Last Day of the Year 12/31/2006
Hello to All,
I’m back in Mendoza after several long days of hiking off the mountain. Thanks so much to all for your kind thoughts and prayers and well wishes. I’m sure they helped keep the winds at bay. I’m tired. I’m thrilled. I’m trying to process all of the past three weeks-the extreme weather made for an intense climb and the summit was never a given. We needed five days of good weather in row (after a period where it granted us no more than one nice day at a time)…and we got them. The view from the summit was amazing and I’ve posted a few pictures to the Aconcagua photo gallery on the site…check ’em out with more coming soon. I return to St. John’s on Tuesday January 2nd. I’ll be posting a longer account of the climb in the next few days. Thanks once again for all of your support I felt your presence with me every step of the way.
Back in Penitentes 12/30/2006
TA called in this evening from Penitentes. They hiked for seven hours today and many of them have altitude coughs, but nothing too serious. They are feeling pretty good, excited not to have to eat food from a wrapper, and will drive to Mendoza in the morning.
Editor’s note: For those of you in Newfoundland, grab a copy of The Newfoundland Herald if you get a chance. TA is not their New Year’s baby, but there’s a great write-up and pics on pages 14 and 15.
Today TA stood on the top of the western hemisphere! The guides kindly allowed TA to lead the way for the four climbers and three guides to the summit of Aconcagua.
It took 7 hours to go up and 4 hours to come back down. The weather was very amazing. It really gave them just a Cinderella story, with the exception of one really, really windy section on the Windy Traverse. They’re very excited, but also quite beat after the big day, several nights of not sleeping and the fifth day in a row of moving. It was a BIG, BIG day.
Tomorrow they will move to Plaza de Mulas and get out of the thin air. TA has now summitted two of the seven summits and is pretty excited! TA wants to thank everyone who was thinking good weather for them as they got it today in spades.
Sat call from High Camp 12/27/2006
TA called this evening from High Camp. The remaining climbers, including three guides, are going to go for the Summit in the morning. They have the usual altitude headaches, but are doing fine and eating well.
They’ll have an early start and it will be a long day to ascend over 3,400 feet (more than a kilometre) and back down to High Camp. TA says she really needs everyone praying for good weather and little winds please!
Sat call from Camp III 12/26/2006
They are finally at Camp III (19,200 feet)…yeah!! They will carry up to Camp IV (19,400 feet) today and come back to Camp III to sleep. If the weather holds, they will move to Camp IV tomorrow and attempt a summit on Thursday.
I told her that the forecast for Thursday at the summit is looking the best I have seen in terms of wind:
Let’s keep those positive thoughts and prayers going!
Sat call from Camp I 12/24/2006
They are still at Camp I where they have had 120 kilometre an hour winds. Everyone from other teams who went up to Camp II yesterday got trashed by 120 mile an hour winds and came back down and camped at the Col. It’s been cold but it’s not bad at Camp I today- only minus 10 with the windchill. The lenticular cloud, indicative of high winds, remains over Aconcagua.
They have cabin fever, but are hanging tough. Some folks may decide to descend if they can’t make a move to Camp III by Monday or Tuesday. They hope to move to High Camp (Camp IV) by Wednesday and to summit by Thursday.
TA is feeling good and says “Merry Christmas!” Let’s keep the positive thoughts and prayers going.
Sat call from Camp I 12/23/2006
They were hoping to move to Camp II today, but not sure given that they have really big winds. They are all getting cabin fever there at Camp I and are really, really wanting to move. It’s a hard decision to make. There are lenticular clouds over the summit, maybe 100 mile an hour winds up high.
They just can’t tell if they can sneak by through the Col over to Camp III. They’re going to skip Camp II. As of this morning, they’re not really sure what they are doing. Starting to feel like they may be running out of dates. It’s been a really, really windy season there.
TA is feeling really good and strong and had a good pulse-ox this morning. Starting to lose a little bit of hope about summiting given how windy it has been this season. She’s not sure what is going to happen. She asks that folks from Newfoundland, which can be a windy place, to pray for no wind for her so they can attempt a summit.
Sat call from Camp I 12/21/2006
Did a back carry this morning. Will do a carry to Camp III later this afternoon.
They heard at base camp that only 6 out of 900 attempts have made the summit this year. They are hoping with the new moon they will make the summit. They are having a gorgeous day today, but yesterday they moved up in 60 mile an hour winds and a snowstorm, so she couldn’t call. Sue from South Africa is going back down as she is not feeling well, but everyone is hanging in and feeling well.
TA is sounding really good and wishes everyone a Happy Solstice day – shortest day of the year in North America, longest day of the year at Aconcagua.
Email from Adventuras Patigonicas 12/19/2006
This email arrived Tuesday morning, but I believe it refers to yesterday.
The group is at Base camp and carrying to camp 1 today.
Possibly another rest day at Base camp after that and then move to C1 the next day.
Everyone is doing great.
Sat call from Base Camp 12/18/2006
We did a big carry today to just below Camp I. It was five and a half hours of climbing. Each person had 50 pounds on their back so it was a huge day for everyone. The team cached a bunch of stuff up high and is back at Base Camp for a rest day tomorrow. Always good to come back down and rehydrate. Everything is going well and the plan is to make a move to Camp I on Wednesday.
Sat phone call from Base Camp 12/16/2006
They are at base camp: Plaza Argentina*, 13,800 feet / 4,200 metres.
Today, in 50 mile an hour winds, they set up their sleeping tents and have a big tent for eating, all behind some large rocks.
There have been brutal winds of up to 100 miles an hour up higher on the mountain. Teams from higher up were forced down lower today when several tents blew away.
TA’s team is coming together really well. They have a rest day tomorrow and if the weather co-operates, a carry day on Monday. TA asks that folks pray that the winds drop.
*Note from the info in the December 12th posting, they are taking the Vacas Valley Route, which is different than that originally scheduled and detailed in the December 11th posting. The revised itinerary appears to be:
Dec. 17: Plaza Argentina Base Camp at 13,800 feet (4,200 metres). Rest and acclimatization day.
Dec. 18: Carry a load to Camp I at approximately 16,300 ft. (4,968 m).
Dec. 19: Rest Day
Dec. 20: Move to Camp I.
Dec. 21: Carry a load to Camp II at 17,500 ft. (5,334 m). Return to Camp I.
Dec. 22: Move to Camp II.
Dec. 23: Carry a load to Camp III, below the Polish Glacier at 19,200 ft. (5,852 m).
Dec. 24: Move to Camp III.
Dec. 25: Traverse to our High Camp, Piedras Blancas (White Rocks) at 19,400 ft. (5,913 m).
Dec. 26-27-28: Summit! Weather permitting. 22,834 ft. 6960 m.
Dec. 29: Descend the Normal Route to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp, 13,800 feet.
Dec. 30: Hike out the Horcones Valley, Night in Penitentes, 8,500 ft.
Dec. 31: Drive to Mendoza.
Jan. 1: Start flying home
Jan. 2: Arrive home
Phone call from Penitentes 12/13/2006
Just finished packing the mule bags, weighing the bags, and getting them ready for transport up the Vacas Valley in the morning.
Happy here at 8,000 feet. Had a little acclimatization hike up the hill and that felt good. Much cooler than expected, but I know it will get much colder!!
Beautiful up here. Andes are multi-coloured and look a lot like other desert mountains I have seen. Excited to be out in the desert again. Apparently the weather was lousy up high today so we’re hoping for good weather as we move up high. I’m anxious to get moving up the valley!
Team on their merry way! 12/13/2006
This message was received via email from Aventuras Patagonicas:
The group left happy for Penitentes today.
They will be hiking to Base Camp tomorrow AM.
They should be reaching Base Camp in 4 more days.
They all look very excited and things are going well.
Jason Thomas, the Lead Guide, will call us via Satellite Phone every 3-4 days for updates.
Please do not get worried if you do not hear from me in a few days after a report since I may be busy getting other Expeditions ready.
All the best and let’s wish them luck and some good weather!
Heading towards the Mount 12/13/2006
The time is near…heading out this morning to secure our permits for the mountain and then driving to Penitentes for the night. We start our trek to basecamp tomorrow. It´s a three day hike. The mules will carry our gear so we can acclimitize at first without heavy packs. From basecamp, things get much more arduous.
The team is great and has folks from Canada, the US, the UK, and South Africa: a true international team. We have three guides-from the US, Canada and Chile.
I´ll think of everyone over the next weeks. Take good care and keep me in your thoughts.
My Bags are Packed 12/12/2006
I´m always happy when my bags are packed and ready to go. My anxiety about a trip funnels around until I have made all my gear decisions and then it just melts away and I´m ready to go. I´ve met our guides and learned that the park closed our proposed route because of conservation issues so we´re going to try a new hybrid one that combines the Vacas valley with the Guacanos. My roommate is from South Africa living in the United Kingdom. Her bags are missing and I feel so bad for her. Thank you to the baggage goddess.
I meet the rest of the team tonight over huge Argentine steaks and we head towards the mountain in the morning. I´m eager to stop thinking about hiking and climbing and to start hiking and climbing. Thanks for all your wonderful send-off thoughts and wishes.
Take good care. Catch you via satellite phone.
In Mendoza 12/11/2006
After 26 hours of travel, I’ve landed in Mendoza. The sun is still very high in the sky and the temperature a balmy 25 degrees at 8:00 pm. It’s amazing what you can do in a plane. I actually slept pretty well last night on the 11 hour flight from Toronto to Santiago. It’s great to be back in Argentina and I look forward to sampling some asado (Argentine Barbeque) real soon. I meet the rest of the expedition members tomorrow evening.
Here’s the URL for Aconcagua Summit weather forecasts : http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/Aconcagua.0to3top.shtml
I had one last vanilla dip yesterday at the St. John’s airport… though if I had had Chilean pesos I could have had a Dunkin’ Donuts Vanilla Dip in Santiago (a distant cousin to Tim’s version).
Aconcagua Itinerary 12/11/2006
Dec. 12: Meet the group members in Mendoza, Argentina.
Dec. 13: Drive West from Mendoza to Penitentes ski area at 8,500.
Dec. 14-15-16: 35 mile trek to Plaza Guanacos Base Camp.
Dec. 17: Plaza Guanaco Base Camp at 13,000. Rest day.
Dec. 18: Carry a load to Camp I at approximately 15,200.
Dec. 19: Move to Camp I.
Dec. 20: Carry a load to Camp II at 16,500. Return to Camp I.
Dec. 21: Move to Camp II.
Dec. 22: Carry a load to Camp III, below the Polish Glacier at 17,800 .
Dec. 23: Move to Camp III.
Dec. 24: Carry to High Camp, Piedras Blancas (White Rocks) at 19,200.
Dec. 25: Move to High Camp.
Dec. 26-27-28: Summit! Weather permitting.
Dec. 29: Descend the Normal Route to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp.
Dec. 30: Hike out the Horcones Valley, Night in Penitentes.
Dec. 31: Drive to Mendoza.
Jan. 1: Start flying home
Jan. 2: Arrive home
Happy St. Nicolas Day, 12/10/2006
“My bags and packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, already I am so lonesome, I could cry….” Those of you who have seen my presentations know I’m a big fan of 80’s music and the above lyrics always come to mind when I am about to leave on a jet plane. My duffle bags are loaded with clothing and equipment to help keep me warm, dry, and safe on Aconcagua. For me, my anxiety about an upcoming adventure always plays through when making gear choices. Sometimes I get into a pattern of thinking that if I can only pick the “right” gear, everything will be okay.
Fortunately, I’ve had enough experience to see the flaws in that thinking on many levels. With all of my new clothing, I’m not sure how the various pieces will work together but that is part of the reason for this expedition. It’s a “shake-down” trip–it will provide the opportunity to test out my new clothing, gear, and training as well as set a new personal altitude record (weather and health allowing).
I watched an Aconcagua DVD last night that a friend had sent me. It gave a realistic picture of the next three weeks…much of the climb involves arduous climbing over scree slopes and almost constant winds. I’ve been watching the weather reports for the mountain for the past few weeks and it does seem like the winds have begun to drop some and I’m hoping we get the weather window we need to summit. Aconcagua is famous for its sudden and viscous storms called “El Viento Blanco” – The White Wind. Hoping and praying we can steer clear of such maelstroms. Here is the URL for Aconcagua summit weather:
I fly tonight and arrive in Mendoza, Argentina on Monday evening. I meet the expedition members on Tuesday and we get under way on Wednesday. Thursday we begin the 35-mile trek to base camp. I’m hoping to be able to call out updates while on the mountain so please check my website often. You can now see a picture of Aconcagua on the front page.
Given I was throwing a pity party for myself about missing Christmas, I created a fun Christmas card for my presentations last week. I want to send it out to all of you to wish you the very best this holiday season. It’s a big file so I can’t send it directly to you but for the next 7 days you can see it on You Tube and play it on your computer-it’s a QuickTime movie. Click on this URL to watch my Christmas card:
You have to imagine Feliz Navidad playing in the background intstead of the self-composed piece…I didn’t have the rights to you it…so make sure you hmm Feliz Navidad….I want to wish you a Merry Christmas…while it is playing…
Since some folks might not want to download a file, I’ve attached a still image of the card to this email and put one in the “TA’s Road to Everest” photo gallery on my site-but do check out the “real meal deal” if you can. It was so fun to watch the kids’ faces as they grasped what was happening as my Christmas card played…a ripple of excitement and laughter went through each crowd and they would point and squeal with delight. (now if that’s not enough to get you to download it… 🙂
It was a HUGE week. Tuesday morning we had a snowstorm and in a heartbeat, I thought my Aconcagua climb might be over. I went out to shovel snow and wrenched my back-that kind of moment and pain that takes your breath away. I knew instantly that I’d hurt myself and I hobbled upstairs to stretch, get drugs and sit on the heating pad. Fortunately again, in the end it was a minor pull and with quick attention from the Athletic therapist at work, I’m back to almost full capacity. It was an intense lesson in impermanence and how quickly plans can change. I had planned to taper my training this week anyway, but the injury forced me to take a few days off earlier than I expected-probably not a bad thing…so I do feel relatively rested and ready for a big physical challenge. Hoping to get out for one last hike today before the 24 hours of travel.
Tuesday’s event went very well. People braved the snow to come out and see the show. It was fun to reflect on how much the show and I have changed since last April when I last presented in that venue. We reached our fundraising goal for the event and started selling tickets for the next one. Get out your calendars and block off February 18th, 7:30 pm…TA’s Road to Everest Part Two…this show will cover the Elbrus and Aconcagua climbs and give an intimate preview of the Everest climb. Tickets will be for sale in January and I’m hoping to fill the INCO theatre to the rafters.
I end every presentation these days asking the audience a question, “What is your Everest? What is a project or dream that you have that would be like an Everest to you?” Peter, a seven-year-old son of a friend, attended Tuesday’s presentation. On Friday, it was his turn to give the news report to his class. He told them about Tuesday’s presentation and about me climbing Everest and then he asked his peers what their Everest was…Hearing the story Friday night, I just about melted into a puddle on the locker room floor.
Endurance training comes in many forms and though I did little physical training this week, I trained for endurance. Thursday morning at six we began the drive out to Grand Falls-Windsor in central Newfoundland. Five hours later we arrived in time to grab a very quick bite and headed to Exploits Valley High to do two back-to-back presentations. Thursday night I talked at a dinner that was organized for my visit and Friday, I gave two presentations at Leo Burke Academy in Bishop’s Falls before heading to Eastport to end the barnstorming tour at Holy Cross School. In all, I presented to over 1000 young people and 100 adults.
I loved every minute of it though I was a crispy critter by Friday afternoon when we got back to St. John’s around 6 pm. In 36 hours, we drove 10 hours, presented six times, visited Tim Horton’s six times, and now as a result…I can’t even look at a Tim’s. I imagine I won’t be able to go near one until at least the New Year :-). Between presentations on Thursday, I taped an interview at Roger’s Cable and I will appear on “Grand Central,” a local cable TV show” in Central on Tuesday evening and then in St. John’s next weekend-all of you will cable can tune in and see me on the show-those without can see a picture of my on the set in the TA’s Road to Everest Gallery.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to the organizing committee in Grand Falls-Windsor for all of their hard work in making my visit possible. I’ve been committed to getting off of the Avalon Peninsula and their hard work enabled me to do that in a fun, efficient, and rewarding way. Thanks as well to Judy for her driving and road crew support.
Savor this update since there won’t be another one in your in-box for a few weeks. Please do send your thoughts, some energy, prayers, and good wishes my way for the next while. Enjoy your holiday festivities and follow along on the climb through my website. Wishing you joy and light and compassion.
Total Vanilla Dips this week = 3, Total for the Climb = 21
Happy December, 12/3/2006
Can’t believe another week has gone by…wow…this time next week I’ll be winging my way towards Aconcagua and there is much to be done before then. I took the Everest-007 road show off of the Avalon Peninsula this week. On Monday, I traveled to Clarenville to talk to 500 kids in two schools and the Rotary Club of Clarenville who were picking up the tab for the gas. It was a whirlwind day with three set-ups and three take-downs, four hours of driving and three hours of training. And by the end of that very full day, it was still only Monday.
My leg injury had the decency to heal quickly-I think my body was just asking for a rest day last week so I was back at it (with care) this week. I continue to eek out strength gains in the gym and make progress with the hypoxic training. The Go2Altitude machine sucks oxygen out of the air so instead of 21% oxygen, I breathe 12% oxygen through my mask while walking uphill on the treadmill. My O2 saturation drops a little less every day. Twelve percent oxygen is the equivalent of 4500 metres above sea level. At the end of every session, I dial down the oxygen a bit further to 9% as to show my body “the summit” of Aconcagua. It is a real privilege to have such advanced gear to train on.
Along with being a bear with little brain with little oxygen, I continue to ride my bike, do weights, and hike Signal Hill with a pack. I’m beginning to taper my training a bit in advance of the big physical challenges that wait week after next. I’m hoping to go into the climb feeling fairly fresh, though that may be a stretch given the big week I have ahead of me. The weather continues to be very cold and windy on Aconcagua. I’m hoping the next three weeks coax it to ease up and remember it’s summer in the Southern hemisphere.
There are still tickets available for Tuesday night’s event-7:30 at the INCO theatre-tickets are $10 and will be available at the door. It will be the last opportunity to get toques ($15) as this order is selling very fast–there will also be T-shirts ($20) and carabiners ($5) for sale as well.
I attended a Buddhist training this weekend and spend hours and hours sitting in meditation. It’s remarkable how “doing nothing” can be so exhausting. As is everything, it was great training for Everest where patience and the ability to sit out cabin (a.k.a. tent fever) will be critical. The theme of the training was fearlessness…developing it and nurturing it…that goes right along with my goal to do something every day that scares me. One of the sayings of the weekend was (in my own words), “you cannot know fearlessness until you’ve walked (or sat) through fear.” We don’t lose our fear by running away from it rather by walking towards it. Pema Chodron, a well-known Western Buddhist nun always tells stories of “running towards the biting dog.”
This week I’m heading out to Grand Falls-Windsor to do six talks in two days-that’s part of my endurance training. Thursday December 7th some very kind folks in GFW are hosting a fundraising dinner at 7 pm at the Legion-tickets are $15. Spread the word to anyone you know out Central way…they can contact me for more information.
I attended a performance of “Our Divas Do Christmas” on Thursday night. It was fun to take a night off and do something different. During all the Christmas music, it dawned on me that for all practical purposes, I was going to “miss” Christmas this year and got quite sad about it (yup-I’m kinda stunned having just figured that out now). After licking my wounds for a bit, I found a Santa Hat and some candy canes to take along, a friend found me some battery-powered lights for the tent, and I’ll hang out some socks on Christmas Eve and see if Santa delivers to high camp on Aconcagua.
It won’t be my first Christmas away from home-as I spent one on a mountain in Mexico and one in South Africa but since I finally managed to spend my first Christmas last year home in Newfoundland, I know now what I am missing! Fortunately, my friends Russ and Michelle are throwing their annual Christmas Bash early in this year so I can attend so I’m off to my first (and only) Christmas Party this year…
Have a good week,
Total Vanilla Dips this week = 1, Total for the Climb = 18