Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Hey guys and gals, RC here and coming at you live and alive once again!

I have not had time to read all the Mrs RC blog entries or  other comments but the little I have read look awesome.  thanks so much to Judy for updating the blog and to the rest of you for following along on our adventure and the goodwill you were beaming us--it surely helped!  A ton!

As is my custom,, Iĺl post a full trip report when we are back in the States and settled in.  I thought I would take this opportunity to update you on the experience post summit day and to offer a couple of brief comments on my experience and how i feel about it.

The 48 hours post summit were very rigorous--especially for those who summitted (everyone but me).  After the gang came down from the summit about 2:30pm (11.5 hours round trip) everyone collapsed into the tents.  I was still very weak and fit right in despite my far shorter climbing day.

It really started to snow and around about 7 or so the guides brought us some pretty sketchy pasta to our tents.  Little did we know this would be the bulk of our nutrion for the next 48 hours.

We slept as comfortably as one might hope at 19,500 feet.  About 6-8 inches of snow fell covering everything at High Camp including our tent.  Unfortunately, the snow covered the vents in the tent and the vapor from our exhales condensed in the tent and we awoke to find everything soaking wet.  It is difficult to convey how challenging this is.  When you sit up, you have to pause and breathe for about 30-45 seconds before you can begin to do anything.  It was very cold out.  Anders was thrashed and suffering from significant dehydration from the day before.  I tried my best to help him but he was in a great deal of pain. (One of the guides also was dehydrated and had a touch of AMS and had to pop a deximeth just to be able to function.

It was very cramped in our tent and everything was wet.  We had to pack things up and get ready for a long trek down the mountain.  When we opened the vestibule of the tent, snow poured in.  We had to go outside (in our big puffies) and struggle to put our ice cold boots on.  We had some warm cereal (please god not again!) and weak coffee.  Finally after about 2 hours we were ready to descend.  I arranged for a Porter to carry 30 kilos of our stuff, so instead of carrying 55-60 pounds on our backs down the mountain we were carrying 25-30.  Frankly, I am not sure my knee could have stood carrying the full load.

The top of the descent was very sketchy.  Our guide told us to bag the crampons and with the snow on scree it was quite slippery.  The very top, as you leave High Camp is a bit exposed but there were fixed lines that helped us negotiate the first 50 yards or so.  After that, the exposure risk was minimal, although we all fell at one point or another--i fell five times--but this was really just a annoyance.

We made great time and you could literally sense the thickening O2.  At 18,000 feet it was noticeably easier to function.  It took us 3:15 to go all the way down to Las Mulas at 14,500 feet.  We had a big group tent and we elected to not bother with the individual tents.  they brought us  several pizzas around 3:00, I had a couple of slices--little did we know this was dinner and no more food was coming!

It rained a bit and then got a lot colder and began to sleet and snow.  I was very tired and cold.  I did talk to Judy and had my pic taken by the webcam at Las Mulas.  Back in the tent, we sat in a big circle creating stories--the first person would start the story and then we would build on it as we went around the circle.  It was about 30 degrees in the tent so we all sat around in our sleeping bags.

We were all desparately hungry and talking about food back home.  I had a flash of inspiration and with TinCho (our Argentenian guide) we rummaged around in our unused food stores and found some crackers, cheese and some bacon.  Somehow, TinCho got someone to fry the bacon up and we had bacon and cheese crackers....once again, this went right through me so off to the luxurious restrooms....

We all (11 of us) slept in a circle on the floor starting at 9pm.  Surprisingly, I had a great sleep.  I only had to pee once--at around 4:50am and I was able to find my shoes and avoid stepping on anybody and went outside (we decided to ban pee bottles in the group setting).  I did not bother trying to locate the outhouse and just peed by the side of the foot path.

We all had great sleeps and we got up with the sun and TinCho brought us some dry pancakes which we all ate with our dirty grimy hands (post Purell of-course).  I had one pancake...its hard to get excited about this at 14,500 feet when its 25 degrees in your tent!

Soon enough we were off on our 18-mile trek back to Horcones.  I will spare the details but suffice it to say walking 18 miles, after 2 plus weeks in the mountains, in poor terrain is a bit of a challenge--both physically and mentally.  As we got lower it warmed up and we were all dirty, dusty, and dehydrated when we finally finished 8:15 later.  During this time, I had part of a Payday candy bar--around 300 calories.  We all hugged, completely spent, at the bottom.

We drove the 20 minutes to Los Pentitentes and waited for the Mules to bring our stuff.  We had a couple of glasses of beer and just revelled in not having to walk anymore.  The Mules were slow so we did not leave until about 7:30 pm.  the drive down from 9,000 feet to 3,200 in Mendoza was amazing--the Andes are spetacular!.

We got to the hotel and unloaded and decided to skip showers to try to get something to eat--I can not tell you how tired, dirty and hungry we were.  We found a McDonalds and at 11:30pm had some chicken nuggets and fries.

Back to the hotel, we showered for the first time in 10 days (I had been wearing the same clothes, night and day for the last 5-6 days).  It was amazing to watch the dirt stream off of my body...I thought it might clog the drain at one point!  anders and I read a bit and drifted off into contented sleep. (Our room is tiny but it seems amazing to have so much space and to not have to roll our beds up in the morning!)

We walked across the square this morning and had an amazing buffet breakfast...we took about 90 minutes to eat.  We are still both famished.  We both have lost a bit of weight and with our facial hair look pretty much like homeless types!

We have a final dinner tonight and then we get to head back to our family and friends tomorrow.  To say we are ready and excited to do so is one of the all time understatements!

A couple of comments on not summitting:

1. Firstly, I am pretty dissapointed to not accomplish what i set out to accomplish.  Those of you who know me recognize the truth in this.  I have started 126 triathlons and finished them all.  In fact, the only other endurance event I have not finished in my life was a marathon back in 1982 when I pulled out because I knew I was not going to break my 2:48 PR and I was cocky enough to think then that it was not worth it to just finish.

2. My biggest regret is not being able to be there with Anders....this was and is a sad thing for me.

3. If I could have i would have.  I do not want to make excuses but there is no question the GI and especially the respiratory infections I contracted hurt me.  I basically cough hundreds of times a day for over a week.  The coughing was so bad that at one point I pulled a muscle in my ribcage.  when my O2 saturation dropped to 55% I was officially on HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Endema) watch.  I WAS concerned that I might be getting this and we actively contemplated my retreat down the mountain beginning at Camp 2.  However, the guides and a doctor, who was climbing with us, ultimately determined that I just had a very bad respiratory infection.  Lots of meds appeared to help a bit but in the end it was up to me to determine how much I could endure.

4. On three separate occassions (carry to C1, carry to C2 and summit day) I experienced a profound exhaustion.  I have been exhausted before but this was different.  I should not have been exhausted but I was.  At times it was all I could do to take another step.  This is dissapointing given my fitness.  Its like I built a Porsche only to be able to use diesel fuel as oppossed to Hi-Test.

5.  I kept getting worse as the time wore on and the altitude got higher.  It is so dry and your body is fighting a war and i just kept getting a worse and worse cough.

6. with an unexpected rest day at C2, I was able to make a pretty solid carry to High Camp and I was hopeful that I would get lucky and have a good day come summit morning.  However, I knew just 15 minutes into the summit climb that I was in a world of hurt.  I fell behind right from the start.  The lead guide came back to help sheppard me in the dark as we climbed above 20,000 feet.  I was pretty analytical about it.  I knew I was dead tired just 1 hour into the climb and with another 10 or more to go, there was a good chance I could run into problems....Also, I just could not see myself climbing another 2700 vertical feet and then safely returning.

7. I told Ty a summary of this and he was not surprised and did not argue with me.  Further by turning around when I did, the guide that brought me down was able to rejoin the team up the mountain which significantly enhanced Anders' and everyone else's ability to summit.

8. So I failed to summit.  I had a little pitty party by myself laying outside my tent in the dark at 19,500 feet.  But then I decided to move on.  The truth is, I did everything that that the rest of the team did with the exception of about 9 hours.  I certainly got my monies worth!

9.  Aconcagua is still there.  If i find it matters to me down the road, I can always go back.  If that ever happens, I hope to bring my A game!

Anyways, more on the trip latter--especially the good times with Anders and the rest of the team....

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

boceking said...

Great Adventure !

I just figured out how to comment I think ?

Can't wait for the more detailed report just as I could not wait for each and every update

Great job Judy and Congrats to RC and the A Train


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