Thankfully, the satellite phone still works, and Randy and Anders are feeling good. It was reassuring to hear their voices! They have a cloudy, windy day off at Base Camp, which Anders said is much bigger and developed than expected. So far there had been about 20 or 30 fellow adventurers at their approach camps, but over 150 milling around Base Camp. You can see some big tents set up (for cooking, eating, etc) and lots of little tents scattered around.
They were surprised to see an "Internet, Showers, Beds" sign on one of the tents, and gladly shelled out $20 each for much-appreciated showers. Basically, a "shower" means someone boiled two gallons of water, mixed them in a couple of pouches with cool water, and hung them so they could bathe. Rudimentary, but I know they had two grateful customers!
Last night was burritos for dinner. In general, they've been eating really well. Since they had the mules for this first part, they've had plenty of food. From here on in, they have to carry it all, so the pickings get slimmer (and I guess they do too)! Speaking of carrying it all, Anders told me that the team has to divide up all the gear, food, etc, and he and Randy happen to be the two with the largest backpacks. So....guess which two guys will be carrying the heaviest loads? You got it. And given Randy was originally hoping to hire porters for this steeper part of the climb, I know this will be a challenge.
Now the really tough part begins. With heavy packs (maybe 50+ pounds each), they'll set out tomorrow to climb a steep 2000 feet higher, to the Camp 1 (15,400'). This will be higher than Randy has ever climbed (he and Anders did Mt. Ranier at 14,400'). Anders climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,300'), but they still can't predict how someone will respond to altitude on any particular climb. Their team just had to pass a medical check-up (blood pressure, oxygen, pulse), and all were doing well so far. So please send along positive thoughts that they continue to acclimatize well and feel strong!
On a positive note, they are both sleeping well. Anders' earplugs are helping (somewhat) with Randy's snoring! The stars are breathtaking, the view of the summit intimidating, yet spectacular. The extended weather forecast, at least at this point, looks promising for a summit attempt. Below is the Ensemble Forecast for Aconcagua summit, the green line is their best prediction for wind, and red for temperature (click to zoom in). Their potential summit days are 1/13 - 1/15, so the general trend is wind declining and temps rising, which is better than the alternative! To put things in perspective, though, summit temps will still be in single digits with wind chill well below zero. So, it will be frosty up there at 23,000 ft, but if this forecast holds, they may at least have a summit window. The shaded gray areas show the wide range of forecasts, so you can see that nothing is entirely predictable up there, but looking good so far!
More tomorrow on how their first steep ascent goes!