Martin Hewitt's final update before the ascent on the summit of Mount Aconcagua
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It has been worryingly silent from the AGS team over the past few days due to a problem with their satellite communication equipment. However, all is well as the team continue their build up to the final ascent, slowly increasing the altitude and distance they venture from Base Camp each day and forward stashing vital kit and supplies. We hear from Martin about dangerous traverses, helicopter evacuations and vertical ascents as the team get used to life above 5000m...
By Martin Hewitt
Faces were fresher this morning as the winds died down around 3am allowing us all some sleep. We ate the usual breakfast consisting of eggs and porridge, frozen fruit juices, biscuits, tea and toast. Once done we went outside to grab the team kit we would be carrying to camp one. We loaded up with tents, cookers, fuel and other camp essentials, divided equally amongst the team.
After we loaded up our Bergens we started our 800m vertical ascent. We all knew it was going to be a challenging day, we were now carrying more equipment, up steeper inclines at higher altitude.
As we stood a few hundred meters up from Base Camp, we watched with heavy hearts as the helicopter flew in to pick up our cameraman, Paul Harries, who was ordered off the mountain by the doctor. Paul had been suffering severely with altitude sickness and despite not wanting to turn around, up here such decisions are life and death. As we watched the helicopter disappear out of sight we continued our ascent towards Camp 1.
It wasn't long before we hit our first dangerous traverse. A mixture of snow and rock, it was easy to lose your footing. We had to concentrate as our guide told us "slip here and it doesn't end well". We all scrambled across trying to remain upright but failing; rocks and snow falling away beneath our feet. We watched as one football sized rock went flying towards another team further down, "rooooccckkks" we all shouted giving them just enough time to manoeuvre out of the way.
Working as a team, helping each other across and treading carefully, we all got across the traverse and took a few moments to rest and catch our breath. Luckily the rest of the trip up was far more straight forward. As we made our way up to 5000m all of us were feeling it. Our steps were small but our breathing heavy. It was a silent ascent with almost no chatter; zig-zagging silently towards the ridge line we would call home tomorrow. After 3 hours of climbing we arrived at camp 1 where another team were staying. The views were unbelievable from here and seemed to make the tough climb worth it. We catched our camping equipment to greet us upon our return tomorrow and took a few minutes for photos before making our way back down to Base Camp. We still have to bring up our own personal equipment after all.....