From 19th January 2000 to 28th February 2000 I spent my holiday in South America with the intention of climbing Aconcagua.
Altogether I was 41 day away. To climb Aconcagua it took 24 days (including journey there and the return trip to Santiago de Chile). Therefore I didn't limit the time, however, I didn't like to spend all 5 weeks at Aconcagua. For the rest of time I didn't have a fixed program. Depending on my frame of mind another 6000 m peak would have been a possibility. An alternative would have been some pleasant days.
19.01.00 - 22.01.00, from Frankfurt to Puente del Inca
A non-stop flight brought me to Buenos Aires. During the flight to Santiago de Chile we had a magnificent view to the south wall of Aconcagua, into the Quebrada de los Horcones and the surrounding peaks of the Andes as well.
From Santiago de Chile I immediately went to Mendoza. The next day I applied for the permit and bought food for the next 3 weeks.
The next morning I stood at the bus terminal of Mendoza with 2 huge bursting backpacks and 1 kitbag waiting for the bus to Puente del Inca.
22.01.00 - 25.01.00, Puente del Inca
The starting point of the climb of Aconcagua is situated on 2720 m and is ideal for the first acclimatisation tours.
The first day I started pleasant and reached one of the many nameless peaks with an altitude of approx. 3760 m.
The following day I climbed Cerro Panta, my first Argentine 4000 m peak. After 5 hours and 45 minutes I stood on the 4115 m high mountain and had a wonderful view to the south wall of Aconcagua. Violent winds made the descent not easy and gave me a foretaste of that what expected me - and it should become worse.
Meanwhile I had organized the transport of my luggage to Plaza de Mulas. The next morning I went with the only what was absolutely necessary to the next higher situated camp - Confluencia. But the backpack with the "only what is absolutely necessary" weighed at least 30 kg, e.g. a tent, foam mattress, down sleeping bag, food for at least 3 days and other things you need.
25.01.00 - 28.01.00, Confluencia
The first day I had the day off, simply resting. The temperature was still bearable, in the morning around 5°C and during the day up to 28°C.
On the ninth day of my expedition I ascended to Plaza Franzia, the starting point to the south wall, located at approx. 4200 m.
Then the perhaps most terrible part of the tour followed, 20 kilometres through the almost endless Quebrade de los Horcones to the Base-Camp.
Including breaks I was 8 1/2 hours on the way. And the backpack became heavier and heavier. In Confluencia I filled all available bottles with water since there is no clean drinking water on the way. It is very important to drink a lot at this altitude!!
28.01.00 - 01.02.00, Base-Camp
Since I had arrived in South America the weather was excellent, but now it seemed that the weather situation changed completely. In Plaza de Mulas snowflakes welcomed me, and the cold wind made it even more uncomfortable. I was ravenous, but first I had to erect my tent and then I prepared the dinner. These are the disadvantages of an individual trip.
The next day I had planned a day of rest, enough time to look and hear around. I didn't know how to proceed now. But with all the reports of the climbers at the Base-Camp who I talked to during the day I formed an idea of the following ascent. As it turned out later I worked out a good strategy.
Above the Base-Camp there are 3 further camps which you can head for: Plaza Canadá, located at 4910 m, 320 m higher Cambio Pendiende and at already 5380 m Nido Cóndores.
I spent the next 2 days to carry food and equipment to Nido Cóndores.
In Confluencia it was still agreeable warm, but here I measured temperature beside my sleeping bag around the freezing point in the morning. In front of my tent there were already -8°C.
Since the difference in altitude between Plaza de Mulas and Nido Cóndores, which amounts to 1100 m, I decided to climb next only to Plaza Canadá.
01.02.00 - 05.01.00, Plaza Canadá
Early in the afternoon I arrived at Plaza Canadá and again I was welcomed by snow flurry and violent wind - I enjoyed it!
Here it was still more uncomfortable than in the Base-Camp, no clean running water and constant wind became more violent and colder - another foretaste.
The first night was terrible, already in the evening a heavy storm came up and raged all night long. The inner and outer tent fluttered continuously, sleeping was impossible. In the morning the temperature was far below the freezing point. In the tent the frozen breathe fall softly on my face, and outside I measured -15°C at all.
The first day I had a rest again. To acclimatize further I made trips to the new erected Berlin Hut on 5780 m the following 2 days.
There was only a rivulet with brown dirty water, melted snow from a snowfield located higher. One could drink it only filtered. Since I had no filter I had no choice but melt ice from a snowfield 10 minutes remote.
05.02.00 - 07.02.00, Nido Cóndores
It was the eighteenth day of the expedition when I had to pack up my backpack in order to climb to the next camp. During the ascent I felt very depressed. I asked me "What are you doing here at all?" or "Why do you run up this stupid mountain?". The only thing I wanted was to go down to a place where it was warm and calm and where I don't have to carry a heavy backpack all day long. - But there was no way out, I had to proceed.
At Nido the wind became still icier and snow flurry was on the agenda. In the evening the temperature dropped to -14 to -16°C. This temperature I would have borne, but because of the high speed of the wind the temperature one felt on the skin dropped more and more (Wind-Chill-Factor).
After I had eaten something warm and I lay in my sleeping bag I warmed up slowly and plucked up courage. I became optimistic again to finish the expedition successfully.
The next day was a day of rest again. I had to think about whether I should attack the summit from here. The other possibility would have been to ascend to the Berlin Hut. But this would have taken up a few days more, additional power and wouldn't had improved my mood.
In the evening I had decided - tomorrow I will start!
Apart from slight headache I had at the beginning of the expedition in Puente del Inca after the first and second acclimatization tour I couldn't find out any symptom of altitude sickness. I liked my food; I had no headache or difficulty in breathing and felt relatively very well. I thought to be well acclimatized.
07.02.00 - 11.02.00, Aconcagua Cumbre Norte, and the descent
I slept rather badly, perhaps the excitement before the big day. At half past two, still half an hour before the alarm clock should ring, I had breakfast. Then I put on what I had there, 2 undershirts, 3 pullovers and then the wind-tight and lined Goretex jacket as well as 4 trousers and 1 wind tight trouser.
Exact at 3:30 I started to ascend. Shortly before 6am I arrived at the Berlin Hut. There was a lot of hustle and bustle; many climbers were about to start for the summit.
The further ascent was accompanied by a fantastic sunrise.
At 10am I reached the entry into the traverse. From here I had to fight against an indescribable violent storm. I was unsafe more than ever whether I could reach the summit at all.
Because of the strong headwind I had to use the trekking-sticks to avoid that I wasn’t thrown off balance.
At -20°C and a real felt temperature of about -40°C (Wind-Chill-Factor) it was no fun. But should I give up?
At the end of the traverse, i.e. at the entry of the Canaletta, the extremely steep gully of debris, it was almost calm and in the sun there was an almost spring like temperature. I had a terrific hunger, meanwhile almost noon I had an extended vespers and then I got down to climbing the last part of the ascent.
It seemed to be almost vertical, and it was unending. But after 2 1/2 hours in the gully or more then 11 hours ascent I stood on 7th February 2000, at 14:37 on the highest point of America - a wonderful feeling.
At 3pm I got down to descend. I took time for it, although from the valley clouds announced the next snow flurry. At 7pm - on the way I had some breaks - I reached Nido Cóndores. I was complete exhausted, but extremely lucky. I did it, what I had dreamt for a long time - and alone without any support, except for the mules that carried my luggage to the Base-Camp.
Outside it got more and more uncomfortable, therefore I went into the tent, ate something and then I slept, slept, slept...
I overslept the half morning, only slowly I got going. There was almost no water, thus I had to collect snow to melt it. Afterwards I had a late breakfast, and then I went back under my sleeping bag and dozed further. I was not able to snatch up, to pack up everything and to descend. Thus I stayed there for a further night at Nido. But I badly regretted it already after the first hours at night. A dreadful storm raged all night long, I didn't sleep a wink.
The next morning I was fed up to the teeth finally. Always this terrible wind, the temperature of about -15°C and since 2 weeks I lived only in a tent and a sleeping bag. I only wanted to escape, to anywhere where it was warm and calm.
I packed up everything and descended at 10am and already 2 hours later I arrived at Plaza de Mulas - with 2 backpacks that weighted more than 35 kg. In the Base-Camp I sorted my luggage, gave my kitbag to an agency that organized the transport to Puente del Inca and at 13:45 I left Plaza de Mulas with the destination Confluencia.
Shortly past 6pm I made it, at breakneck speed I had rushed through the Quebrada de los Horcones.
The next morning I had a rest, since I intended to spend a further night at the entrance of the national park to enjoy a sunset and sunrise at the south face of Aconcagua.
Slowly I hiked to Puente del Inca the next day, fetched my kitbag and with a bus I went to Santiago de Chile. I didn't want anything to do with mountains all my life, this I have sworn! So, and now the holiday could start.
In Santiago de Chile, I recovered from the strains of the last weeks; I made plans about the next mountain adventure. My stupid twaddle of yesterday didn't interest me at all . . .
The entire report and more information as well as pictures you will find at http://members.aol.com/UweKraus2/site05_e.htm