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How many days to climb Aconcagua?

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How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby cfrun02 » Fri Jun 14, 2013 2:39 am

Hey everyone!!
I am in need of some good advice. I know the "average" climb for Aconcagua is about 20 days. However, how long do you think an experienced hiker and fit (marathoner) person could finish the complete climb?? I am asking because i am a teacher and i would love the attempt the climb over Christmas break. I have 14 days total to travel and climb. Is that at all possible!! I am coming from Chicago. Thank you in advance!!

Creston
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:35 pm

The problem is not fitness, it is how quickly your body acclimatizes, a process which takes time yo-yoing up and down the mountain. That said, there are some ways to cut down the time. I ran into a French party who were able to climb Denali in 8 days round trip from the Kahiltna air strip without prior acclimatization by taking Diamox prophylactically.

I climbed Rainier once with a fellow who climbed Aconcagua, airport to airport in 60 hours. He had previously climbed Everest and Lhotse with only a single bottle of supplemental oxygen. He is sponsored by Hypoxico http://www.hypoxico.com/, a company that makes tents and masks which simulate high altitude (low air pressure). Brian would exercise with the mask which would pre-acclimate him.

<cautionary note>
Be advised I am not advocating either approach. These were all very strong, experienced alpinists who has spent a lot of time at altitude. You can really get yourself into trouble by trying to climb too high, too fast. Experienced climbers have died from HACE on the summits of Rainier and Shasta (14,000 ft) when they got pinned down by weather. If one hasn't done any serious mountaineering before, trying to speed climb a nearly 7,000 meter peak is a ticket to misery, failure, and potential life threatening conditions.

Bear in mind that the 'average' climber who successfully climbs Aconcagua has prior mountaineering experience. There are soft skills, self preservation skills, that are best learned in more forgiving mountains. Every Mount Rainier guide has had clients who were 'fit' marathoners but couldn't make it past Camp Muir. A marathon is a sprint compared to mountaineering. A more reasonable objective for your time frame would be the high volcanoes near Mexico City. Not as high as Aconcagua, but higher than anything in the lower 48.
</cautionary note>

EB
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby cfrun02 » Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:49 pm

Thanks for all the great advice. I am experienced in climbing in Colorado, but this is for sure a different. I don't want to go in asking for disaster or danger. I was hoping that being and endurance athlete might help accumulate faster than the normal climber... Because i know that is the biggest challenge of the climb there! Gives me a lot to think about!
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby AndyJB444 » Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:53 pm

Yeah, sorry but 14 days is not enough time, IMHO. Unless you were already acclimatized.

It takes fit (marathon-shape) climbers 14 days just to get to the top in good conditions, then factor in a few days to descend. Then a day or 2 more to fly home...

Be smart. Be safe.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby Buz Groshong » Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:59 pm

Being an endurance athlete gives you no advantage whatsoever when it comes to acclimatizing. It is just something we all have to do.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby herdbull » Sat Jun 15, 2013 1:00 am

Buz Groshong wrote:Being an endurance athlete gives you no advantage whatsoever when it comes to acclimatizing. It is just something we all have to do.


this is absolutely correct. It doesn't matter who you are. You could be Lance Armstrong or a 50lb overweight couch potato and you both could acclimate at the same time or level.

Have you climbed anything higher than a 14er? Just asking because that's a big step from 14,500' to 22,841'. Lots can go wrong in that big of a jump in elevation. One should test themselves on a 17K or 18K peak first. You may not acclimate at all above 15K-16K and you have no way of telling unless you go that high. Then the trip was a waste. Not to mention the thousands you will have spent to get there.

I would say if the planets aligned, the weather was perfect, no hickups in the travel to and from, the logistics were planned to the minute and you acclimate you're still looking at 16 days. 20's a good number to use and that would be a smooth trip.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby Damien Gildea » Sat Jun 15, 2013 1:22 am

Buz Groshong wrote:Being an endurance athlete gives you no advantage whatsoever when it comes to acclimatizing.


True, and in many cases it's actually worse as very keen 'athletes' with little or no altitude climbing experience often over-estimate their ability to climb/acclimatise on the mountain, go too fast, don't rest enough, eat too little, ignore advice and generally prioritise the wrong things.

I've seen this multiple times on mountains and most guides have funny stories about crashed egos of superfit clients. I still chuckle at the memory of the wails of panic and frustration and exhaustion which could be heard all the way over at 14K camp on Denali, over the course of more than an hour, as a self-styled 'elite triathlete' on a fast schedule failed to haul themselves over the 4ft high bergshcrund :)

For many Himalayan and Andean climbs, adding 10 days to the actual expedition would increase success rates much more than 10 weeks of jogging.

That said, you should definitely be the fittest you can be. It will increase your overall chances of success and make the trip more enjoyable.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby Sunny Buns » Sat Jun 15, 2013 9:55 am

If you decide to give it a try without proper acclimatization, do give us your name, nationality, and route to make updating the list easier:

http://www.aconcaguatreks.co.uk/documents/AconcaguaInMemoriam.pdf

http://www.aconcaguatreks.co.uk/andinistas-cemetery.html

;)

However, if you took a job in Leadville, Colorado, and camped on top of a 14'er every weekend, you might be able to do it safely in 14 days..........
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby herdbull » Sat Jun 15, 2013 6:20 pm

I should add that I'm not here, and I don't think the others are either, to bust your balls or kill the dream. We're just trying to be realistic and not have you end up a statistic. I just realized you are from Chicago and not the mtns. That doesn't help your cause at all.

Sunny Buns mentions sleeping on 14ers sort of a joke. On the serious side sleeping and 14er summits don't really go hand in hand. It sucks trying to sleep at 14K unless you've spent days acclimating. When I flew down to Mexico last January and was at 14K trying to sleep roughly 40 hours after leaving 780' of elevation in WI it kicked my ass. And it kicked it bad.

I got zero minutes of sleep that night but somehow still managed to summit Pico and that's only around 18,500'. I cold imagine trying to head up Aconcagua on limited sleep and acclimation. It would kill you as in death. One must be well aware of their O2 levels on a climb like that and know how to read the symptoms.

Might I suggest and it's only a suggestion, to head down to Mexico over Christmas and climb some 17K-18K peaks to get the feel of what the body goes through and what effect those altitudes have on you.

Heck, for under a grand total you're standing at almost 18,500' and will have obtained first hand knowledge of what gaining some real altitude is. And what it feels like and the struggles you may encounter.

I will offer up any and all info I have on Mexico if you choose. It's really a simple trip to take to test the body.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby Buz Groshong » Sun Jun 16, 2013 2:07 am

I'd also offer that I'm not an edurance athlete; as a matter of fact I'm no kind of athlete at all. I have however slept at 16,000 ft. and have climbed to 18,870 ft. It was a progression, doing lower peaks and working my way up (also leaning skills along the way). I'll also add that some of the lower peaks were more of a challenge and therefore more fun. Don't get hung up on altitude and miss out on the other challenges and joys that the sport has to offer.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby Norris » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:51 am

Consider going to Ecuador instead. You could safely (from an acclimatization point-of-view) climb Cotopaxi and Chimborazo in a 2 week trip, this is often done.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby cfrun02 » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:03 pm

I really appreciate all the feedback. Leaves me to 2 conclusions,
I should for sure not try to rush it and cram the climb into a two week period. Therefore, from your advice, i will not try to do that. However, because my friend is climbing to the summit it (he is staying longer) I might try to see how far i can make it.
Secondly, I may consider the Ecuador mountains.. Cotopaxi or Chimborazo. How are those climbs? Is it a good experience?

Thanks again for all the great feedback.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby MountainHikerCO » Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:16 pm

If everything fell in place just right, including the flights and in country transportation, it could happen in two weeks. For me, it was 11 days trailhead to trailhead. We took three weeks off work. Our friends were 9 days TH – TH. They were faster than most. A lot of people take a few more days than we did. Maybe my wife could have made if we did an extra camp at Canada. It would suck to book your flights around a 2 week window and have to bail when you could have made it. Coming from sea level you probably want to allow extra days at the front of the schedule.

Day 1: Hike to Confluencia
Day 2: Hike to Mules.
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Carry to Nido
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Move to Nido – that night didn’t sleep
Day 7: Rest –was able to sleep that night
Day 8: Wife returned to Mules, she wasn’t acclimating.
Day 9: Summit (starting middle of night Day 8 )
Day 10: Descend to Mules
Day 11: Hike out to TH
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby mtnjim » Mon Jun 17, 2013 6:54 pm

Agree with MtHiker that it would be possible if everything falls in place. I also agree with the others that it's pushing it a bit. Aconcagua was my first summit out of Colorado and I believe we did it on a 17 day schedule but that was 1993 and my memory is a bit hazy. Also, I was acclimatized to Colorado elevations before the trip, though none of the other clients were with most living at variations on sea level.

For an intro to altitude, Ecuador is great. after Aconcagua in Feb, I went to Ecuador the following December. There is usually a decent weather window around the holidays and the huts and the ease of reaching them can't be beat. High Summits Ecuador will probably have a package tour over the holidays that will include acclimatization on some lower (still higher than anything in the lower 48) peaks, probably including Illiniza Norte with attempts, hopefully summits, on Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. I haven't done a package tour with these guys but I did attach for the Chimborazo portion of one of their packages on my second trip to Ecuador.

Ecuador's a great country, easy to get around in, but trips there don't have the same big mountain expedition feel that Aconcagua does. The normal route on Aconcagua from Berlin is no more challenging than Chimborazo from the refuge but the extra acclimatization the 2000' might require may make it seem so. You'd likely be sharing the routes in Ecuador with people who are doing their first mountain climb EVER and that changes the feel of the trip, too.

I'm only mentioning the tour packages as they fit so much into your limited time frame though you can just show up there and make arrangements yourself pretty easily. I believe the Ecuadorean government is now requiring guides for all foreigners on their peaks so if you want to do your own stuff, it might need some fancy footwork.

Good luck and whatever you decide to do will be great.

p.s. If it's Ecuador, Cayambe's my favorite.
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Re: How many days to climb Aconcagua?

Postby mtvalley » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:39 pm

I just summited Cotopaxi and Cayambe last week. Also did Cayambe in January 2012. The difficulty really depends on the weather and snow conditions. Last year Cotopaxi was just a walkup on a snow path. This year it involved an icefall, really sketchy crevasse fields and a good deal of ice climbing. A 22 year old girl was just killed by a falling serac. Cayambe was also tougher up top this year, lots of frontpointing and navigating through penitentes.

If you go to Ecuador I recommend not going with a fixed group, instead hire a private guide. You won't have to worry about climbing with rookies who don't know how to self arrest or put on crampons. Don't cheap out on guides either, you pay the most for the top guides.
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