Argentina-Mt. Aconcagua Adventure
On Monday, March 19th Jin Fei Bao and his brother, Fei Biao, returned
to Kunming from Beijing where they had received a prestigious outdoor
sporting award.That same day Fei Bao's Mt. Aconcagua-Argentina adventure
began. His reports are below (translated by Frank Guo in Kunming):
On the way, I saw large areas of vineyard. Alexia told me that some of the wineries here have more than 100 years of history. No wonder the red wine we drank yesterday was so good.
After about 3 hours, we reached the Mountain Inn in Penitentes, I am surprised to find out that we are the only guests to stay in this hotel, which means the climbing season has really ended up, but the ski season has not arrived yet.
Penitentes is a ski resort well-known in all South America. It is 2750 m above sea level. I asked Alexia why we should stay overnight here. He said Mendoza city is only 680 m above sea level, so we need to stop here to acclimate to the high altitude. I told him that I will surely not experience any altitude sickness below 7000 m high. But he said we need to stay here to arrange the mules to carry our luggage up the mountain path.
So, today has been a very easy day for me. Here, they drink a very special beverage called Matte, which is served in a gourd and drank with a metal straw. The interesting part is, we will all drink from the same gourd and use the same metal straw, one by one. I am the first one to drink, then its Alexias turn, then its another mans turn. They told me that the person to drink first is always the respected guest. The taste of the Matte is a bit like the Cudin (bitter) tea of Yunnan, but I am not sure if this is tea or not.
Beside the lake, is the entrance to Aconcagua National Park. I paid 120 USD entrance fee here, and the park staff checked my climbing permit which the local travel service has helped me to get in advance while in Mendoza. I saw a small helicopter parked nearby. Alexia told me this helicopter is used to rescue climbers in case of an emergency.
After entering the national park, we kept on trekking up. At noon time, we stopped to have a picnic lunch. While I was eating my bread, several small birds flew to us. I put some crumbles in my hand and stretched my hand out. The birds immediately flew to my hand and picked up the food from my palm. Its really fun. It showed the harmony between man and nature.
On the way, we also met some tourists inside the park, but they just came here for some sightseeing and hiking tours, not for climbing. It looks like I am the only person coming to climb Mt. Aconcagua at this time. Alexia told me, during his 15 years as a mountain guide, I am the first Chinese climber he has ever guided.
After about 4 hours trekking, we reached the Confluencia Camp which is about 3500 m above sea level. We unloaded our luggage from the mules. (The mules carried our luggage from Puente de Inca to here, but they didnt go the same route as we went, so we didnt see the mules on the way.)
When a staff member working in the camp heard that I was from China, he said that in Feruary of this year, there were 6 Chinese from Shenzhen city who came to climb Mt. Aconcagua, but for some reasons, they didnt reach the top.
The cook working in the camp prepared roast chicken and roast pumpkin for us as dinner, and wished me good luck.
Today is sunny, at noon time, it was 20C, now it is 9:00 pm, the temperature dropped to 5C andI'm starting to feel the cold. Alexia said it might be 30C below zero at the top of the mountain. Tomorrow, we will go up to the Base Camp, so Id better to get some sleep now.
On the way, we trekked through a deserted but very windy valley. We were hit head-on by really strong wind. Walking in this valley is like walking inside a wind tunnel. Sometimes I felt its difficult to hold my feet on the ground and I saw some small rocks were blown down by the strong wind. Alexia told me that this valley is always windy, and he has seen some big rocks falling down, so walking through this valley is not only difficult, but also dangerous. No wonder there are some ruins of the camps in this valley. Alexia said there are about 60 tombs of the climbers at the foot of this mountain.
After a quick picnic lunch of bread and ham, we slowly walked out of the valley, and started to climbing up a very rugged slope, following a very steep path. Finally, we reached the Plaza de Mulas, which is our Base Camp and it is about 4250 m above sea level.
We unloaded our luggage from the mules, and immediately set up our tents. Now, it is quite clear that I am the last climber of this climbing season, because there is nobody else at the Base Camp, only the sound of the wind accompanied us.
I went to use the toilet of the Base Camp, but when I finished the job, I could not open the door of the toilet, I was trapped inside! I had to knock on the door and shout help! loudly. Finally, Alexia heard my shouting and came to get me out. He said: Sorry, I forgot to tell you, when you enter into the toilet, you need to take the door knob out, bring it with you, because you need this outter knob to open the door from inside when you come out. You are the lucky one, just trapped inside for 5 minutes, some climbers were trapped inside for one night. I was amazed by the special design of this toilet door. Its really an unexpected challenge for climbers.
Alexia cooked some local flavor food for us as dinner. He asked me if I had any headache. I said no, dont worry about me. So, tomorrow, we will go up to Camp I which is 4900 m above sea level.
Alexia also said that all our rubbish will be transported down the mountain by mules, so the mountain will be always clean. I said yes, all of us should care about the protection the environment.
Second Installment -- March 27,
March 28, 2007
We started early from Camp II (5400 m high), climbed up a long and very steep snow slope, successfully reached Camp III (6000 m high) in the afternoon. I feel very tired.
Now, we are standing at the shoulder of Aconcagua. Looking down, we can see many other snow peaks of the Andes mountain range. The view is truly magnificent. Looking around, the rocks here are in strange shapes. Alexia said the rocks are sculpted into these strange shapes by the strong wind.
In 1998, a local travel service built several log cabins in Camp III, so we dont need to set up our tent, we can stay in the log cabin, which is really a kind of luxury in such a high and cold and windy place.
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 magmas movement. We also saw small crystal pieces in several places. I guess there might be a big crystal mine in this mountain. If I were a geologist, this mountain would be like a paradise.
Tomorrow, if the weather is not bad, we will go up to the 6500 m camp.
March 30, 2007
This morning, Bobbie stayed in the 6000 m camp. Alexia and I started at 5:00 am, climbed up for about 4 hours, reached 6500 m. From there we could not see the summit; it was covered in clouds. It looks like the snow storm will come back again soon.
So, we didnt rest, we didnt eat anything, we pushed forward, but this section was really windy, and the wind was not coming from one direction stably. So we had to use our 4 legs (2 legs plus 2 climbing poles) to hold tightly on the snow ground and trekked very slowly. Alexia told me this place is called the Door of the Wind -- it is always windy here, even on good weather days.
Finally, we passed the very windy section, started to climb up the last ridge which leads to the summit. At this place, the snow was about one meter deep, so we could not push forwad fast, and it was very cloudy. We could not see the summit because of the clouds.
In the late afternoon, Alexia told me that we had to go back, because the weather was really not good, and the snow storm could come at any time. At that moment, I took out my GPS to check and foundout that we had already reached a place which is only 100 meters below the summit (6962 m). But we still could not see the summit, and the time was not enough for us to continue going up, otherwise, even if we could reach the summit, we could not come down.
So, we had no choice, we had to come down. On the way down, I thought, we could try the summit again tomorrow. At about 9:00 pm, we safely reached back to the 6000 m camp, extremely tired and extremely hungry (because we had no time to eat in the whole day).
But Bobbie gave us bad news --: the base camp informed her by radio that the snow storm was coming, and this snow storm is not a small one. It is too dangerous to even stay in such a high camp, let alone going up, so, the base camp ordered us to come down tomorrow.
So, this is the fact I have to face: I have to give up the climbing after I have reached the place which is only 100 meters below the summit. What a pity !
April 2, 2007
April 5, 2007 (from Frank Guo in Kunming)