up to summit today. Bob and the Sherpa were having hot drinks early when the other two decided that they did not have it in them to go for the summit - they had not been sleeping well and had not been feeling well and they did not want to leave their warm tent and push on up. Susanna would not allow just Bob and the Sherpa to climb on their own. (mike's note: I do not understand this decision as no one had to rope up and everyone else could stay in camp quite comfortably for another day, or even move down to a lower camp and let Bob and the Sherpa climb and then catch up as they will.)

So, the decision was made to go down and get off the mountain. No one but Bob was still game to summit, Susanna is dead tired and not up to making good decisions in Bob's favor, and  no one wants to wait around until tomorrow so that maybe a few people can feel better and go for the summit together.

In short, Bob was penalized for making the correct decision to tun around yesterday. Even the sherpa has said that they made the right decision to turn around. It was too dangerous to have gone for the summit and those that did, just got lucky. And in return, Bob does not get his chance at the summit on a lovely day on the mountain. (mike's note: ask for a return trip for free, Bob.)

When Bob and I spoke, he was between disappointment and anger, but was nevertheless on his way down. They will be at the road sometime late tomorrow. I am sure that Bob will add his own updates (and corrections?) to all this once he is back in civilization. Thanks for reading.

Still High Winds

Got a message from Bob today. Winds were still very high and they did not try to summit. Bob sounded well, though I could also hear the disappointment in his voice. They have a couple more days that they can wait it out for a good weather day, so the team remains hopeful. As long as they do not eat all their snack/lunch food while sitting in camp, they will be fine to try tomorrow or the next day. Stay tuned...

Monday, December 28, 2009

High winds delay summit bid

Spoke to Bob just a few minutes ago. The team did not attempt the summit today. He reports that the winds are gusting well over 50 MPH (I could hear them in the background!) and it had gotten quite old last night, well below freezing even in the daylight. He said quite a few items froze overnight.

Also, one tent collapsed from the wind overnight - not Bob's tent - that was bomber solid, of course - but one used by other climbers on the team. The tents are Trango 3's and well-designed for harsh conditions, but require good setup and ongoing good maintenance of the lines and zippers and anchors in order to remain secure. And even then, Mother Nature can always throw something at you that no man-made tent will withstand. Anyway, Bob was up in the middle of the night to help secure the damaged tent - it had some tears in it, but the team was apparently able to make it work and get it back to functionality again.

They have not been able to get an up-to-date weather report for these last few days since they are on the"dark" side of the mountain. They are hoping the winds drop off for tomorrow morning and they can head up to the summit.Bob will keep us posted.

Oh yes, Bob reports that Christmas dinner was ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and fruitcake!  He says it was very tasty and a nice treat high on the mountain.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

High Camp

Bob called in this afternoon to report that everyone made it to high camp at 20,650 feet above sea level. Hurrah!  He said that the climb up today was pretty hard. They carried heavy loads up to Camp so that they did not have to do a double carry. There was a lot of wind again and there were some steep sections across some snow and ice fields where they had to use their crampons and ice axes and it was just a bit tricky climbing, but everyone did fine. Camp is set up on a very exposed plateau, all rock and dirt, pretty windy.

Bob said he was tired from the day, but he did not have a headache and his legs felt strong. All good.

Bob said the team was not sure if they would go for the summit tomorrow or not. The wind was pretty strong this evening, and the weather forecast called for continued, maybe even increased, strong winds tomorrow. The winds are supposed to die down on Tuesday and Wednesday, so they may decide not to climb tomorrow and just take a rest day and wait for a nice day to walk to the top. They probably won't decide until they get up at 5 AM and judge the weather at that moment. Bob was getting his gear together to be ready to go, just in case, but as we spoke, he gave it a less than 50% chance that they would actually go for the summit tomorrow. Stay tuned...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day - Camp 3

Bob's Christmas Day report:  The team moved up to Camp 3 today without incident. The wind was much lighter than the last couple days so it was an almost pleasant walk up to 19,000 feet. They are camped on the glacier now, though it is old, dusty, dirty glacier, Bob said. Apparently Bob and his tentmate had some issues with where they set their tent due to the glacial melt and runoff once it warmed up this afternoon, and so they had to move their tent to a better location, but other than that, all is well.

Bob did not carry up his Christmas decorations for the tent. He left them at base camp, deciding that the winds would be just a bit too much for his garlands, so the team will have to celebrate Christmas in spirit only. Bob reports several sightings of Santa's sleigh in last night's sky, though they did not witness any landings there on the glacier with the climbing team, due to dangerous conditions for the sleigh. Christmas dinner was being cooked as I spoke with Bob, but he did not know what it would be - only that there was something good promised by the guides. Bob was hoping for real meat of some kind.

Tomorrow is a rest day for the team, and then they head to Camp 4, their high camp, on Sunday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Bob's report: the team made a carry up to 19,000 feet today and cached some gear and fuel and food. It was a 4 hour round trip from their camp at 17,350 feet, but the hike was made the ore challenging by strong and consistent winds at 25 knots gusting up to 45 knots. At one point, Bob said, the wind literally just pushed him up the hill - at least the wind was blowing in the right direction. But it was a struggle when they had to cross the wind, especially with a large pack that would catch the wind and cause them to lose their balance.

Right now, the team is camped in a pretty exposed spot right on a saddle on the mountain. There are not many wind breaks. Even going to the bathroom is problematic - with no big rocks to hide behind, the wind blows around the plastic wag-bags that everyone is supposed to poop in, and it makes every dump an adventure.

Most of the camp area and trail has been dry rock and scree. There are a few patches of snow here and there but not enough to camp on and very little to travel on.

Dinner tonight was Curry Coconut Rice. It's clear and cold; Bob and the team hope that being up so high gives them a good view of Santa and his reindeers and he speeds around South America tonight.

Tomorrow the team will move camp up to 19,000 and then have a rest day before  going for the summit.

Moved to Camp 2

Bob reports that they moved on up to Camp 2 at 17,350 feet above sea level today. About 4 hours of climbing in some stiff winds, averaging 20 mph and gusting to 45 mph. They had fun (not!) putting up their tents in the wind, but all is secure now. Bob was not sure of the actual temperature but the reported wind chill from a teammate was -19 degrees F. Brrrrr... 

Tomorrow they make a carry up to Camp 3 at around 19,000 feet. This next camp is supposed to be a more protected area, so they should not have to suffer the strong winds, at least not in camp. Bob is hoping that the weather does not get any worse, so that they can still make the carry tomorrow.

Bob's still healthy, sounds strong on the phone. He's not reporting any issues, so all systems are go.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rest Day at Camp 1

I (Mike) talked to Bob today. They are enjoying their rest day. Still haven't figured out why the SAT phone updates are not reaching this blog, but we'll keep the updates going this way for now. Bob sends his love to all.

Update from Camp 1

(FYI: This update is from Mike S - Bob's SAT phone mechanism for posting updates to the blog is apparently not working, so I am relaying Bob's thoughts here from a phone call he made to me just a short while ago.)

Bob called from Camp 1 this afternoon - 15,300 feet above sea level. Everything is going well and aside from a few headaches (expected at altitude) everyone remains healthy! 

Today the team carried gear and supplies up to Camp 2 at 17,200 feet, then returned to Camp 1 to sleep. Tomorrow will be a rest day, then on Wednesday they will move everything up to Camp 2. Bob expects that will be a heavier carry than today was.

The team moved up from Base Camp (13,100 feet) 2 days ago. They had donkeys to carry gear up to that point, but since then the team has carried everything themselves.The food has been good, Bob reports - including delicious steaks at Base Camp.

Bob said that it is very windy - winds up to 46 knots. Temperatures have gone as low as -19 degrees C (-2 degrees F) during the night but have been a balmy 38 degrees F during the day.

They are climbing on glacier right now. Bob said that the good news is that the one large scree field ahead of them is still covered with snow so that will make the travel easier. It will also mean less rockfall - Bob dodged one big microwave-sized rock this afternoon - no blood, no foul.

The team has been working well together. No cliques, no problem children - Bob says he is enjoying the climb and doing well. Everyone is on task to summit according to schedule.  Stay tuned for future updates - Bob said he will call in a report every day or two.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Trailhead

Beautiful start
Leaving Pentententis. 8 mile hike 1,500 elevation gain until camp one, maybe 4 or 5 hours. Will switch to sat phone for updates. All is well team is healthy and happy. Sunny and nice out again, no wind.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The schedule

Tomorrow morning we will go to the Cambrio and change our money so we can then go to the permit office to pay for and pick up our climbing permits. After that we will check out of our comfy hotel in Mendoza and go to Pententantes, I think that is the Hotel name. At that point we will get our gear together for the mountain. We will load the mules up with our gear for base camp and start our 30 mile 3 day trek into base camp.

We will cross rivers as high as 3 feet and travel the rocky ground in 88 degree temps. After that we will work our way up the mountain slowly but surley.

The team seemed to click very quickly and everyone is getting along great. The most important thing is to have a great team. On a trip like this, 20 days sleeping on the ground eating out of cups and using bags for the restroom, you need to get along well with your climbing partners.

I cannot wait to start our trek. The actual walking begins Wednesday morning.

The photos will be less, so I wont seem like a Tweeting nerd, but I wanted you to see what I am seeing here, as much as possible.

Talk to you soon, time to sort gear and get some rest.

Climb High, Dont Die tm

Another meat grill

Typical cooking scene

There is always meat cooking on open grills somewhere.

Dinner at 11:00 pm

As you probably know they eat late in south America often. The streets
were empty this afternoon but very much alive at night

Team meeting

Suzanne, Ryan, Brian and my new roomate.

Water system

Mendoza is a desert with only 5 days of rain a year. The town was
established by the incas and they built water systems similar to the
ones in this photo

Streets of Mendoza

Beautiful tree lined streets of Mendoza.

Mendoza skyline

View from our hotel room in downtown
Walking the tree lined streets in Mendoza where almost all of the shops and resturaunts are closed. It is Sunday and I can barely remember the times when things were closed in the states. Others have arrived and my gear check is at 5:30 tonight.
Made it to Mendoza, met Suzanne, a guide, Danny and Ryan. We went to eat at a huge meat buffet. Also the deserts here are always exoctic. Will try to send some photos.

Meat buffet

We immediatly do what all good climbers do, find food in large
quantities. This is a meat buffet for $10.00 bucks. I think I saw some
rice and noodles but who needs that stuff.
Made it to Santiago Chile, one more flight to Mendoza, leaves in one hour. Some kid decided to scream at the top of his lungs at 1:00am on the plane. A few people, about everyone, was a little tweeked about that.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Leaving the States

LAN Airlines is always a great flight.

Attempting a voice mail post

Another great quote, thanks Alex

One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." – Henry Miller 

With all my years in other places and cultures, Henry nailed it. 

Bob

Thanks T for the great quote

A Facebook friend sent me this quote. I would ask of everyone to think of my next adventure. It may not be as cool as the one this quote referenced but I would love to take on a crazy challenge from my friends.
 
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful.  Honour and recognition in event of success." -- Ernest Shackleton


Bob

Getting better at packing

Just checked in at the airport. One bag weighed 47.9 and the other
48.9, under the 50 pound mark.

Three flights to get to Mendoza, first Miami leaving at 12:50 arriving
at 3:30. Then to Santiago that leaves Miami at 8:20, 5 hours in a
crazy airport. From Miami to Santiago leaving at 8:20 PM until 6:45 AM
landing in Santiago. From Santiago at 9:30 am to Mendoza landing at
10:35 Sunday. Basically 22 hours of travel. This is pretty typical.

Carrying one magazine, one book and a travel book for Argentina. About
13 hours shoehorned in coach probably next to a 5 year old with a cold
and an ear infection.

All of this travel, 15 days of carrying weight uphill for 20 minutes
on the summit. Cleary this is about the journey.

Bob

Friday, December 11, 2009

SAT Phone Technician

He made the SAT phone text to the blog. Thanks Mike

Sydney found my Theme song

I want to thank Sydney for the inspirational song her Dad sent me.  I am trying to add it to my blog but I am not having much success at 11:14 so I will just tell everyone what they can search for and listen to it.  Hanna Montana, Climb.  The song is a perfect summary of climbing a mountain.  If Mike can figure it out tonight, I will post it here:.



Thanks, Sydney.

Thanks SAT phone technician guy.

SMS from 881632517580@msg.iridium.com

test this.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Getting Ready

This week has been a whirlwind.  I made some lists and checked them twice to find out if I was forgetting something naughty or nice (festive theme).  I am 3 days away and I feel somewhat in control.  Earlier this week I emailed clients to make them aware that I am leaving so we can set up anything prior to my leaving.  That went well, not too many loose ends.  Other people at work are asking for last minute things, but they are easy.  Now I need to make sure the little things are done.  Argentina takes US dollars so not too worried about Argentine Pesos, but I always take some local money so I can buy little things on the street, like bottled water, that is not so little.

As fate would have it, part of my boiler on the new place broke, so I had to fix that.  There were little things to do on the property so the tenants are OK for a month without me.  The local neighbor is a handyman so I gave him a Gift card just in case he needed to fix something for a tenant, and David is a back up for anything major like the place burning down.  All I want is a clear mind and nothing nagging in the back so I can focus on my steps and the summit.

Working on the Sat Phone, Nikki and Greg sent me a charger so I am solid there, just cannot configure the phone right, working on that with the company.  It probably works great outside of the US, or I am an idiot.

I am really feeling focused right now.  My friend Kevin noticed something different in my voice so he asked me if something was off.  Part of it was a friend of mine told me he found out he has lung cancer so I think that has thrown me a bit.  Turns out that they think they have it in control, and I think he will be OK because of who he is, the eternal optimist and super nice guy.  I mention that because it is important to realize that every day on this planet is important, live your life with no regrets.

The mountain is only a few days away, and I am ready to go on the plane right now, work always gets in my way...I bought a lottery ticket so my troubles are over.  I just got back from the gym with a light workout and made a few purchases at the store, some power bars and super glue, never know when you have to close a wound.

My long time friend and climbing buddy Mike is coming into town for business and he and I will hang until I leave on Saturday, that gets me focused. My pee bottle arrived today, that was a close one.  Its like my American Express...don't climb a mountain without one.

Climb High, Don't Die.
I was getting my camera ready for my trip and found some old Everest Photo's. This one is a great view of the summit with a little wind off the top
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Bags and Jackets

Duffel bags, backpacks sleeping bag and 3 coats. Just bought some odds
and ends to fill in the gaps.

Gear Check

Two pair of pants, 2 pair of long underwear bottoms and tops. 3 pair
of socks, one of them the summit pair, 3 pairs of gloves, 2 neck
Gaitors, 2 hats and my sleeping pad thrown in for good measure. Half
of that will be in my pack, half on me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Here is the climbing Schedule, you can reference this as the days progress

Dec 12: Depart Country of Origin.


Dec 13: Arrive Mendoza, Argentina. Climbers should arrive before 5 pm if possible. We will have an orientation for the climb, a Leave No Trace discussion, and equipment check. This will be followed by a group dinner in one of Mendoza's finest restaurants.


Dec 14: After completing the permit process, we board our private bus to the town of Penitentes. In Penitentes, we organize mule loads and spend the night.


Dec 15 - 17: After one night in Penitentes, we drive 15 minutes to Punta de Vacas (8,000’), where we will begin our three-day, 30 mile trek into Plaza Argentina (13,800’), base camp for our expedition. Mules will carry all of our gear so we can enjoy the trek without heavy loads. On the approach, we walk through green desert valleys dramatically enclosed between the mountains of the Andes. During the first half of the approach, our objective will remain hidden by the nearby mountains. However, at the end of the second day the stunning east face of Aconcagua will dramatically be revealed.


Dec 18: After our arrival at Plaza Argentina, we set up camp and spend the next day preparing for the climb, exploring the local terrain and acclimatizing to the higher altitude.


Dec 19: Carry to Camp I. Camp I is located behind an old moraine at 15,500’. This camp is very private and only Alpine Ascents uses it. We double carry to keep pack weight down and to help ensure good acclimatization.


Dec 20: Move to Camp I.


Dec 21: This day we carry to Camp II, located on a high pass known as Ameghino Col, at 17,700’. Ameghino Camp provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the upper route of the Polish Glacier.


Dec 22: Rest day at Camp I. This gives us further acclimatization time and rest before moving higher to sleep.


Dec 23: Carry and move to Camp II.


Dec 24: Carry to Camp III (19,200’), located just below the Polish Glacier, then return to Camp II.


Dec 25: Move to Camp III.


Dec 26: Rest and acclimatization at Camp III. This will prepare us for our move to Camp IV (high camp)


Dec 27: Move to high camp, Camp IV (20,600’), located on the North Ridge. On the approach, we enjoy magnificent views of the Polish Glacier. Camp IV offers breathtaking scenes of many of the highest peaks of the Andes.


Dec 28: Summit day begins at 5:00 am. We climb the North Ridge to Refugio Independencia at approximately 21,400’. From there, we traverse the West Face and climb up into the Canaleta, an 800’ couloir that leads to the summit ridge. Finally, the Guanaco Ridge poses an easy traverse to the summit. On the top we have a spectacular 360ยบ view. All around you will see the Andes Mountains consisting of several 20,000’ peaks, including another of the highest peaks in South America, Mercedario. To the west lies Chile and the Pacific Ocean, and to the east, the plains of Argentina. Also from the summit you will be able to look directly down the 9,000’ South Face of Aconcagua, considered one of the great faces of the world. Also included are acclimatization, rest and bad weather days.


Dec 29 - 30: These extra days are built in to provide the best possible conditions for each participant to summit.


Dec 31: We descend form high camp to Plaza de Mulas (Base Camp on the West side of the mountain).


Jan 1: Trek out from Plaza de Mulas to Punta del Inca, where we take a car back to Penitentes for the night.


Jan 2: Return to Mendoza and the Hyatt Hotel, to celebrate our time in the mountains and enjoy the comforts of Argentina.

Jan 3: Depart Mendoza.


Jan 4: Arrive Country of Origin.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Willing stair trainer

Mark decided to tag along in preperation of his February ski trip to
Utah

Outside ready to train

60 pounds outside the cathedral getting ready

The stairs

This building looks as scary as it is to climb steps.
60 pounds on the catherdral steps for a solid hour, feeling good, not looking so stylish though
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Yesterday Mark and I climbed the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning steps. 36 flights for an hour with 60 pounds. A friend and Firefighter, Dave Hamberger was doing some training that day as well.