Plaza de Mulas

February 27, 2018

Monday 12th February.

A horrendous night with the bladder chasing me out of the tent every couple of hours. Bonus – the night sky. Double bonus – knowing I’m hydrated. It’s 7am and I’m listening to the camp murmur awake. Interestingly the temperature has plummeted since I was up before dawn. That’s a phenomena we will observe over and over again. Mild in the still predawn, freezing just as the sun gets cracking.

We have had to organise to get our sleeping bags at the pick up point for the mules by 0645 so that is now all done and I’ve packed my bag prior to heading up to the mess tent for breakfast. The light is just kissing the tops of the peaks but we are in chilly shadow for a couple of more hours. I have already learned to temper my enthusiasm for the sun, and to wait its own good pleasure. Read more

Wile E. Coyote

February 25, 2018

Sunday 11th February.

The night was still and mild – tested at 0300 when I stepped outside for a pee stop. It is always a remarkable thing in the mountains to realise the light, which is quite bright and sufficient to illuminate the inside of your tent, is cast by stars. Mountains in my experience are always light if the sky is clear. So you find yourself in a half asleep stupor supposed to be minding one thing while you end up gazing at the heavens and being mesmerised by the lights and the occasional meteorite. Take care that you don’t lose your balance! Read more


February 24, 2018

Saturday the 10th 

Dinner last night was also a good way to get to know some of our fellow travellers a bit better and the conversation with our new compatriots was a highlight. Kavitha was sitting next to Danilo, one of our three guides and found him to be very forthright and clear about the plans /planning. He might be the answer to some of our communications challenges.

Despite wanting to nod off during dinner we found ourselves wide awake by the time the lights went out – usual, given digestion picks up the metabolism. That was not helped by the fact that the road outside is the main highway between Buenos Aries and Santiago and if there is a speed limit through town no one observes it. Perched three stories above the highway we finally fell asleep to, and were regularly woken by the sound of trucks roaring through this collection of ghost resorts, encouraged no doubt by the long straight section of road in the middle of torturous winding mountain highway that offers no overtaking for very long stretches of time. Read more


February 24, 2018

Friday 9th February

The guide is Tonetti Guia de Montana, (otherwise known as Eduardo, or Edu (Eh-dooh) for short) which immediately brought to mind the line from The Princess Bride “Hello my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my Father. Prepare to die.” We wait for him now in the hotel foyer in a state of suspended animation. We have all checked out, our gear is piled up at the bottom of the lift and we wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. We have been down to the gear store and hired gaiters (me)  and a foam mattress each. We have also purchased a few sweets and savoury snacks and purchased a bottle of coke for summit day -recommended as an energy/sugar infusion prior to tackling the final push. It’s most likely to be frozen solid when we get there though. Now we wait around the foyer for the guides to appear. They are apparently at the parks office supervising and finalising our paperwork. The TV broadcasts continuous news in Spanish (which seems to mostly include loud, busty, blond, argumentative anchors), and of course the local papers are in Spanish. The exercise of practising our rudimentary Española in the papers wears thin very quickly. We are reluctant to pull out the novels since we know there will be plenty of downtime on the mountain which those books will alleviate. I’ve already read one from cover to cover on the plane so, while I enjoyed it, the purpose of bringing it is made null.  Max and his other gang of trekkers have already departed for their walk from Argentina into Chile. Go figure! Read more


February 9, 2018

Thursday 8th February

Spiderman is a tall bald chap from Brazil. He sports a spider tattoo’ed on the back of his skull. I’ll double check his name tomorrow (It sounded like Guido) but until then he is Spiderman. His team supporters are Jorge and Danilo. Jorge is an interesting chap introduced as a ‘wild man’ from Patagonia. I believe Danilo is from Brazil. We meet other members of the team today. Richard is from Germany, with excellent English. Enrique is from Brazil but has excellent English as well. Anna is from the USA. The remaining six are from Brazil and I don’t have their names sorted out yet. I mention the language since it seems we might have a group split in twain by language. That will be a bit unfortunate, but I will not jump to conclusions. It might be a perfect United Nations despite the different languages.

Our permits have been paid during the course of the day and the paperwork signed by everyone as the close of the day. Passports have been collected and Max will present all this to the park authority tomorrow. In short, all the paperwork is now done. Read more


February 9, 2018

Wednesday 7th February

There is a hard knocking on the door. Its 11 in the morning and we have just finished breakfast we purchased at the local Carrefour supermarket conveniently located around the corner. A tall lanky lad. Relaxed and fit. Lightly bearded with sunglass tan lines. Energetically introduces himself as Maximo, the expedition leader and organiser (though we discover later it is mainly organisation for which he is responsible). We welcome him in and we talk about the mountain and the logistics of the next few days.  He tells us he has just come of the summit only three days earlier and successfully had all but one of the team summit. We are a smaller group of 11 plus three guides, which is a good ratio. He says the weather has been problematic with steady 40kmh/h winds gusting to 60. So much for Patricio’s forecasts reported to us earlier. If you can’t trust a driver for your weather all is lost! Max tells us there is a storm up there today and no one will be on the summit. He’s very matter of fact about it all and I note how relaxed he is – that will be very helpful on the mountain. Relaxed leadership is better than uptight leadership when everyone is so much under pressure. Read more

Patricio and Cicero

February 8, 2018

Tuesday 6th February

We are due to launch at 1250 but don’t rotate with the usual roar until 1323. I should care less about such things given we have a five hour layover in Santiago before heading to Argentina. But it’s a warm Sydney day and the plane is a stuffy tube until we get going. We have been spoiled by the A380 and more modern tubes. These old 747s are tired and very passé. It would be good to have recharge ports and a big screen in the seat thanks. (How my expectations have changed since the first international flight I ever took!) QANTAS is not as competitive as Singapore or Emirates or the other Gulf airlines for that matter when it comes to these sorts of resources (in reality, passenger distractions designed to keep us in our seats)  – come on Big Red, we are ‘long haul central’.

Now we are airborne we can get our heads into the game. An advantage of Victorian era, or even expeditions up until WW2 was the long transit time to the jump off point during which one could plan, focus and reflect. This morning I am making phone calls to work colleagues and trying to make sure there are as few loose ends as possible. Aconcagua is the last thing on my mind. But now we are in the air I can turn my thoughts to this expedition and what might unfold ahead of us. Read more