Thursday, January 16, 2014

They made it to Base Camp, and so did the weather!

Randy called in reporting that it wasn't an easy day, but it was "an awesome" day, and they had made it safely to Base Camp (Plaza Argentina) in 6 hours.  This third approach is a tough one, traveling along the north side of the Relincho on narrow ledges that at times climbed several hundred feet about the river. This is definitely a no fall zone! The terrain is mostly uphill along this route, but they sometimes have to descend to get to the next part of the trail, so they actually climbed 4100 ft. and descended 1000, to have net elevation gain of 3100ft.  They are now at 13,678 -- what most would consider a very high mountain in Colorado.  And yet they have about 9000 more feet to climb!

Randy felt great today, very strong.  During the climb the weather was high 70's to mid-80's; they were all in T-shirts.   By the time they arrived at Base Camp, winter weather was starting to set in.   When I heard from Randy, around 5pm Argentina time, he said it was freezing, snowing very hard, and thundering.   What a change from the summer conditions in the Vacas Valley.  As Randy said,  they are definitely "in the mountains now!"

At Base Camp, they have to make decisions about what to leave behind and what to bring into the higher altitudes.   Clearly, less weight is preferable since the mules can't climb above Base Camp, so they have to carry everything on their backs.  The guides had decided to put 3 guys in each of the tents above Base Camp so they wouldn't have to carry an extra tent.  Having a pretty strong opinion about being jammed in with two other big guys for the next 10 days, Randy had a little chat with his teammates and they all decided they would rather carry the extra tent.  Then Randy had a conversation with the 3 guides and, not surprisingly if you know Randy's persuasive powers, they will continue sleeping 2 to a tent.  Having seen pictures of Randy and Anders in their tent, it is very hard to imagine sharing that space with 2 large men, especially ones he met a few days ago!

The other consideration here is whether they will hire porters to help carry up to the first high camp.  There are a lot of porters hanging around Base Camp hoping to be hired to help in the higher altitudes.  Randy was going to ponder it a bit more, but when I just spoke to him tonight, he was leaning towards hiring a porter.  I remember from last year that this first climb to Camp One is one of the hardest -- very steep, some exposure meaning you can't misstep, and poor footing in areas due to loose rock -- all this while for the first time carrying 50+ lbs on their backs.   Somehow the porter sounds like a no-brainer to me, but we'll see what he decides. We didn't talk long as Randy said he was standing outside in a blizzard and wanted to get some sleep since they would have to get up during the night to shovel off their tents.  Next is a much welcome rest day for the team, so I'm sure we'll hear more maƱana!

Some pictures of Base Camp, Plaza Argentina:

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