and veteran guide Andy Politz will lead a small team of
climbers on Aconcagua in January, 2004. Politz will be
leading childhood friend Matt Brennan and fellow guide
Chris Simmons along the normal route on Aconcagua
beginning January 6. This is Andy’s first trip on
Aconcagua and it will prove to be interesting. Known for
his insights into climbing, Andy will be testing and
challenging his team as they attempt the summit of
Aconcagua (22,829’) during the 16 day trip.
Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the
Americas and the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. It is one of
the coveted seven summits. Located along the Chilean/Argentina border, the
ascent to the summit offers stunning views of the Andes mountain range. The
“Stone Sentinel” as the mountain is known, rises nearly 4,000 feet above the
nearby landscape and truly dominates the Andes range.
Final Meeting and Gear Check
Like all climbs, the
amount of time spent in preparation is nearly as equal
or in some instances much greater than the time involved
in the climb itself. This being my first real
expedition, our team has spent a great deal of time
coordinating all facets of the trip from logistics, to
gear to routes. Early on we decided that I would handle
logistics, Andy Politz would handle gear and Chris
Simmons would handle routes.
I started nearly a year ago searching for
an Argentine company to handle our accommodations. This is a tall order given
the fact we are a non-supported group. With the experience of our team, we did
not need, nor desire a Company that would “guide” us on the mountain.
Moreover, we wanted the basics, transportation, permits, “slots’ on the
mountain and the all important ride to the grocery store. This is critical to
the success of the climb. Who wants to travel 3000 miles to find themselves
stranded at the airport or without the proper visas and travel papers? After
searching the internet, talking with fellow climbers and using our Ecuador
climbing companions as a resource, we settled on Aconcagua Adventures. Our
contact-“Ricardo” has handled all our requirements including transportation
from Santiago, Chile. We are set with spots on the mountain and other support
items like mules. We will use two mules to transport gear to Plaza De Mulas
which enables us to go in light to base camp. We will then carry loads to the
Andy I met on Monday to go over our final gear list. It is truly amazing
dealing with a pro like Andy. His attention to detail is flawless and his
experience in the needs of high altitude climbing is right up there with the
best. We reviewed and inspected every article of gear, from the tent stakes to
socks to duffle bags. One of Andy’s chief concerns is the wind. Our research
tells us to expect winds ranging from calm to upwards of 70 mph. At altitude,
this can lead to disaster if you are not prepared. One of Andy’s gear
requirements is a face mask. He swears by the OR Gorilla Mask which he wore on
Everest in 99 and 01. Andy likens the temperatures on summit day to that of
Everest and we spent a great deal of time covering how we are protecting our
extremities. Our eye protection, face and feet where all broken down in detail
with Andy coming up with the idea that we use close cell foam padding in our
boots as liners against the cold. He plans to cut our sleeping pads in the
calf area and use that as inserts in the soles of our plastic boots!!!!!
After my meeting with Andy, I am confident we have the proper gear to enable
us to reach the summit.
spent countless hours meeting with fellow RMI Guides to gain knowledge of what
we can expect from the route, the conditions of the route and what is
available (water?) along the way. In particular, Chris has met with Casey Grom
and Alex Van Steen, two Aconcagua veterans who have described varying issues
ranging from dust and dirt to coordinating what we pack on the mules who will
carry 180 lbs of our gear to base camp. One tip that Casey suggested was to
bring canisters of “compressed air” like those that you use to clean
photography equipment or electronics. Casey reports that the wind at lower
elevations results in dust storms which wreak havoc on cameras and stoves. Now
taking pictures is one thing, but losing a stove to dirt or dust could end the
climb. Like all well planned trips we have back up stoves but you would rather
not risk gear problems if can avoid it.
We depart this Sunday-after a team dinner
and good-byes to our families. More later after our arrival in Mendoza!!!!
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