The team are gradually inching higher and higher and are still on track to make the final ascent on Wednesday. With all members battling the effects of altitude and fully consumed by the task at hand, we take a look at the team's experiences right at the start of their journey.
By James Lugassy
As the team arrived at the Diplomatic hotel in Mendoza, you could feel the excitement and confidence resonate between us all. Despite a long flight in, morale was high as hugs and handshakes were exchanged. A new adventure lay before us all and whilst we all understood just how hard the challenge ahead would be, the excitement at taking this on together couldn't be hidden.
A quick check-in and then it was onto a quick briefing from our head guide Harry as to what should be expected over the next 18 days. We talked about the route we will be taking, the contingency plans in place, medical procedures should the worst case happen and how to look after each other on the mountain. It was a relaxed brief with a serious tone. Mountains are dangerous and Aconcagua would certainly be no exception.
After our brief had finished the team headed next door for a big dinner. Argentinian cuisine definitely lives up to its reputation; steaks of all kinds and sizes reached the table accompanied by local red wine. At this point I looked around the table and realised just how big the achievement of the Adaptive Grand Slams goals were. As I looked around I saw world class mountaineers as guides, people with incredible backgrounds both within the military and in life in general, and most importantly those who have already bounced back from life changing injuries. This was a very strong determined team; a team that had already decided that failure is not an option. It made me feel confident and privileged at the same time. Dinner passed filled with jokes and stories before some of us decided to go for one last beer before midnight (Election Day the following day). We all got in fairly early, eager to rest and make the most of our one night of 5 star comfort.
The following day we all got up, packed our bags and ate breakfast together. The breakfast spread was everything you'd expect from a 5 star hotel and most of us ate it by the truck load; I for one justified it as 'carb loading'. We met our local guides at breakfast too, all spritely chaps that had just enough stubble to let you know that they practically lived on Aconcagua. We were advised on some additional climbing kit and equipment that we may need and some of us went with the local guides to rent it from their store. Back to the hotel, we loaded our bags on the buses, we were ready and before we knew it Mendoza was long behind us. Some of us slept on the bus into the Aconcagua national park; we all understood that you should catch rest at every opportunity. Those of us that didn't were greeted by spectacular mountain views as the road wound in and out of the these great structures to our left and right. We stopped again for more steak, and I don't exaggerate when I say that most of us could have ridden the amount of cow we were served. No red wine this time, it was Coke and water as we made our way to our final night on a real bed.
Upon arriving our final hotel, a chalet like building wedged within a valley of mountains; there was no time to relax. We stepped off straight into a large garage where we split our kit down into 3 bags. One bag contained mountain kit and would meet us at base-camp at 4,300m, carried up there by mules. One bag contained our sleeping bags, also to be carried by mules to meet us at our first camp the following night. And a final bag to contain our essential kit and equipment which we would carry. One last meal, more carb loading, 3 courses and then an early night for tomorrow the adventure begins ....