3 december 2018
I just got back home from the Alps and had only a few hours to pack everything. I tried to climb Aconcagua last year in between my 49 peaks project but had to turn around at 6400 m due to cold hands and feet. This time I wanted to be as prepared as possible for that so I had ordered overboots and bought a lot of hand and feet warmers. I also needed to bring all my food since I was climbing independent this time and not joining an expedition. I had two big North Face duffelbags (40 kg in total) and a backpack (10 kg)
I managed to get everything down and went straight to a shoot for ELLE before going to the airport to travel from Stockholm, Sweden to Mendoza, Argentina. I climate compensate all my travels.
4 december 2018
I arrived to Mendoza 28 hours later, tired and jet laged. My friend Felipe Randis who is a mountain guide picked me up at the airport and drove me to my hotel. We had a nice lunch in the sun and then I went shopping for some last minute stuff like gas (that you can´t bring on the flight). It started raining so much in the afternoon. I had been following the weather on the mountain for a while and it was as crazy up there: Snowstorms and heavy wind. No summits in weeks because of this.
5 december 2018
I arranged with my permit for Aconcagua. A cost around 800 USD. First you have to fill out the form on the website. Then you have 24 hours to print this form, pay for it in the city, bring the papers to the government office in the park to get the permit.
I also met up with a guy from Grajales Expeditions. I have arranged with a mule through them to carry my duffelbags to Basecamp. And I had rented a radio for emergencies on the mountain and to be able to communicate for updates about the weather. And transport to the trailhead. That was all the service I had. I paid about 1500 USD for all of this.
In the afternoon I had my transport to Penitentes, a small village at 2700 m altitude where I would spend two nights for acclimatization before starting my trek to Basecamp.
6 december 2018
I spent the day working on my laptop in Penitentes. During the day I also made sure to charge all my electronic stuff, testing to put up my new tent! Since I was not on an expedition I had to bring my own tent and I used the North Face VE25 – a 4 season tent made for extreme expeditions. You need a tent like that on this mountain due to the weather and winds.
I also did a acclimatization hike up to 3200 meters during the day. A really nice walk were I saw some wild horses!
7 december 2018
This morning I started my hike through the Vacas valley to Pampa de Leñas. 16 km and five hours later I arrived to find an expedition from INKA lead by the legendary guide Hever there. I was doing the 360 route around the mountain, not the normal route.
I said hello to the expedition and joined in on the BBQ they had. It was nice to be there by yourself but not have to be alone.
8 december 2018
Today I started hiking 30 minutes before the expedition to have the walk to myself. I got to camp Piedra 6 hours later. It´s a 17,5 km walk and a little bit more up and down then the day before, even if it´s mostly kind of flat.
I put up my tent and made some dry freezed food to eat. Nothing major really happened this day, I just took it easy in my tent and played the only game I had on my phone (that I had charged during the day by having my solar panel on my backpack).
During this trek you can also see Aconcagua for the first time!
9 december 2018
I started pretty early hiking the last 12 km to Basecamp. This is also the part where you have almost 1000 altitude meters to go in one day. I walked passed the expedition pretty quickly in the morning and continued by myself the rest of the day. Sometimes I met people coming down from the mountain. They had not been successful due to the weather and strong winds. I remember hoping for a better weather window for my summit bid.
After about 6 hours I got to Basecamp and that was a nice sight! I put up my tent a little bit away from the crowd but next to a small hill as protection from the wind. Said hello to the manager in Grajales camp and then made another dried freezed dinner for myself before going to sleep.
10 december 2018
Today was a rest day in my schedule. The plan was to go for the summit the 19th december.
So I chilled and took it easy. I went around Plaza Argentinas Basecamp and tried to make some friends. I visited Aconcagua Visions tent and found that the Adventure Consultants team were still in Basecamp due to strong winds up the mountain so played poker with them all night!
11 december 2018
When I say strong winds up the mountain I mean 100-140 km/h on the summit. That means 70 km/h in camp 1 at 5000 m. And that´s where I was going today to carry some food and other stuff I would need higher up the mountain.
It´s hard to understand how windy that is if you have no experience in winds on a mountain. During 49 peaks I climbed in very windy conditions sometimes but this was going to be the windiest I had ever felt.
I set off before lunch with my pretty heavy backpack to go up to camp 1. The first part was ok, not too bad but the last part was crazy. You could barley walk. You had to stand still in your best balanced position and just take the wind gusts and then you could take another step before pausing for the wind again. It was so strong. And it was so cold. My hands were really cold. After a 2 hours struggle with the wind I finally got up to camp 1. I put on all my layers and was so thankful for my North Face belay parka with 800 down fill that kept me warm in this insane weather.
I put all the gear & food I was leaving in a white bag and put rocks on it. It was hard work to get everything in the bag. The wind was so strong it was almost impossible to do anything. I was glad I wasn´t spending a night up here as some other were going to do.
After that fight with the wind I walked down to the comfort in Basecamp again where another dried freezed meal was waiting for me.
12 december 2018
Another rest day in Basecamp! I visited the INKA expedition to see how they were doing. And went to see the doctor in basecamp. You have to do that to get OK to go higher up otherwise you will get problems with your insurance if something happens.
I had good oxygen and the rest too so I got cleared to go higher.
The Adventure Consultants expedition came back down after have spending the night in camp 1 so we had another poker night. They said it was the craziest thing they ever experienced and one of the tents broke so they had to sleep tight that night. It was pretty much the same stories as I had heard everyday on the mountain: Winds so strong the break the tents and people that have to turn around due to too much snow and strong winds.
13 december 2018
Today I was suppose to move up to camp 1 but the strong winds made it impossible. I decided to take one more night in BC. Weather was looking better in a few days. Actually the 18th started to looking really good – only 35 km/h winds and sun. Both me and the INKA expedition started planning to go for the summit this day (as many other expeditions on the mountain).
But to make it for a summit bid the 18th when I already had lost a day and had to push my schedule another day would mean a crazy few days ahead to make it in time. But I was prepared to do what it takes.
“Take a porter” everyone said to me. But no, I didn´t want to take a porter, I wanted to be able to do this on my own.
14 december 2018
Today was the day. Time to move up the mountain! I packed everything and my backpack had never been heavier. The walk up to camp 1 was hard in the end because it´s steep and my load was heavy.
When I got up to camp 1 I put up my tent in the wind (not as windy as last time tho) and when I was done with that I carried my food & gear halfway to camp 3. That was hard work. A 8 hour+ day carrying with a heavy backpack. I got back in time for sunset and made a dried freezed dinner for myself. I always had soup as a starter to make sure I got some extra water in my body. At this altitudes you should drink 3-4 L per day and I always struggle to get up to 2,5 L even. I´m not a big drinker.
15 december 2018
This would be one of the hardest days on the mountain for me. To make up for the lost day in BC I had to pack up my tent and carry my heavy load to camp 3. Then go halfway back to camp 1 to get my food & gear I had put behind a rock halfway up the slope the day before. Go back up to camp 3. And when everyone that was on a expedition just had to walk once with a daypack and get there and the tent was pitched and they were served a BBQ I had to spend an hour pitching the tent in the wind and then melt snow for another 2 hours before I could have a dried freezed meal for dinner. I was pretty tired after two long days carrying that much. Also pushing this hard and skipping acclimatization is not the best. But that´s what I had to do to make it in time for a summit bid the 18th.
16 december 2018
Today I took a rest day in camp 3. I was thinking I should carry to camp Cholera but I decided it was better to go even heavier the next day and let my tired legs rest one day up here at 5500 m. What I think I lacked compared to the expeditions with support was rest and the possibility to recover since it was so much more to do for me all the time. Always doing something, carrying something, working hard. I did a small hike up the hill just to stretch my legs.
The stress you put on your body at this altitude, pushing hard is massive so proper recovery is super important.
17 december 2018
Time to move up to camp Cholera at 6000 m! Since I did not make a carry round I had to pack everything for two days and get everything into my backpack for one carry. That was very hard… I had to put my sleeping bag on the outside together with 30% of all the things I needed. My climbing pack was 65 L so not so big. I don´t like it too big because then you bring a lot of extra stuff. It´s better to not have too much.
This day I walked super slow. My backpack was over 20 kg and for me that´s super heavy. I didn´t want to get too exhausted and save energy for tomorrows summit.
Up in Cholera it was super windy so I had to ask a porter for help to put up my tent. It was just not possible to do by yourself in that wind. Three of the cords broke during the night on my tent, that´s how windy it was.
I prepared everything for tomorrows summit: Melted water, put all my clothes on or in my sleeping bag, hand warmers, overboots on my La Sportiva Spantiks, fitted the crampons after that, made sure I had enough snow in my bag so I didn´t need to refill it in the morning and so on.
It was another sleepless night. I slept so bad after leaving Basecamp. Almost nothing in 4 nights. The wind make so much noise in the tents and even if I had ear plugs it didn´t help at all. So you pretty much just close your eyes and drift off a little, not sleep.
But I felt pretty good, excited and ready for summit day!
18 december 2018
I had decided to not start too early. I didn´t want to go in the cold and dark for too long. I set my alarm on 4am. Woke up, melted some snow for water. Put everything on, got organized and left the camp 5:30am. About 30-45 minutes after most other expeditions. I started walking uphill the pretty steep part. After 20 minutes I realise I forgot my sunglasses. I had no other choice then to turn around and go get them. That was something I could not compromise with since it would mean snowblindness on high altitude without. So that kind of sucked but what else to do?
I try to not feel stressed about being a little bit behind due to the turn around. More people are coming up after me.
I have the same problems as last year with heat/cold situation. I´m too warm on my body but too cold on my hands and feet. And this time I have so many feet and hand warmers and also over boots and heated liners in my mittens. So I stop and take off my down parka. Too cold. Put it on again. Unzip. Unzip my thin down layer. Change from my mittens (can´t hold anything with them) to ski gloves. Better. Now I have solved the clothing situation and can focus on the climb.
Wind is strong. Much stronger then 35km/h. And the suppose to be clear sky is cloudy. Higher up on the mountain I can barley see others because of a whiteout. I´m thinking it will be a hard long day but just put one foot in front of the other and make my way up the mountain.
Pretty soon people start coming down. Too windy they say. I keep pushing.
When Hever comes down with his INKA expedition he says to me “Emma it´s too dangerous to continue, you have to turn around”.
I knew that if he turned around it would not be possible to reach the summit. He is the main guide on this mountain. He always summit. 42 times so far. I feel that I have two choices here:
Either I turn back now and go down.
Or I can continue a little bit longer and probably have to turn around anyway.
I trust Hever so I decide to turn around and go down. It feels a little bit sad since I put so much effort into making it for this weather window. But I also feel like I have no choice. Everyone is turning around too. No one get higher then 6400 m this day.
When I look at the weather forecast later it says 70km/h winds on the summit. Guides say if it´s more then 40 km/h it´s not possible to go to the summit. So I feel like I did the only thing I could.
I gave it my all. I pushed hard from BC towards the summit. I skipped acclimatization. I carried twice two days. I did everything I could to make it.
But the wind was too strong.
After two hours rest in the tent I started to pack everything up to go back to Basecamp. I did not have enough food or warmers to try again. And it was going to snow the next day so weather didn´t look good for another try anyway.
The way down with my super heavy backpack was so long. Some porters seemed to feel sorry for me and my heavy load and told me they could carry some of my things down for me. I told them thank you but I will carry my own stuff even if it´s heavy and painful. It snowed and weather was pretty bad.
And around 18pm I was back in Plaza Argentinas again.
19 december 2018
I was really tired yesterday when I got back to Basecamp so I decided to have a rest day before the 47 km long hike out. I have almost never been this tired after climbing a mountain before but then I have only been on supported expeditions before. It´s another thing to do all of this by yourself. I felt weak like I needed calories in my body. I had probably lost 5 kg. And I ate all the time, I was never hungry but still I felt like my body lacked power. It was nice to rest a day.
I looked at the weather for the upcoming days. Very windy. There would not be a possible opportunity for another try before my flight back to Europe.
I was glad that I never felt super cold (except in the extreme winds) my gear from The North Face really made the job keeping me warm and dry! I really liked that warm belay parka.
20 december 2018
I packed up everything and organized my duffelbags for the mule. Then at 9am I started hiking out from basecamp back to the beginning of Vacas valley. Something that would take me almost 14 hours. It was stoned and sand to walk on, pretty much always flat (1000 m up and 2000 m down in total) and 47 km to walk. I had never walked that far before, just 27 km in one day as the longest.
Before camp Piedra there was a sand storm I got caught in. Took me some extra time. It lasted for 4 hours and it was something of the worst I had ever walked in. It was not possible to walk. Sand everywhere. Horrible!
Then I missed the bridge before Pampa de Leñas so I had to go back 2 km. I was not happy with that.
And then it got dark and my watch died. So I had no idea how long it was left. They called me on the radio just as I saw lights. 2am I was back in Mendoza again. Took the first shower in 2 weeks. Staying up all night just eating to recover. Then sleep in a bed! That was so amazing.
21 december 2018
I spent the day in bed. Ordering roomservice, watching Netflix, working a little. I just needed to recover. I didn´t even leave my hotel room the whole day.
22 december 2018
It´s time to leave Mendoza and go back to Europe. The adventure is over for this time. I didn´t make the summit due to weather but I feel like I did my best and got some new experience. I will come back next year for another try and then have a little bit more time so that I can wait for the best possible weather. That´s what you need to succeed on getting to the summit on this mountain. Otherwise you don´t have a chance. No one summited the weeks before me or at the same time I was on the mountain due to the weather.
I feel really proud over myself also for doing this by myself on my first big mountain. Aconcagua might not be technical but it´s still a big undertaking. 6962 m high. That´s a lot.
I hope I will stand on the summit next year!