At 6,962 m, Aconcagua is the highest peak in the Americas, and is the highest outside of Asia. Today, we shall be taking the Polish Glacier Traverse Route (duh!). This route was first climbed in 1934 by the Konstanty Narkiewicz-Jodko team..This climb is actually not all that difficult technically, but acclimatization forces most to spend a couple of days on the mountain. As we set out, our route takes us right to the foot of the glacier via the Vacas valley. On the glacier, we move quickly and silently through the moraines, moulins, and crevasses. We traverse the glacier and finally reach the normal route on the north face.
Once on the face, we decide to make camp at the Nido de Condores at 5200 m. Here we acclimatize overnight. The winds are loud but seem to be approaching from the south, leaving us sheltered. Then we go down to base camp to recuperate and get our energy back.
After a day at base camp, we climb to the Berlin camp. Getting here is rather easy, at most a steep hike, thanks to some switchbacks. The camp is located at 5830 m. Here we spend the night again and head back down to camp one at Nido de Condores. This form of ascent is tedious, but by far the most efficient form of acclimatizing to the low oxygen. We could be using supplemental oxygen, it is not required on this climb, so we decided against it and go “au naturale.” All of us feel a bit of altitude sickness, but nothing at all major due to our acclimatization. Finally, we climb up to Indipendencia camp at 6,300 meters, where we spend one more night. The wind has died down, allowing us to relax and get a good nights sleep for our push to the summit.
Finally we awaken early in the morning. The sun has not yet risen. After getting ready, we climb the last few hundred meters to the summit. There we are treated to an amazing sunrise. After about an hour at the summit, we start heading down, climbing carefully and deliberately. Most climbing accidents happen on the way down due to overconfidence. Finally at the base, we celebrate with the rest of our team at successfully climbing one of the seven summits: the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Tomorrow, we move on through the Andes and plan to move toward my number one dream location: Machu Picchu.