"Eighty Thousand Footfalls"
Climbing the Aconcagua
© February 2006 Adam Helman
rising at 4:30 a.m. from a soft and cozy sleeping bag is psychologically daunting - especially when it is 5 degrees Fahrenheit and every breath extracts half the oxygen it should.
Miserable from a headache and the early hour, I think, what for goodness sake are we doing here in this frozen desert - one without any of life's trappings?
I summon an immediate and essential attitude adjustment ...
This is SUMMIT DAY - center game of our bid to scale the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere. "Eyes on the prize". "Bombs on target". "Front and center". You-name-it: credit accrues through perseverence, the goal brought to its logical conclusion against all odds.
The water is difficult to drink. It is ice cold, and leaves me breathless after a few gulps because in those few moments I am not respiring at the great altitude.
A pint of hot, cinnamon spice oatmeal does the trick - likely the most "important" bowl of cooked cereal in my life. I eat it as medicine instead of for the taste - quickly and sans adornment with milk or butter. No longer in the awkward and compromising position of remaining behind, we three would collectively make our summit bid TODAY under clear skies.
"Edward, I'm good to go".
He may have smiled - I cannot say inside our cramped tent designed for two. My headache, sure sign of inadequate hydration at 19,450 feet, has vanished.
Our story unfolds over three weeks of hard-won, minor successes as we slowly and painstakingly climb the mountain. Eyes on the prize.
The tale is not merely a sequence of events chronologically portrayed. Although most obviously and pervasively physical, our story is replete with physiological (adaptational), mental, and emotional issues.
Meteorological, social, and gastronomic factors color the palette. Multidimensional - a microcosm for life itself, yet sharply focused through the exigencies of survival where no man was meant to sojourn.
Join with us as we climb ever-higher under sunny, summer skies.
*The estimated number of steps to ascend Aconcagua via the Ruta Normal - one-way distance only.
Uncertainty in mean stride length makes specification of the starting point (Puente del Inca or the
Horcones Valley park entrance); and/or consideration of double carries superfluous descriptors.
Scope and Intended Audience
his story is designed to both entertain the lay reader and provide valuable hints and tips for those planning an ascent of Aconcagua by the Ruta Normal ("Normal Route").
The vast majority of climbing reports are day-by-day, chronological accounts. I have organized information by topic for a more readable, and ultimately enjoyable story.
CLIMBING ACONCAGUA IS DANGEROUS.
Do not consider it a "walk-up" ascent lest you join the ranks of those who fail on account of extreme altitude and often violent weather.
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