I spend a few beautiful sunny days in relaxing Mendoza, before venturing out into the mountains once again. Parque Provincial Aconcagua contains the enormous mountain of the same name, which at 6,962 meters is the tallest mountain on the continent, drawing hordes of serious mountain climbers. Passes to enter the park are expensive, and even now in the low season a 20-day climbing pass is USD$300. A group of foreigners I meet have paid USD$2750 each for an all-inclusive summit attempt, of course with no guarantees.
The surrounding mountains are spectacular in their own right, though my attention constantly focuses on the glacier capped Aconcagua, constantly visible while hiking the approach trail. I’m lost in my thoughts of a solo summit attempt, and seriously toy with it in my mind. Arriving at the Confluencia base camp (3,300m) is a little surreal, with permanent dome tent-like structures, kitchens, solar panels and even a volleyball court, it looks like just I’ve always pictured a serious mountain base camp.
Well, I guess it is.
The sun is beating down and the wind howling through camp, making setting up my tent quite a chore and coating everything I own in a thick layer of sand – even the inside of my tent. After a cold, cloudy afternoon of hiking and mountain gazing I finish cooking dinner with numb hands and feet and crawl into my tent in the midst of driving snow and howling wind. For over an hour I curl up in my sleeping bag trying to warm up, my tent flapping furiously the entire time. I can’t imagine what the weather must be like higher up on the mountain, and don’t even want to think about it.
It’s freezing in the morning when I set out for the seven hour round-trip hike to Plaza Francia (4,200m), another camp higher up the mountain. It’s an extremely beautiful day and after hiking to the toe of Glacier Horcones Inferior in sunshine, I turn back and battle a seriously cold head wind all the way back to camp, and down to the parking area.
I’m completely tired out when I arrive, and at my wits end from the relentless howling wind. It’s pretty clear in my mind I have no intention of battling this and much, much worse for 20 days.
I’m content just looking at the summit, I don’t need to try and go there.