The journey finally began: base camp to the top of Aconcagua. Just short of a 3000-meter climb to the top.
The excitement kicked in and I was raring to go. The walk up to camp one was a good strong pace and it felt a lot quicker than when we climbed it for the acclimatisation walk. I must have still felt strong as 10 metres from the top I thought it would be a good idea to sprint into camp one.
Now, when you're 5000 meters above sea level sprinting on the mountain is not advised. It felt like l had been punched in the gut, I took two steps at the top and nearly fell over, I just couldn’t catch my breath. Trust me I didn’t do anything like that again.
Camp one to camp two was, at that point, the hardest day of the exped. Not necessarily the steepest climb, but long and with so much kit to carry. The day just never ended. Walking one step in front of the other bent over like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Walking on hard rock then navigating through, what I like to call the ice fields, all the while the air getting thinner making it harder to breath and the sun belting down on your back. I was glad to see the back of that day.
Camp two to camp three: We had an extra rest day so everybody was fresh for the climb. 6000 meters up and seeing the clouds pass through the mountains was a sight to behold.
The big day had arrived. Awoken at 03:45 to get some much needed breakfast, a boil in the bag of muesli (it did not taste great) then kit on and set off in the black of night, the air so cold that your hands and feet felt like they would drop off even after you put your big mits on.
We set off, head torches on and up and up we went. The higher we went the stronger the wind, the colder we got. All the time wishing and wanting the sun to come out. For hours we climbed until we saw the sun and even then it didn’t help fight the cold. So far I thought it had been difficult but how little I knew, the worst was yet to come.
We had turned a corner on a long stretch that looked as though it never ended, the dreaded traverse. The width of a small footpath with a drop on your right side of between 500-1000 meters, full of sharp rock that would tear you to pieces should you fall.
It was at this point that I blacked out. Just for a few seconds. Now it could be from the altitude, the lack of air, or pure exhaustion. but as I woke I had no idea where I was. Quickly I got a grip of my body and got off the traverse as quickly as possible. Tired and finding it hard to breathe I looked to the heavens to see the summit some 200 meters away.
Every step from there was an effort. Just trying to breathe as you're climbing the steep snow slopes with ice axes in hand was hard.
You see the summit but it feels like you're standing still with the peak laughing at you, telling you you’re not going to make it. We had the last laugh. Every member of the team summited.
The whole team dug deep down and used what energy we had left to reach the top and touch that summit feeling euphoric at completing the expedition.
Though in hindsight we should have stored a little more energy as getting down was its own little adventure.