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Title image - BAI takes you to: Aconcagua
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Aconcagua Expedition Dispatches

January 22, 2009 – Team Prepares for Their Summit Attempt

It’s January 22 and I’m calling you from Nido de Condores. When you sleep for the first night at an elevation such as this (5,500/ 18,200 ft), it’s never easy. We all feel the symptoms of altitude illness: headaches, sometimes nausea and almost always insomnia.

Strong winds and snowstorms are common as you climb higher on Aconcagau;

Strong winds and snowstorms are common as

you climb higher on Aconcagua

We arrived here yesterday in a snow storm and our Bolivian team was ahead of us to erect the tents in advance. It was very welcoming to be able to crawl into our tents when we arrived with the rather intense snow storm.

Later it cleared and in the early evening we were out enjoying the spectacular views of the mountains. The weather forecast we have been getting has been calling for afternoon snowstorms. In fact, the main service we use issued an alert that there would be heavy snow yesterday afternoon and again today; the forecasts have been very accurate.

Nelson and Oapolo went back down to Plaza de Mulas yesterday to carry trash and to return back with some supplies. They spent the night with Cynthia at Plaza de Mulas and they were back up here this morning before we rolled out of bed with the sun.

The team had a good night. Everyone looked like they had weathered the challenges of the new altitude well. When we woke this morning, it was one of the most perfect things you could have at this stage in the expedition; we had a clear morning to prepare ourselves to climb higher. After a great breakfast prepared by Simon and Leila, we gathered outside and began checking and rigging all of our climbing equipment; climbing harnesses, ice axes and crampons. Later we packed up big lunch bags full of snacks and high energy foods for the summit attempt and marked it with each climbers name; these bags will be taken up to high camp in preparation for the climb.

That’s right; we are already in summit mode! Actually, tomorrow we will move to High Camp Berlin and after a very short night we will begin climbing to the summit. So it is great to have the great weather this morning to prepare.

After lunch Bill, who has had some difficulty acclimatizing, pulled Leila and I aside to talk about how he was feeling. We checked out his oxygen saturation, which has been fluctuating rather wildly, and saw that it was low again. Bill also reported quite pronounced symptoms of nausea and a general feeling that things weren’t working right. With this situation we need to use the support below. Nelson, Oapolo and Bill took off a couple of hours ago to descend to Plaza de Mulas where Cynthia is.

We just got updated on Bill’s current status; Bill has arrived at Plaza de Mulas and was checked out by the doctors there. His lungs completely cleared up once he descended to lower elevations. He is now resting and is deciding whether he’ll return to Penitentes or wait at Plaza de Mulas for the rest of the team.

We are really proud of Bill for his excellent effort. The challenges of altitude apparently got the best of him this time. The support below will make it very easy for him to deal with. There was no question that he had to go down in this situation. We miss him and will be keeping in touch.

The afternoon snow has now begun. Cliff, David, Mark, Ryan, Vaughan, Armando, Tom and BAI guides Osvaldo and Juancho just went out for about an hour and a half in the middle of the snow storm to check out the climbing gear and to stretch their legs. Dan, Steve, Simon, Leila and I have stayed down here to continue our hydration and to keep things in order around camp.

The team will be coming down this afternoon and will be ready to push up tomorrow for what will be in fact, weather permitting, our summit attempt. We’ll keep in touch!