Mt. Aconcagua, Argentina -- Second Attempt

November 23, 2007
Yesterday we left Beijing on our way to Argentina (by way of Paris) and our plane developed engine trouble over Russia so we had an emergency landing in St. Petersburg. Our landing was very bumpy but we are all now safely on the ground. Another plane has been sent from Paris to pick us up so we will be here for several hours.

November 24-26
We are in Paris but missed our flight to Buenos Aires. This has given us a rare opportunity to have a one-day sightseeing in Paris and we have seen the Eiffel Tower, Triumphal Arch, Champs Elysees, Louvre Palace, the Notre­Dame cathedral, Pompidou Center and other famous scenic spots in Paris. I was able to fly the 2008 Olympic Flag from the Eiffel Tower.

However, while we were travelling around happily, we were stopped at the exit way of Paris by the border guards who then found that we had neither visas nor entry certificates and suspected us as illegal immigrants and detained us. We were immediately taken to separate rooms for enquiry and frisk. But they found that the result of examination was mostly mountaineering geer as well as my adventure photographs. The guards' attitude suddenly turned from hostility to admiration and even passed round my photographs and told me to please don't worry, that they will arrange for our boarding. Then the next day they arranged for two policemen to excort us to board the airplane before the others. So we enjoyed a VIP treatment. After safely boarding, my trveling companions Professor Tian and his wife and I all had a great laugh. What a false alarm. It was really a beautiful unexpectation that we happened to have this tour of Paris!

November 27
After 13 hours flight, we reached Buenos Aires where we transferred to another plane which landed in the airport of Mendoza six hours later. The receptionist from the Inka Expedition, Flying Eagle, is the same mountain guide during the previous expedition, In Mendoza we saw the old city full of strong Latin features. Both sides of the road were covered with green trees, the old-fashioned buildings of Spanish colonizing stood here and there. The city construction and planning seemed a hundred years old but still has combined the style of modern fashion. On the street plazas, many people wearing Indian attires and performing welcome rituals for the tourists, which added some mysterious folk characters to the city.

Anyone who has certain knowledge about Mendoza knows that roast beef, red wine and Latin dance are the cultural treasures of Mendoza. Visiting the place for the second time, I was surely not forgeting to try the roast beef and the locally-produced red wine. Professor Tian who came to Mendoza for the first time, certainly sang high praise for not only the cultural feelings but also the beautiful food.

Tomorrow, we will begin our journey to the Base Camp to begin our climb of Mt. Aconcagua as arranged by the Inka Expeditions. We are in good health and feeling confident about the climb.

November 28
Today we rode three hours to Penitentes and rented mules to cary our mountaineering geer.

November 29
Together with a guide we rode 6 kilometers from Penitentes to Puente de Inca, from where we continued driving to Horcones Lake to submit our Mountaineering Certificates to the Mountain Inspection station located there. The climbing management of Aconcagua is very strict. Climbers have to register in Mendoza to obtain a mountaineering certificate which also has to be examined at Horcones Lake. Apart from that, the mountain rescue work of Aconcagua has also been praised by adventurers, which can be seen from the mini-helicopters standing by in front of the inspection station.

November 30
After 4 hours trekking, the sun was still shining on the sky when we reached Confluencia. There we could only see dimly part of Mt. Aconcagua among some large mountains. The panorama of Mt. Aconcagua can only be viewed from Base Camp at Plaza de Mulas. Although we can only see part of it, we can already feel its Majesty. The altitude of Mt. Aconcagua is 6,962 meters to be climbed from an elevation of 3,000 meters.

Facilities in the Confluencia camp are very complete, with kitchen, dining hall, toilet and even a bath room, though having a bath there is not comfortable because you have to endure the coldness. When we reached the camp, a few climbers were having a bath and many were waiting in a queue, which formed a special scnenery, trembling in the cold wind. On my last attempt to climb Mt. Acocagua, at the end of the climbing season, I was alone. This time it is midseason of mountaineering and there are climbers from more than ten countries with about 50 to 60 tents. One large tent is even equipped with portable wooden floor which is very luxurious. Apart from the climbers, there are many birds in the camp. People are living harmoniously with the birds which feed on the bread bits and food leavings or even sneak into the tents to eat the food they can find..

Here I met my female guide, Bobbie, who was my guide during the previous climb. Bobby welcomed me in the Argentina way with a passionate hug. Meanwhile, her boy friend, Alexia, was meeting another climbing group in Mendoza. In this busy mountaineering season, the lovers are serving the climbers respectively on the mountains and down the mountains.

This time I will climb with a group of nine people from Korea, Philippines, Holand, Spain and Italy. Among them the oldest is 61 years old and the average age is 50. But during today's 10-kilometer acclimatization training, the older ones were never left behind due to their nice health quality, which probably owes to their living stlye of a lot of constant outdoor exercises. Professor Tian's health condition was also praised by the group medic, his blood pressure, blood oxygen and other items were very normal. The medic said jokingly that Professor Tian has a body of sportsman and the heart of a twenty-year old. If Professor Tian succeeds, he will become the oldest person in China to reach the summit of Aconcagua.

While on the trail today we heard a huge blare from our back, and when we looked back we saw a large rock with a diameter of about two meters fall from a height of 4,500 meters. We were rather shocked. The guide said that due to severe efflorescence with strong wind, there were often rockfalls and avalanches during the trip, which is the biggest danger in climbing Aconcagua.

After a whole day's training, the teams were very tired when they returned to the camp, but the on-going international friendship tennis game on the highest altitude in America roused everyone's interests. Though the players were in different proficiency, some even couldn't catch the ball, many people participated and enjoyed it. Professor Tian and I suddenly found that a female guide was playing diabolo, so we went closer to watch it. The female guide invited us to play with her. We were obviously not proficient and our performance made the spetators laugh. Dinner was pizzas of different flavors and due to differences in food habits, we stopped eating after forcibly taking several pieces. Darkness fell and the busy day ended at the moment we got into our sleeping bags.

Tomorrow, we will trek to the Base Camp Plaza De Mulas at an elevation of 4,250 meters. The whole journey will last seven to eight hours.

December 1
At 8 o'clock we started our walk from Confluencia, across "Playa Ancha" (meaning wide beach) and slowly gained altitude up the Horcones Superior Valley. By the end of the day's hike, after 8-9 hours walk and climb up "Cuesta Brava" (meaning rugged slope), we reached the Plaza de Mulas 4,250 meter Base Camp.

The Playa Ancha valley we they went through today was like a huge vent-pipe. There I felt the strongest wind I have ever encountered, sometimes it even became very hard for us to stand. Large rocks often rolled down along both sides of the valley and the rocks on the road were devastated by efflorescence. It was not easy for us to find a place to eat. We had to find a pile of huge rocks and hide from the wind between the rocks. We quickly finish eating our meal of bread with ham. On the road, we saw deserted camps built many years ago and most of which were destroyed by avalanches. Today's route was very difficult, consuming a lot of physical force. Mrs Tian has instructed me to take good care of her husband, who is completely not like a gentle and weak scholar. He has been taking the lead of our team, as if he was a mountaineering expert!. The luggage of most climbers is carried to the base camp by mules, but I am carrying my own luggage and walking in the rear of the team because I need this training to warm up for the climb to the summit.

Today during our breaks Professor Tian and I talked about life, dreams and the future. I must confess that I am inspired by professor Tian and might start an EMBA course when I return to China, in order to prepare for the second half of my life contest. And Professor Tian seems to also be learning from me. He expressed great admiration of my climbing "spirit" and for my ability to travel the world, even without knowing the local languages.

After eight hours' trekking, our team is all very tired when we reached the base camp. We went into our tents right after dinner. I started to make a satellite telephone call to Kunming but probably due to the shortage of development in telecommunication in Argentina, the satellite telephone can reach Kunming which is thousands of kilometers away, but cannot get to professor Tian's wife who is waiting in Buenos Aeries. Therefore, professor Tian told me what he wanted to tell his wife and let me transfer his words to his wife through our office in Kunming. When she heard that professor Tian loved her and thought that she was his spiritual support waiting in Buenos Aeries, she was very happy.

December 2
According to arrangement of the expedition company, we are camped at Base Camp Plaza De Mulas and will rest here for three days. On the one hand, it is for repeated acclimatization, on the other hand, it is to provide sufficient time for the team members to adjust themselves both physically and psychologically.

Today at the Base Camp it was sunny and warm and there were teams setting off to climb and teams returning after reaching the summit. This made us eager to go for the summit, however, I have learned from my previous climbs to be patient. One must relax and enjoy mountain life. I took out the "Huang Yin No. 1" Pu'er tea which was given to me by my friend Huang Yan and poured in boiled snow water. The aroma of the tea immediately spreaded around the base camp, and many foreign friends were drawn down to track the source of the aroma. They had endless curiosity for Pu'er tea and asked many questions. I answered every question and compared Pu'er tea with Matte (which is a kind of Argentina beverage served in a gourd and drunk with a metal straw). We all took photographs drinking the Huang Yin No. 1 Pu'er tea and everyone took small samples of this "supernatural" China tea to share with their family.

Time in the Base Camp is comparativley abundant, which creates opportunities for me to communicate with other foreign teams. Everyone is eager to talk because we share the common interests of mountaineering and adventure. A 51-year-old Korean American, Bai Tai Xu, had been to Base Camp of Mt. Everest and reached the summit of Kilimanjaro. When asked why he chose to climb, he took his pen and wrote on a piece of paper three characters, "Feeling of Self Confidence." It was not only because he could write Chinese, but also because the simple three characters brought resonance for all of us. You need self-confidence to climb and each successful climb gives you more self-confidence. And the more you climb and the more self-confidence you gain, the more you feel a deep connection with the natural world. It also goes without saying that your health condition must be very good.

December 4
Today is our third day of rest at the Base Camp. Because it was sunny, the climbers started to clean their clothes and soon different colors of clothes from different countries hung over the empty ground. We could only use snow water to wash clothes, so our hands were frozen after washing a few clothes and we had to rush into our tents to keep our hands from freezing. After lunch today I took out the Beijing Olympic flag and displayed it in the camp, which drew large attention. Many people said they will go to watch the Beijing Olympics and wish 2008 all the best. When a Belgian woman climber heard that Aconcagua was my last attempt of the 9 extreme spots, she immediately expressed her extreme admiration, and knelt down to me. Then she asked me about my adventures in Mt. Everest and the Poles. Again she knelt down again and said that I was her hero. I said jokingly that she shouldn't kneel down again because in China, if a woman kneels down to a man for three times, he can directly take her home as wife. All the people around bursted into laughters.

To relax I have brought the books "Courtyard of Thousand Years" written by Mr. Yu Qiuyu and "Wolf Totem" by Jiang Rong. Professor Tian has "The Worst Travel in the World" by Apsley Cherry-Garrard about human beings first exploring the south pole. We exchange ideas while reading and have a lot of resonance. We have a common idol, the Japanese Yuichiro Miura, who reached the summit of Mt. Everest at the age of 70. His courage and perseverance exceeds the limitation of age. We admire him and would like to visit him next year.

December 5
Today we started off from the 4,250 meter Base Camp and trekked for four hours arriving at Camp I at 4,900 meters, which is also called "Plaza Canada."

Three of our teamates have been dropped by the doctors declaring that their health condition was not suitable for further climbing. Professor Tian also had diarrhea, but I gave him Trumpet Brand Pill Stomachache, and he now feels much better. The dinner yesterday was Argentina roast beef steak and professor Tian who just recovered from diseases could not resist the temptation of this delicious food and wanted to have an extra piece. I stopped him, so professor Tian felt hungry along the road today but he surprised me by taking out some of the delicious beef he had hidden away, so we enjoyed another fine meal together.

Today's climbing was very easy, though the cold wind along the road was really a challenge. Overlooking the stretching mountains of the Andes is really fantastic.

Aconcagua management is among the best in the world. Record registration of every climber is set up before entering the mountain and rescue helicopters are standing by down the mountain at all times. But what impresses me the most is that all climbers have to carry their own human dumps and living trash in a sealed bag when they start climbing till they reach Base Camp for processing. China is a country of large mounataineering resources, but its mountain management and mountain environmental protection is still low. Through climbing in the foreign countries, I have learned a lot of mountaineering experience, which I hope to help implement in China, so as to protect the ecological environment of the mountains in China.

December 6
Today we ascended to Camp II, called "Nido de Condores" (meaning Condors' nest), after more than 5 hours trekking. The wind last night was strong and almost tore down our tents. In the next morning, we found that Professor Tian had become a "Donald Duck" with his face full of ducks' down. We examined and found that the strong wind had made an opening in professor Tian's sleeping bag. I thought of an idea to make up for the emergency, to stick two pieces of Yunnan Baiyao Ointment to the breach. But professor Tian disliked the smell of the ointment and refused the suggestion at first. Then I described the severe consequences that may follow and professor Tian finally accepted it reluctuntly. Later it proved that the ointment worked magically, however hard professor Tian rolled in his sleeping bag, there was no leakage of ducks' down. Professor Tian and I praised the multi-functions of Yunnan Baiyao Ointment.

In two days we will attack the summit. Professor Tian feels nervous and excited. I am thinking, "I waited for 32 days in the Patriot Hills Camp after summiting Mt. Vinson, in order to trek to the South Pole. Facing the whole white world, I kept telling myself to be patient. A lonely journey in the wild can train one's volition. One has to adjust his mood to face the strange environment, which may be the biggest test apart from the physical test."

Now there are only six members of our team. The others have been dropped due to physical disqualification. Professor Tian and I have been praised for our good health and our actions of helping to put up tents, boil snow water and do other public chores.

Mt. Aconcagua is the highest dead volcano in the world, so the rocks here are lava. On the way up, we saw some traces of the magma's movement. Since the Pacific plate inserts underneath the South America plate and raises the South America plate, which forms a faultage of earth plates. Also the formation endows the Andes with rich mines. We saw small crystal pieces and brown iron stone in many places. It can be said that it is a natural geological museum.

Tomorrow our team will ascend to Camp III at 6,000 meters and the day after tomorrow we may attack the 6,962 meter. Summit.

December 7
Today we ascended from the 5,400 meter Camp II to the 6,000 meter Camp III -- the "Huts Area". During the climbing, the temperature dropped to 18 centigrade below zero and strong wind started to blow. The South American Giant was not asleep. He gnarled to welcome the challenge of the climbers. The road from Camp II to Camp III was extremely cragged with the barbaric attack of the crazy wind. Our team had to creep upward, struggling against the wind and the upward slope with our full strength. The direct distance of 600 meters seemed a long march of ten thousand miles.

Mt. Aconcagua is not a common test. Acclimatization is very important. What's more, we have to carry our own human dumps when we are relieved by nature. Many things which seem very trivial became very important things. And I am thinking, "the last time I was forced to retreat at 6,000 meters due to a snowstorm, and 6,000 meters is an obstruction for me. I have certain psychological pressure, for whether or not my Aconcagua is successful directly determines whether my 7+2 adventure is successful or not. It also relates to the smooth progress of my projects for paying a tribute for Beijing 2008 Olympics. I hope to transform pressure into motivation and overcome all obstacles and draw a perfect conclusion to my 9 extreme spots advanture with my perseverance and stamina."

There are two other teams which have reached Camp III. In the small camp, the gale is strong and the tents put up almost blow away. Once the tents are up the teamates have to stay in their tents to avoid the wind. Several hours climbing has made everyone tired and weary. However, Professor Tian and I are helping the guides to cook water and food and the guides expressed their gratitude toward us.

So far our blood oxygen is normal. If the wind continues to blow we will have to wait for a calm to attack the summit, but if the weather turns better, we will start our climb for the summit at 5 o'clock tomorrow morning.

December 8
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