We spent two days of rest in Camp 2 of the Cerro Aconcagua, hoping for a better climate. Yet by the end of the first day, I was acclimating, and I felt better. Not perfect (the trip to the bathroom was still a mission), but better. The guides then told us that the winds were forecast to drop slightly and that we might have a chance to reach the top. We would move to Camp 3 and get to the summit the next day if the weather allowed.
The weather was good. We woke up from an initially windy night at Camp 3 to a quieter morning. We ate and dressed laboriously, donning all of our warm layers: various merino base layers, fleece, bean bag, . I put on my boots, then my helmet and goggles, before putting on my outer boots and finally leaving the store. One last babble with leggings and crampons, and he was done. It was 7:30 am, a relatively late start, but a wise call from Ilan, who saw the possibility of getting too cold in the morning. We went out into the sunlight and were graced with the warmth of it for most of the day. I wanted to climb Aconcagua cheap but couldn’t save on equipment.
Climb Aconcagua was a challenging hike. It hurt from the start; the body demanded more oxygen than it could inhale, and the lungs struggled to deliver. I leaned heavily on my posts and settled in my usual spot towards the back of the group. Slow but safe. Even more uneventful and more stable today. The group split. Several times at the beginning of the summit day, I didn’t know if I could do it, if I were going to go too slow or if the weather would change, or if I would change. But the guide reminded us to smile and enjoy the view (as best we could under the circumstances), and I kept going.
We were advancing. And I felt strong, not my lungs, of course, which were still frantically sucking the air, but nutritionally and mentally, I could feel that I was solid. It was as if it were divided into two parts, one weak and one robust. It hurt, but it was bearable. All he had to do was move on.
I reached the top of Mount Aconcagua after 8 hours of climbing; an hour after, two faster teammates, Andy and Oli, reached the top with Ilan. They waited for us at the summit, and it was beautiful to be there to receive congratulatory hugs and celebrations from the team. There were smiles of happiness and relief. We went down to a windswept night at Camp 3, a decent crisp, steep incline to Base Camp, then a fantastic dusty hike before finally heading back to Mendoza two long days later. As usual in the mountains, I had a great time.