DIARY OF ACONCAGUA - PRELUDE:
January 22 2003
I've decided to climb with an established climbing company I have received some brochures and have emailed some of them. I am awaiting responses. Although it would be cheaper to go direct and get a local guide. I don't have a lot of time to waste on planning all it would take to go it alone. If I go with a company then it will be pretty well organized. All I need to do is pay the money and get in proper shape. After this climb I will have a little more knowledge of the process.
March 19 2003
I narrowed down my choices to well established outfits. I received brochures from Alpine Ascents, Mountain Madness, American Alpine Institute and Aventuras Patagonicas. All seem to be very professional and all except one returned my emails. I have decided to go with Aventuras Patagonicas because they seem to be very professional yet have a smaller less corporate feel to them. My second choice would have been Alpine Ascents because they give an extra two days of summit attempts and the price is not significantly more. I just would like to limit the trip to a month and Adventuras has a 20 day expedition while Alpine Ascents has a 25 day expedition. I recently found a site which lists climbing and trekking trips, ( http://www.onfoot.com/ ) and Adventuras Patagonicas was highly rated.
May 16 2003
I've booked the trip and have decided to go with Aventuras Patagonicas. The climb begins on December 12th 2003 and ends on the 31st. The price was $3600.00 American. It's a lot of money and after paying for the ticket and a bit of spending money it will be quite expensive. I really want to succeed and know if I stay healthy and if the summit attempt is not canceled because of bad weather I will make it. I recently received a video of a expedition to Aconcagua. It looks hard and I have no illusions about it but I know mentally I can do it. My work has been very busy and it has been hard to train on a consistent schedule. Since my job entails hard physical labour I use it as a training tool and push myself to work hard. June will mark the six month point to depart. My training will definitely pick up during this time. Focusing on training is the key but life has a way of distracting us. Currently i've been putting in a brisk 5 km jogging regiment a couple times a week, hitting the gym at least twice, rollerblading 20 km at a fast pace once a week, attending my martial arts class and taking part in the half hour intense training warm up twice a week. I'm not a huge jogging fan so my body is not used to it. I can see how it is great for endurance and preparing you mentally since you always have to force yourself to keep going. After all, you have to get home somehow and walking just prolongs it!
June 11 2003
I've spent some more money on a new pack since this climb requires me to bring a 6000 cubic inch pack. This translates to over 90 litres. I was told a great pack for this kind of climb was a Gregory - Denali Pro. There was also the Arcteryx - Bora 90 which is Canadian made but just didn't seem to fit well. I ended up buying the North Face - Stamina 90. I got a bit of a sneer from the sales person who wanted to sell me the Denali Pro even though it was the same store but different sales person. I suspect that the Denali Pro is a better quality pack and you do pay about $200.00 more for it. The North Face pack has lots of extra's which probably doesn't appeal to true expedition minded climbers. Regardless I did but the North Face pack when I weighted it down, very heavily, and it still felt comfortable. I hope to fill it and take it for a hike this weekend or next. Training has not increased but I am on track. I'll increase my jogging or aerobic training to four times per week, (hour or more). I should start hiking a lot more also. I would like to do eight hours per week. I should have most of the paperwork done by next week. I had to take a physical and some tests have to come back before my doctor will sign the health form which I need to mail back to Patagonicas. So all is on track. Check out the company sites for packs they are all great and also have fitting charts. Here is a general site giving pack fitting details http://www.adventurenetwork.com/Buyguides/backpackbuy.html
August 11 2003
If anyone is wondering where July went then your not alone. I had a very busy July which included family, friends, work and a whole lot more. I did very little training but the time off was actually beneficial because I may have been overdoing it and exhausting myself. The break certainly helped me recuperate from some injuries. The past couple of weeks I have been intensifying my training much more and include a five hour hike along the Bruce Trail in Milton each week. I load my pack with just over fifty pounds and apart from training my body to handle the load it also allows me to find the best adjustments and packing for comfort. For more information on the Bruce Trail go to http://www.brucetrail.org/ .
I've paid the remainder of my deposit to Aventuras Patagonicas and am now looking at booking the flight. Using the internet is far too hit and miss for me so I asked a friend who is a travel agent to look into it for me. My training is increasing and so is my hiking.
October 13 2003
Only two months left and I feel like I really need
to push these last two months. I train every day now doing some aerobic workout
every day. I have progressed to an hour per session and keep it at a very
intense level. The schedule is still unstructured but it follows a certain
I hike with a fifty pound pack over hilly ground in nearby Milton for five hours each weekend. I am gradually increasing the weight from about 50 lbs. in September to around 60 this past weekend. I find my joints are stronger and my body is constantly able to handle the new stresses. I suppose more than once a week would be ideal but I think I will maintain it for now at just once.
During the week I always throw in a hill sprint which involves jogging around a nearby park which has a ski hill dropping into a ravine. I jog a long loop which takes a gradual path down into the ravine then sprint up the hill as best as I can. I never stop but have gradually increased the amount of loops from five to seven this week. I will work on getting up to ten circuits which are close to 1km each and take about 1 hour to complete 7 times. Its great because it really trains my mental endurance and provides a great gauge on my improvement. When I started (5 circuits) my joints and feet and legs were in serious fatigue, now I feel I can easily get past seven. Its great to see some improvement since i'm sure the training would get difficult and monotonous without a gauge.
I also work in at least four aerobic activities like jogging, cycling, or rollerblading for at least an hour each week. Usually one of the cycling days I use sprints which involve 20-30 second hard sprints followed by 30-40 second slow recovery peddling then a repeat I try to keep it at between 45 and 60 minutes.
I am still lifting weights and work in at least four sessions in some form of split program. I also put one day of heavy legs training which I usually do at the beginning of the week. When I started in September to work my legs hard I almost lost a week because I couldn't recover from the lactic acid build up but I cut back and gradually increased the intensity and find I have no problems anymore. This workout is very important since I feel it really builds the strength and endurance for sprinting which combined with the hill sprints is really improving my leg endurance.
Finally I have increased my weight which was a little under normal in late August at 145 lbs, it has increased since to a precarious 155 lbs. I say precarious because it really is dependant on a strong focus on eating regularly and that is not always an option for me when things get hectic at work. I would like to work up to 160 lbs but I know my natural weight is 150 so I will have to do it slowly and work up to it so my body gets used to the extra calories. Staying health is key so I work in a lot of rest and even meditation to recover.
On the logistics side my trip is booked for December 6th and return flight for January 4th. I have the option to extend it up to six months so I may stay longer depending on how I feel and how my work load at home is. I will start to buy the remainder of my gear soon and start working on what I need to pack and how.
November & December
I came down with a flu of sorts in mid November and it hit me hard again the two weeks before my departure. I am writing this after the trip so it is all a bit vague. Suffice to say my training was very sporadic during the most important days. Regardless it did not prevent me from making it to the summit. I would say the key to remember on a trip like Aconcagua is to know your pack, to know how it handles loads and to know how to pack it well with lots of weight. Hike with weight and have some endurance but hike a lot and half the battle is won in my opinion. After that it really is up to nature giving you the windows of calm you need to summit. These are not easy undertakings but in the end they are simply long hard hikes and with a very good fitness level and more importantly a strong mind anyone can do peaks like Aconcagua or Kilimanjaro. Obviously if a snow storm rushes in with hurricane winds at 18,000 feet it adds a little more of a challenge for sure. So as long as your blessed with good weather and don't get sick then prepare hard and you will succeed.