A wild idea came to our minds to climb Aconcagua. The Argentina border was opening November 1, 2021 to tourism and the Park Rangers were issuing climbing permits starting the beginning of 2022. We rushed to book the first available date to attempt the mountain. We had a rather open schedule, but as our twin Three year old girls could not tag along with this adventure they needed to hang back with the grandparents who were prepping to drive south in late January. The thoughts of climbing this mountain was not totally out of the blue, I had been thinking, talking and dreaming about the summit of South America for the last 15 years. With the deadline now set, where do we start with the planning? And there was a lot of loose ends to take care of. Like any large scale project, it works best to have an amazing team on your side and let the experts in their field take care of their specialties. We contacted Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Vernon about acquiring some gear and aiding us in gathering it up within the six weeks prior to us flying out. Dealing with the current pandemic, end of the year inventory and not to mention the BC flooding that isolated the lower mainland from the rest of the world, proved to be unwanted challenges to obtaining the gear in time. We contacted a local travel agent as well to help with flights and keep on top of the everchanging travelling hurdles during these challenging times. They also provided us with confidence and required insurance for any situation that may spring up both before and during our next life adventure. Over the past year or so we have been following a reputable Argentinian guide company that had been providing expeditions to Aconcagua for the last 45 years. We cannot say enough good things about Grajales Expeditions. They were able to answer all our questions, made all our arrangements for travel, transfers, food, accommodation for a smooth and seamless expedition.
As flying in a Canadian winter, we did not want to risk our trip with a weather delay so we chose to arrive in Mendoza a few days early to smooth out any kinks, get the time change sorted and relax in the summer heat before meeting the group; not to mention enjoy New Years and wander the streets of this new to us country.
With all these details now being outsourced, all we had to do was get ourselves prepared. We just came off a very active summer that was filled with multi-day hiking trips like the Juan de Fuca Trail and Lyle Lakes. Not to mention multiple day trips like Twin lakes, Joss Mountain, Pinnacle Lake and even a 4-day bike tour on the Kettle Valley Railway. Shannon attends the gym regularly and I have a job that keeps me on my feet but I had been topping it up with some 10km runs through out the week. We just had to keep it up and maintain our fitness level and we felt comfortable. We have had previous high altitude experience down in Ecuador and other places and understand the symptoms. But after meeting with our doctors we were given a prescription for diamox which will help us acclimatize better on the mountain. I had various conversations with renowned mountaineer and keynote speaker, Al Hancock and he reminded us about the little things. The small details that can break you. What if you snap a boot lace or crampon strap, drop a glove or your goggles. What if your tent rips in the wind or you fall sick on the mountain side. How to be mentally prepared for the unpredictable situations and fight through the physical fatigue.
With everything we could think of now in check we felt confident and ready for this opportunity that we created for ourselves. Aconcagua, The summit of South America. Highest peak in the western hemisphere. Highest peak in the southern hemisphere. Highest peak outside the Himalayas and the second highest mountain on the seven summits list.
The day finally came, all COVID test were completed and passed so we were now boarding the plane. After a painful goodbye to our girls we took a short flight to Vancouver. Our flight was delayed already. The captain came onto the loud speaker and informed us that the plane was overweight and we had to remove some of the luggage from below. As I watched two of our bags being rolled away I new we were in for a journey right from the start. After some peaceful discussions with the amazing ladies at Westjet in Vancouver, they realized the problem we would be having if we did not get those bags by tonight. So after a late dinner, some stress and the last flight of the night, our four Rab duffles were in our hands. We made our way to our hotel for what was left of the evening with hopes that tomorrow would move a bit smoother.
With early alarms we were back at the airport by six in the morning and ready to board the plane once again. Bags checks, tickets scanned and we were off to Montreal with a three hour layover. While departing Montreal we had another hoop to jump through that apparently everyone was in on except us. Somehow we had missed the memo that we were making a stop in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Not even our boarding passes knew we were heading there. With no visa in hand things actually went remarkable smooth as we departed the plane, cleared customs then re-boarded the same plane bound for Argentina. Now landing in Buenos Aires we just had to jump over to the domestic departures for our last flight of our seemingly endless travel day. Unfortunately this also meant relocating to a second airport on the other side of town. Nothing a local taxi couldn’t take care of. As we snaked our way through the lineup we found our selves on the other side of customs just 30 minutes before boarding, perfect timing! 1 hour later we were touching down in Mendoza at the foot of the Andies and the world famous wine country.
After a short shuttle ride, courtesy of our mountain guide company, we were settled into the Ritz Hotel located down town and within walking distance of everything we needed. We spent the next couple days, including breaking in the 2022 New Years, with walking the city, adapting to the 5-hour time change, and enjoying the Argentinean lifestyle before meeting up with the Grajales to start our expedition.
For the next leg of the journey, click here!