Journal for Aconcagua Trip.

January 5, 9:30pm

Packing for the trip.  Bought most of my food yesterday.  Feeling sick from Hepatitis A Booster shot on Wednesday.  I bought way too much food for the lunches.  I aimed for a 2000 calorie lunch throughout the day but ended up with 3000.  Will save the extra food for future trips.  Targets are 600 calories for breakfast, 2000 for lunch and 1500 for dinner.  All my equipment fills up one room and all my food fills up another.  Man this a lot of crap.  The tent is set up in the living room to test the internal guy line system.  I will soon cut a new polyethylene tarp to match the tent floor.  I'm thinking about what will be posted to the website already.

January 8, 10:20pm

All the food is packed.  I'm finally organized and very tired.  I played around with my new Garmin eTrex GPS and programmed it through the PC.  Very cool.  It's so light and even locks onto satellites inside the house.  My friend is leaving for Saudi Arabia and I'm going to miss her for the year or more she's gone.  I have much to come back to and much reason for keeping all my toes and fingers.  Now, to sleep...

January 11, 5:00pm

Sitting in the Atlanta airport with the rest of the team.  Spirits are high and jovial.  I finally met my climbing partner, Martin.  Cool guy.  We're discussing water filtration techniques and how we're going to move our gear up the mountain.  I'm now on the plane to Santiago, Chile.  The plane is packed to the gills.  I have a headache from dehydration and lack of sleep.

January 13, ??

After a day waiting in the Santiago airport and a day in Mendoza, we're anxious to get to the mountain.  We went to get our permits today at $160.00 apiece.  (They only accept cash, no travellers checks.  Make sure to use the WHITE form).  We purchased fuel at a hardware store for our white gas stoves.  The fuel is actually industrial solvent and smells like paint thinner.  There are internet Cafes here and we sent e-mails to loved ones from one of the kiosks.  Bottled water here comes with or without carbonation gas.  I slept the afternoon and went through my gear to pare down stuff for the light hike in.  The day was very relaxing.  The people here in Mendoza are friendly and cute :).

January 14, afternoon

At the hotel at Penitentes.  We weighed our bags to prepare for mule transport.  Mine was 32 kg, Martins was 30 kg and Warrens was 39 kg (too much).

January 15, 8:00am

At the Ayelan hotel in Penitentes.  Packing for the first day of hiking up to Confluencia.  The air is dry.  There are many people going up today.  I need to drink more water.  I'm excited about the trip but concerned about the weather too.  Clouds came in yesterday.  My climbing partner and I are getting along well.  The group seems level-headed and full of common sense.  We might have too much stuff for the approach to basecamp; we'll see.  I'm still in denial that this trip is really happening.  It's good that I'm not thinking about work anymore.  Martin's quote for the day: "God Speed."
January 15, 10:30pm
Martin and I are in the tent at Confluencia.  We had a wonderful day hiking from Puenta del Inca.  I ate all of my lunch but couldn't finish dinner.  We met three women from Seattle climbing the mountain.  They are going up Aconcagua slowly and will climb Denali in June.  It's a small world.  I'm amazed at what I see these people doing.  I'm farting like crazy in the tent and it's driving Martin nuts.  Lithium batteries are great in cold temperatures; my flashlight is very bright.  Martin's earphones and walkman batteries died.  The Horror; The Horror!  I need one of those 20 hour LED lights like Martin has.  Martin's quote for the day "If you could shit a Chia Pet, I'd be amazed." Copacetic means "very satisfactory."

January 16, ?? (As remembered)

The hike to Plaza de Mulas is long.  We hike down an extensive river bed that goes on forever.  Martin and I are getting along well.  Warren is feeling bad and will stay at a camp a thousand feet below Plaza de Mulas.  Martin and I stumble into Plaza de Mulas base camp at 14,400 feet.  We're at the equivalent of the top of Mt. Rainier.  We're out of breath and have no appetite.  It takes two of us to haul each mule bag from the collection area to our camp.  We set up the tent, collapse and go to sleep.

January 17, ?? (As remembered)

This is a rest day.  Martin and I sleep in.  We think about going on a day hike but simply moving around is too tiring.  By the end of the day, Martin and Bob Evans have ascended 500 feet and scouted the area.  I feel awful with a headache.  Twice I dump my intestines into the latrine.  It might have been the tap water I drank in Chile.  Just before bed, I load up with Immodium A-D, Ciproflaxin and Ibuprofen.  Tomorrow is not looking to promising.  Martin is working hard to encourage me and lift my spirits.

January 18, ?? (As remembered)

I feel much better this morning.  Martin and I clean up camp and prepare to carry our first load up to Canada camp.  We start walking by 9:30am and Martin follows right behind me.  A large group ahead of us (Martin's term for large groups is "clusterfuck") leads in the near distance.  I feel good for a while until my debilitating headache comes back.  Looking back down at basecamp, Plaza de Mulas is a sea of tents.  After five hours of struggling, we finally make it to Canada camp and drop our loads.  We rest for a minute and proceed back down.  My headache is much worse and every downhill step sends a wave of pain through my temples.  We plod into camp and I force down food and water until my headache goes away.  We have Spicy Thai Chicken and Cream of Broccoli soup for dinner.  Michael Wong and I discuss the intellectual and faith driven side of religion after dinner.  Martin and I set up a basecamp tent to hold our extra gear while we're up on the mountain.  As we prepare to sleep, Martin demonstrates extreme flatulence.  My headache returns.

January 19, 12:11pm

This has been the most adverse day.  I didn't sleep one minute due to my pounding, splitting headache.  Neither food, nor water or eight ibuprofen had any affect on my headache during the night.  I peed seven times.  I staggered over to the doctor's tent at 7:15am to have them take a look at me.  The doctors diagnose me with HAPE (high-altitude pulmonary edema) and tell me I have ten minutes to pack a small bag to take on the evacuation helicopter.  Martin is dazed as I stuff money, electronics and my camera into my rucksack.  I asked Martin to hire a porter to get my gear down from Canada camp, send my stuff down on a mule and charge me later.  I waited in the staff tent for a few minutes and had tea with the doctors.  I gave them my four extra lithium AA batteries since they we're heating their alkaline batteries up over the stove to use them.  I got a picture with the two doctors and got their addresses so I could send a thank you note to them later.  The chopper is here!  Despite my headache, the chopper ride is amazing.  We fly over to the Hotel Refugio and pick up a British woman named Madeline who got HAPE at Berline camp and descended all the way back to Plaza de Mulas.  I feel ashamed that I only made it to Canada camp.  We land at the trailhead and the ranger signs our permits to check us out.  The chopper ride was free as part of the $160 permit fee.  After getting a ride back to the Ayelen hotel in a pickup truck, I bump into Peter Sidlauskas, who walked out the previous day.  I feel fine and my head clears up after two hours at the hotel.  The sickness was clearly altitude related.  I take a much needed shower since I'm covered with my own shit and then I hang out with Peter until leaves on the noon public bus back to Mendoza.  As I write, sitting here on the bed in my room, I'm trying to figure out logistics.  I'm worried that I strained the group and they have to deal with my scattered gear now.  I've probably strained Martin the most and I hope I don't hurt his summit attempt.  I know I probably couldn't have gone higher without hurting myself.  I'm scheduled to climb Denali in June, but I'm seriously considering cancelling the trip.  Losing the $1000 deposit doesn't bother me, but letting down my friends expectations does.  I'd better bring back some damn fine souvenirs.  Adversity breeds creativity. I need to start learning more Spanish now and hang out with other climbers to get tips on how to get my gear back and fly out.  If I'm lucky, my bags will be here tonight.  If not, I'll have to stay an extra day and deal with it later.  The world of the mountaineer is a small one.  Peter introduced me to several climbers who were hauling trash down the mountain.  They were part of "Leave No Trace"  I guess that or  All the climbers I meet at the hotel inspire me.  They've all been friendly to me and happy to help with information.  I'm tired and disappointed with myself.  I need to get over this self pity and move on to the rest of the trip.  Mountaineering is not for everyone.  So far the trip has been a success.  I'm alive with all my fingers and toes intact.  This being my first time to South America, I've learned much more about travelling.  Perhaps I'll put my $1000 Denali deposit towards a Nepal trek or something.  I think it's time to spend more energy on friendships and teaching others about mountaineering.

January 19th, 6:00pm

I ran into the AAI (Alpine Ascents International) group that will be climbing Aconcagua tomorrow and met Pat, Barbara Winkler's husband.  Barbara taught me at the AAI North Cascades climb school three years ago.  Pat says that Willie Prittie is up on Aconcagua today as well as Lakpa Rita Sherpa.  I also talked a bit with Matt, another AAI guide.  AAI is cybercasting the whole trip at

January 20th, morning

My bags didn't show up last night.  I had a great dinner and breakfast with the AAI folks.  Slept like a rock last night after I got over the adrenaline rush of yesterday's events.  I dreamed vividly about many of my friends.  I'm still thinking about the Denali trip.  Why go?  It's simply more of what I've already done.  More work, more coldness, more money, more headaches.  I could buy $3,500 worth of badly needed items for my church for the cost of the trip.  What is the end goal? What good for the world and society does mountain climbing do?  It's the idle-rich mans conquest.  The views from the top are great.  There is the simplicity of striving to survive without the complexity and distractions of society.  In mountaineering, the team works together to reach a common goal.  There is a true sense of accomplishment when one reaches the summit and returns home with fingers and toes intact (or maybe not intact).  There is the glory of boasting at parties and feeling unique in a world controlled by TV and media and money.  But who does it help?  How can I make everyday life have the same traits as mountaineering while still benefitting our world?  Simplicity.  Simplicity with struggle and without boredom.

January 20th, 12:21pm

I just finished having an insightful conversation with a German woman who's very happy with life.  She doesn't know why she travels or climbs mountains, but simply goes because it's in her heart.  Few know what lies in their own heart.  Most of the time, our hearts are drowned out by television and thoughts of money.  Overheard from another conversation: "Climbers are idealists who are trying to better themselves and society."  Warren is back from the mountain!  It took him two days to hike down from Plaza de Mulas to the trailhead.  I let him use my room for a shower and then we have lunch across the street.  The Refugio hotel at Penitentes is very cheap.  For six bucks I had a huge plate of salty fries covered with two eggs and a two-liter bottle of soda.  Warren and I waited at the bus stop for  the noon bus and talked with five climbers from Washington DC.  They recommended bringing more peanut butter, bringing in more heavy/gourmet food on the mules to basecamp, and treating ALL water with a filter.

January 20th, 2:00pm

After Warren catches the bus to Mendoza, I bump into Thomas  and Hans-Christian from Hvitserk Expeditions.  URL is or something like that.  It sounds like they have a cool sled dog trip across Greenland.  Their strategy for climbing Aconcagua is very different from ours.  They spend two nights at Penitentes and 7-8 days acclimatizing up at Confluencia and Plaza de Mulas, only spending four nights at remaining camps to the summit.  Our group intended to spend fewer nights at Plaza de Mulas and more at higher camps.  I don't know if this would have helped me or not. Throughout the afternoon, I talk with several climbers and ask them why they climb.  Most don't know why, they just do it (sounds like a Nike commercial).  I also met four athletic women from Idaho who just came down from the mountain and were celebrating reaching the summit: Sarah, Muffy, Laura and Kim.

January 20th, 6:48pm

There's a maze of passages under the pool among all the buildings!  I grab my headlamp and explore all the passages.  I guess this place was designed to be navigated while being submerged under 20 feet of snow.  (It is a ski-resort lodge after all).  Everyone is staying in one of the three buildings and the other two are unfinished.  Under the pool is a huge gas boiler to heat the water.  After exploring I eat dinner with another climbing group.  My bags finally show up at 9:00pm and I become excited about travelling back home.  My brain realizes that the trip is coming near to an end and I can't get to sleep until 2:00am because I'm thinking about stuff back at home.

January 21, 10:00am

I'm sitting at the Ayelen hotel.  All my stuff is packed.  I'll check out at eleven.  I took some last minutes pictures and shaved my nine-day beard with my electric shaver.  Ouch that hurts.

January 21, 4:00pm

I rode the public bus from the Ayelen hotel at noon to the Mendoza bus station.  $10 for this four hour trip is cheap. From the start, I met Hugh and Mark.  Hugh works for Lutheran World Relief (  I'll have to contact him after I get back to learn more.  I cruised at high-speed in an cab from the bus station to the airport listening to the best dance music in existence and screeched past Warren, who was waiting at the terminal.  Warren helped me exchange my tickets for the trip home.

January 22, 1:30am

I just filled out my customs form after watching a really bad Keanu Reeves film about football.  The sunset against the clouds earlier was spectacular and I felt a grand serenity as we flew over the Andes from Argentina to Chile.  As we now approach the USA at 560mph and 31,000 feet, I can feel the fast-paced consumer world coming back to me.  I've already thought about my job and what I'll do to start off.  Can't sleep...  How can I build simplicity into my life?  What's so complex about it now anyway?  What's my heart into?

January 22, 8:07am

At the Atlanta airport.  Left a message for Dad on his work phone so he'll get it when he gets in (5:07am his time now).  I say goodbye to Warren as he flies to SF and munch down some TCBY frozen yogurt.  Welcome back to the rat race.  I didn't taste my large TCBY anywhere near as much as the tiny cup of frozen yogurt between Mendoza and Santiago.  This isn't as crazy as Silicon Valley but things are still stressful.  I feel connected to those around me and they're all running around trying to get business done.  Business Monday as usual.  These people, however productive, don't inspire me.

January 22, 8:40am

Simple! Simplicity!  Video games are addictive because they block out the trivial things in life.  The only thing you have to do is survive or die.  Nothing else matters.  There is only One Thing.  What is that One Thing for me?  Mountianeering is also about simple survival.  Pursue One Thing.  When bored, pursue another One Thing.  I juggle so many little things and get lost in the business.  Sports are the same: work with your team on One Thing: to win.  What does that mean for me?  What is my One Thing I can pursue in everyday life, not just on vacations?  For each facet of life, list the following: an activity, the goal of the activity, a way to objectively measure distance to the goal.  Back to the real world...

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