Beautiful (and not so beautiful) Memories of Aconcagua

During my Aconcagua expedition, there was a moment in which we began to go up the Canaleta, cold but firm, and we advanced well through the lower part. Anyhow, my heart was racing, and my mind also began to run. I had a headache all morning, and now, with a racing heart, I began to wonder if I was suffering from altitude sickness or if my heart could handle this intensity of work. Climbing Aconcagua is not something easy or something that can be done every day; I knew that there could be a fine line between tolerating discomfort and risking something much more dangerous. Having experienced only mild effects from the altitude, he wasn’t exactly sure where that line was. My friend Mike realized that he was nervous, and unfortunately, we were both aware of the disturbing fact that on his last climb of this mountain, he overlooked the body of a 30-year-old man who died of a heart attack the day before. Just below the top. He offered that maybe we should turn around, even though it was okay to continue. I considered it, but I had glimpses of our disappointment coming back a few days earlier and didn’t want to repeat that. I was shaking to the core, and my heart was racing to keep warm. I thought to myself that if I could keep going until the sun hit us, that would be fine. Mike was extremely patient and supportive, trying to keep us moving until he could warm me up. When the sun finally caught up with us, it was remarkable the difference he made. Although we were feeling a little better, we still had a third of the Canaleta. The terrain changed to more rocks and less scree. The rest of the climb felt very slow, taking 3-5 steps and then a quick break to take a few deep breaths.

We continued until we finally reached the top of the last rocks to the top. We were the first two people to the Summit that day with an expansive view of the Andes and a stellar view of the southern Summit of Aconcagua. I had anticipated that the Summit would be a bit easy, but we got a second breath of adrenaline from being there. We spent almost thirty minutes taking pictures, eating sandwiches, and enjoying the view as a few other groups made it to the Summit. The way down was a bit tiring, trying to navigate the groups heading up. We return to Camp 2 around 2:30 pm for a 10-hour roundtrip summit day. I will do several more Aconcagua treks again.