January 15, 2006 - Climbing to Higher Camps on Aconcagua

Today we reached Nido de Condores camp

It’s the morning of Sunday, January 15th and I’m calling you from the first of the three camps above base camp or Plaza de Mulas on Aconcagua that this team will be using.  This camp interestingly enough is called Plaza de Canada, which four of us are from Canada makes this an interesting name for this location.  We are at about 16,500 feet or just over 5000 meters and we are more than 700 meters above Plaza de Mulas.

Ken and Roger at Plaza de Mulas

Yesterday the carry up here went well, it took us just a few hours and it’s nice to have left behind all the commotion and bustle of Plaza de Mulas.  With helicopters coming in several times every morning and all of the other distractions.  I can look down now and see the tiny little tents and buildings of base camp that we are far above and life is much simpler.

Last night we piled into the tents and Leila fixed a wonderful corn soup followed by spaghetti with tomato sauce and that put the guys to bed well.  And now this morning we have yet another Niki at Plaza de Mulasbeautiful, sunlit morning, so things are looking good.  As I look back down at Plaza de Mulas, I’m reminded of all the support down there

Before we left it was interesting we were over at the park warden’s tent and the doctors had come by and the talk was how they had not seen a group all year will pulse oximeter percentages as high as this group.  Of course that is because we have been over at Ojos, almost no one does this sort of acclimatization before they come here so the doctors were commenting to the rangers that the percentages of oxygen saturation in the 90 percent range that they saw in our group was something they had not seen all year.  Of course this will not be the only thing that gets us to the top; we all have an attitude of humility as we climb on this great mountain.  We've got everything we need with our little team, great guides, great strong motivated team members and if this weather holds in the next 2 or 3 days, a lot could happen.

[later that day]

Listen to Audio of Wally's Call (.wav)

Now it’s the afternoon of the 15th and I’m calling you from the next camp up, Nido de Condores or Condor’s Nest.  If you are wondering if we have seen any Andean condors on this trip, in fact we have.  A couple of days ago we saw a very massive, beautiful condor.  The entire group saw it in the air and later some of us saw it standing a number of meters away and it had the full height of a man if you can believe that, it was an impressive sight to see the size of these beautiful birds.

But now back to the mountain we climbed up several hundred more meters, a 4.5 hour climb.  Leila, Ken and Roger we setting one pace, Niki and the guides were moving pretty quickly and I was kind of in the middle but as usual we all made it up here.  I couldn’t believe at one point there was a rock pinnacle nearly all the way up here way over 5000 meters and I saw ahead of me Juancho our guideJuancho dropped his pack and I thought he was taking a rest but being the alpinist that he is, he quickly started free soloing this rock pinnacle.  I saw him standing with his arms out stretched at the top with the beautiful Andean sky behind him.  This guy loves the mountains.  He and Oswaldo have been a tremendous help.  I don’t mention it in all my dispatches but every day but they are doing things like, after they set up at one camp they run back and help some of us with our loads as we move up to the camp.  These guys have amazing energy and strength.

They were interviewed by Argentine television when we were down at base camp because of their south face climb.  It’s good to see them get that recognition but as Oswaldo said to me the other day our job now is this mountain and these guys are the ultimate professionals.  They love their work, they love being in the mountains and I couldn’t imagine a pair that offered better support for our Aconcagua summit which is probably coming up the day after tomorrow and we’ll keep you posted after we move up to high camp tomorrow.

22,841 feet
6962 meters

22,637 feet
6900 meters