Day 9. New Year at Confluencia Camp
Early in the morning one of the soldiers at the main gate of the military camp started talking to me. I tried to explain where I came from and why I was climbing Aconcagua in my broken Spanish. My gay radar went through the roof when he started smiling and flirting.
In the morning at 9:30 we already moved to the Confluencia camp. At the entrance to the Aconcagua National Park, we were checked for our permissions to ascend and we were given two plastic bags – one for garbage and one for poop (yes, poop cannot be left anywhere here).
Unfortunately, a nasty cold rain started right after the checkpoint. On the first mirador (panoramic viewpoint), unfortunately, Mount Aconcagua was not visible due to bad weather, but nevertheless it was still atmospheric and beautiful around.
The weather was constantly changing: sometimes sunny, other times rainy, sometimes hot, other times cold. We constantly took off warm clothes and then put raincoats back on. The weather was nasty, but we walked only three hours in total.
The camp itself turned out to be quite large: here we had a separate group tent-bedroom, a group dining room, toilets, showers, a cafe-bar and even the Internet.
Thanks to the Internet, I even managed to call my parents and grandmother at midnight Bishkek time and wish them a Happy New Year. It was a strange feeling to be so far from them, in the mountains, and yet so close.
The food here was amazing, especially the lunch was beyond our expectations. We didn’t even have so many delicious things back down in the city of Mendoza. A dinner we were served an Argentinean steak and red wine. The New Year dinner was definitely a success.
Alcohol, good food, warm conversations in the tent and nasty weather outside – what else do you need for New Year celebration?
Day 10. Acclimatization hike to Plaza de Francia
Today we plan the acclimatization tour to Plaza Francia. The weather this time was sunny, not hot and not cold. We were hiking up easily. There was still snow on the crests of the ridges. We reached the panorama of Plaza Francia in quite a short time. A stunning landscape of the majestic southern face of Mount Aconcagua with glaciers, icefalls and inaccessible rocks was right ahead of us. A small avalanche suddenly came down on the left side of the wall and rumbled throughout the valley. I was amazed how climbers managed to climb this dangerous wall at all.
Having taken plenty of pictures and breathed the high mountain air, we went back to the camp. Unfortunately, a strong unpleasant wind began to blow from the valley below. There was no way we could have a longer break because of the wind.
At the end of the tour back in the camp, a wonderful surprise awaited us again with all sorts of food. After resting for a couple of hours, we had to undergo a mandatory medical examination in order to get a permission to climb to the next camp. The doctor checked my blood pressure (I had 120/80) and blood oxygen (90%). It seems I am okay even if I have still flu symptoms.
After dinner (this time we had soup and grilled meat again) we went to bed early. Tomorrow there will be a long march to the second base camp, Plaza de Mulas.
Days 11 – 12. Plaza de Mulas
Departure at 9 am. We plan a long eight-hour hike to the next camp. It was sunny, but a fierce cold wind was still blowing. Therefore, our breaks were short – it was impossible to endure such a wind while sitting or standing still.
We walked along the endless valley. I kept asking myself: when will we finally see the camp? When will we finally get there?
It was not easy to hike, especially the last climb right before the base camp. I felt like I would fall at any moment. I had a headache and felt nauseous. I was even slightly swinging. In addition, I was tormented by cough and snot. I still felt terrible because of my cold/flu. I hope that in a couple of days the symptoms of a cold will go away.
I don’t know how, but with the help of Chris, I finally made it to the base camp. We had another lovely dinner table waiting for us, but I couldn’t eat absolutely anything. I was still nauseous, I was weak and terribly cold. Surprisingly, it all went by rather quickly. I felt good again: only a runny nose and cough were still torturing me.
Everyone else in the team seemed to feel good and were even planning to trek to the next camp.
I really wanted to take a shower and change my underwear. I think my body was smelling bad. The whole body was itching. And there are still 15 days ahead of us here on the mountain …
The next day, the group went for acclimatization to the camp Canada to set up tents and lift up most of the load. I stayed at the base camp to treat myself. First of all, I went to the doctor. He listened to my lungs and said everything was fine. Apparently, my cough intensified due to the height, dry and cold air. The doctor recommended that I drink plenty of water, wear a buff, and take ibuprofen. So he told me nothing new 🙂
I decided to sweat a bit and used two sleeping bags, my warm jacket, a lot of clothes, and even a raincoat to create a mini sauna. So I laid and sweated for about an hour, surfing at the same time in the Internet.
After lunch, I cleaned up, walked around the camp, visited the highest art gallery in the world (yes, there is even such a place), hiked towards the glacier, where I noticed that the group was already returning. Tired and exhausted, the group was chilling in the group tent the whole late afternoon.
Chris and me were finally sorting out things for the next weeks and planning what we should take with us for the higher camps. All week we will climb from one camp to another, higher and higher until the summit. In these high altitude camps, we will have to do everything by ourselves: get water, cook food, carry all our stuff, and put up tents. There will be no electricity or internet. Only harsh nature around us.
Tomorrow the real adventure begins.