Mendoza, Argentina - December 30

0n December 27 we awoke from the deep and satisfying sleep of tired climbers at our little Refugio at 5750 m, 18,865 feet, after our successful summit bid on Ojos. We awoke in the darkness at 5:00 AM, because we planned to go all the way off the mountain and return to Copiapo in one day. Leila, Deborah and Donna had descended to the “Middle Refugio” (5000m) the day before. They got down to this hut to find it occupied by a group of Croatian climbers, the first people we have seen anywhere on this route, except for the lone German who came back to the Hot Springs Camp after his unsuccessful summit attempt a few days ago.

The welcome sight of Bernardo's Land CruiserBy 7:00 AM our entire team was reunited and we were loading Bernardo’s Land Crusier for the drive down. The team walked over the rougher rockier sections of the descent, but we made it down to the Lower Refugio by 9:00 AM. Francisco, our pickup truck driver was waiting with fresh food from Copiapo and his ever-present smile. We devoured the food and soon we were on our way back to town on the dusty, scenic desert roads. Copiapo was a bright and inviting oasis town for us, great food and a hotel (showers!).

On the afternoon of December 28 we flew back to Santiago. We were tired from our days of climbing and life in the desert, but relaxed and ready for another night of hotel life and restaurant meals.

Now, still acclimatized from our efforts high on Ojos del Salado, we have moved the expedition to Mendoza, Argentina. On the evening of the 28th Larry, Donna and Deborah flew north on their international flights. Incredibly, they will all be back at work on Monday, in Toronto, Ireland and Connecticut. In less than two weeks away from home they climbed on one of the most unique and beautiful mountains in the world and they visited both wild and civilized sections of Chile. Not bad for a little “Christmas Break”.

Now, Karl and John, with Bernardo as guide, David as cook and Leila as trip coordinator (and Spanish translator!) will head off for the attempt to climb Aconcagua.

I will fly back to Alberta tonight to begin work on Everest and other upcoming BAI adventures. As I send this, Leila and the others are off at the Park Headquarters obtaining their climbing permits for Aconcagua. The fees for the permits are paid by BAI, but each climber is welcomed into the park office for an orientation, and sign-in procedure. The lovely city of Mendoza is as charming as ever. Its great restaurants and wines will be dreamed of often in the next days as our team climbs on Aconcagua. In a short time the group will begin the drive out to Punta del Incas and will be walking all afternoon to their first camp.

Stay tuned for the updates on the team's progress and adventures from Leila in the coming days.

22,841 feet
6962 meters

22,637 feet
6900 meters