After the worst night’s sleep ever, Andy the guide, woke us all up for breakfast at 0345hrs. I looked at the boil in the bag porridge and felt sick instantly, partly through altitude sickness (as we were at 6000m) and partly through nerves, because I knew we would soon be on our summit attempt on the highest mountain in South America, which was going to be an epic day.
We set off at 0500hrs. The weather was cold, very cold and some fairly strong winds worried me, but I was just trying to concentrate on one step at a time. We zigzagged our way up to the first resting point, a small abandoned hut. I was feeling cold and out of breath, wondering how the hell I was going to get to the top, as we still had 600m to go and it was the hardest part of the ascent.
It's very important to stay positive at points like this so I pulled out an energy gel from my pocket. As soon as I opened it the top froze and made it almost impossible to eat, but as breakfast was a non-starter I had to get some energy from somewhere.
I was fairly happy to get moving again, purely to try and keep warm, but as we approached a really exposed traverse the wind picked up and made it difficult, even though I was wearing every item of warm clothing.
The traverse seemed to go on and on, one wrong move here would see you back at base camp in the valley below, staying focused and concentrating on your feet was important but not easy when you’re tired, cold, hungry and feeling the effects of 6500m.
We finally reached the moderate shelter of a large rock at the bottom of the Canaletta, the final part of the ascent to the summit.
At this point the sunlight was breaking through onto some parts of the mountain, a real morale boost as it should start to warm up!
It was time to climb the gully of the Canaletta, it was very steep and hard going but I could see the summit, which motivated me to keep going. Although I must admit I did think about turning back on a number of occasions but to come this close and not summit would have been very painful.
So up I went, slowly, but surely, the summit in touching distance. We finally made it. I think I just collapsed with exhaustion, relief and feeling the effects of altitude. The whole team was lying on the summit taking in the views while realising what we had just achieved. It was a great feeling!
After a few photos we began our descent, time to reflect on our day. A challenge is what we all wanted and Aconcagua definitely didn’t disappoint. I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have ever done: lack of sleep, lack of food, altitude, terrain and brutal weather were the perfect mix for the Adaptive Grand Slam team!