My Failed Aconcagua Attempt
This was supposed to be the third mountain of the seven summits conquest post, where I tell you how proud I was to have climbed the highest mountain outside of Asia – Aconcagua (6,961 m or 22,838 ft).
But unfortunately this is not going to be that narrative. This is an account about how this became one of the most valuable lessons that I learnt from climbing. This lesson is that success is not always achievable no matter how well prepared or how hard you think you trained; if it is not meant to be, then you need to accept and learn from it.
It took me some time to write this post, as I spent time to reflect on why I felt I had failed and what I could have done to prevent myself from failing. This was my first real taste of failure on the mountains and it did make me doubt myself; I had been so sure that I would succeed. I had no doubt in my mind, for me failure was not an option. I was disappointed, I had not imagined not succeeding or if you wish to call it ‘fail’, yet I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.
Whilst reflecting, a question kept coming to mind, ‘What is failure?’. Upon analysis I learnt that there really is not such thing as failure, we often use this word failure as an ultimate end, and we believe that means to accept defeat, because we did not achieve the desired result. Yet if we process and analyse the events to determine what the cause of failure is, then we learn what corrective action we can take, to ensure next time the outcome will be success.
During this analysis of why I did not succeed to climb Aconcagua I learnt that my initial mistake was over confidence. It did not matter how much I had trained, researched or that I had all the right equipment, and the best guide – none of this matters on the mountains. I chose not to heed advice and my own research regarding altitude sickness, which was the main reason I did not reach further than the higher camp.
Fear of failure is a powerful force always in the back of your mind, it terrifies you, and anyone who has experienced this, knows it is a personal blow that is heart-breaking. There I was on December 18th at the Aconcagua National Park, getting my permit and about to set off on my first day; feeling I can conquer not just a mountain but the world. All that came crashing down and I questioned everything, even doubting my own capabilities and why I was even doing this.
What business did a banker from Qatar have climbing mountains, risking his own life, why was I even doing this? But I overcame this, at the time I was frustrated, felt it was a failure, however I am glad I did not succeed as it helped me to achieve success months later on Mount Everest and Lhotse.
As I looked out of the helicopter, leaving Mount Aconcagua behind, I took this selfie which reminds me of how disappointed I was that I had failed, how exhausted I felt and looked.
There is a reason why taking Diamox for altitude sickness is recommended, I had used it on both my climbs to Kilimanjaro and Elbrus, yet this time I chose not to take it, which as a result led to me developing altitude sickness at (???M). In hindsight I should have taken it, however as I learnt later on the two other climbing companions that were on the same trek as me, were unable to make the summit due to weather conditions. Maybe fate had played a hand in deciding that this mountain was to teach me a lesson.
Anyone that is going to climb mountains or take on the seven summits eventually gets to Aconcagua. It should have been a three-week expedition, below is my experience up to the higher camp which may help you to prepare for your climb and learn from my climb to succeed on your own.
Head Office: +971 4 4472 166. Kuwait. Jordan. United Arab Emirates
Permit: The cost of the permit is expected to be around 800 USD and it is paid directly in Argentina in cash.
Visa – visa obtaining time frame depends on the nationality.
Arrival and departure airport: Mendoza (MDZ) It is recommended to book flexible ticket on departure in case of any delays. There are several options for flights depending on your preference of airlines, budget, and stopover.
Travel insurance: Travel insurance and evacuation cover is compulsory. Ensure the travel insurance is applicable on mountains.
Day 1: 16th Dec – Mendoza
Arrival in Mendoza (760 m / 2,493 ft). Our driver picked me up at the airport and drove me to the hotel. After checking into your room, you can relax or explore the many sidewalk cafes of the city. The trip guide also contacted me about next day’s schedule.
Day 2: 17th Dec – Mendoza to Penitentes
Transfer in private vehicles from Mendoza to Penitentes about a 3-hour drive, where the night is spent in a lodge (2,580 m / 8,465 ft). This small mountain village is where the warehouse is and where loads for the mules are prepared.
Day 3: 18th Dec – From Penitentes to the trailhead
After breakfast, we rode in a van for a few minutes to the Horcones Valley (2,950 m / 9,678 ft). Here we got our climbing permits stamped at the rangers check point and begin the approach to base camp. After a gentle 3 to 4-hour hike, we arrive at our first camp, Confluencia (3,390 m / 11,300 ft). For the entire hike you will be carrying only a day pack with some essentials, as the mules take care of the heavy duties.
Day 4: 19th Dec – Confluencia
South Face viewpoint – Confluencia (4,050 m / 13,287 ft).
We take a detour to admire the imposing South face of Mt. Aconcagua. The main objective of the day is acclimatization. After a 7-hour hike we spend the night in the first camp.
Day 5: 20th Dec – Confluencia, Plaza de Mulas
After a demanding 7-hour hike we arrive at our well-equipped Base Camp (4,350 m / 14,500 ft).
Day 6: 21st Dec – Plaza de Mulas
Rest day in Plaza de Mulas. Sleeping, reading in the dining tent or trying the yoga mats in our heated domo; whatever you do, get hydrated!
Day 7: 22nd Dec – Cerro Bonete
Cerro Bonete trek (5,004 m / 16,417 ft). An acclimatization hike around 5 to 6-hours to the neighbouring Cerro Bonete with a remarkable view of the West Face of Aconcagua and a 5,000 mt peak bagged.
Day 8: 23rd Dec – Plaza Canada
Gear is carried to Plaza Canadá (5.050 m / 16,568 ft).
The team climbs 3 to 4-hours to the first altitude camp to carry part of the gear and then returns to Plaza de Mulas.
Day 9: 24th Dec – Plaza de Mulas
Rest day in Plaza de Mulas, where you can treat yourself to a hot shower (a reward after completing the first stage of the climb).
Day 10: 25th Dec – Plaza de Mulas
Plaza de Mulas – Plaza Canadá (5,050 m / 16,568 ft).
The team leaves base camp and moves to the first camp. First step of the summit push around 2 1⁄2 -3 hrs.
Day 11: 26th Dec – Plaza Canada
Plaza Canadá – Nido de Cóndores (5,560 m / 18,241 ft).
The team moves to the second camp, which takes around 4 hours. Here you can expect to carry a 18-22 kg backpack.
Day 12: 27th Dec – Nido de Cóndores
Nido de Cóndores – Cólera (high camp) (5,970 m / 19,586 ft).
Move to the the highest camp of the trip, takes 2 to 3 hours. You’ll have dinner at almost 6,000 m. Unfortunately it was here that I suffered from Altitude sickness and had to abort my mission and return back.
Day 13: 28th Dec
This was supposed to be my summit day! (6,962 m / 22,841 ft)