news  2 0 0 1

Diary of the Aconcagua climb

Date: January 3, 2001
Place: Plaza Argentina, Base Camp
Elevation: 14,000 feet, 4200 meters

Today shaped up to be quite an adventure! We awoke this morning and gathered around the kitchen for breakfast. Cereal, cocoa, powdered milk, and dried fruit were a good way to start the day. Everyone seemed to have slept well, and people were excited to get the day going.

Mark, David D, and Petr set off early to climb to Camp 1. Marco, Lisa, and Vittorio set off to climb a snowy col, and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the south face of Aconcagua.

Not long after breakfast, the remaining base campers were enjoying the refuge of their tents, the soft wind, and the warm sun. Some decided to do a little laundry downstream from the camp. The glacial runoff and accelerating winds made fingers cold but clothes clean. A little bouldering on the surrounding rocks made the work go faster. With little warning, the winds began to accelerate and gusts were difficult to stand against. As we scrambled to secure our loose belongings, the gusts became constant and the dust was whipping by at over 60 miles per hour. With no natural protection from the winds, the tents bowed and shook and anything that was not tied down flew too fast to catch. David P, Todd and Greg took down the kitchen tarp. The wind was howling so fast that at least one person had to lay down on it while to other two stuffed it under him.

As we were working to build more rock walls and secure our tents, David D’s tent, which had been having problems with the wind, groaned and creaked and basically collapsed. David P and Doug worked to secure it and his belongings while Elise and Todd carried rocks to stabilize anything they could. As the wind died down, Greg, David D, Doug and others worked to make a new platform for David D’s tent. Being that there are so many climbers at base camp, the most protected sites were taken when we arrived two days ago and we had to make due with rock walls and heavily weighted guy-wires.

Without warning, the winds accelerated even more. Lisa and Marco’s tent inverted and began to tumble across camp. David P and Todd ran across and tackled it, preventing any further damage to it, other tents, or people. After securing it with rocks, everyone went back to building their rock walls and securing their tents. Spending 4 or 5 hours in the driving winds made everyone pretty tired, but through teamwork and strength, the camp is definitely more secure.

As the hikers straggled back into camp, we had a group photo on a nearby rock. While waiting for the last few people, an impromptu shadow-puppet competition began. David P and Todd cooperated into an eerie face with wandering eyes. After the photo shoot, Jay presided over a small religious communion service for anyone who was interested, and was blessed by his home priest.

The hikers went about rearranging their belongings, and the people who had been rebuilding camp all day relaxed a little. Vittorio is in charge of dinner, a pork and lentil mixture that smells wonderful. Tonight we will definitely relax, as well as organize bags and food for the first carry to Camp 1, tomorrow morning.

Sadly, two of our team must leave basecamp tomorrow. Mark T and Jay H will hike all the way to Las Lenas – the site of our first night on the trail – then to the trailhead the next day.

The heroes of the day are all the folks who kept camp from blowing down the valley: Todd, David P, Bob, Katherine, Greg, Jay, Tara, Chris and Doug.
Date: January 4, 2001
Place: Plaza Argentina, Base Camp
Elevation: 14,000 feet, 4200 meters

Camp awoke early today to bid farewell to two of our teammates, Mark and Jay. It was hard to loose members of the team already, but the week we have spent with them has been amazing, and both sides were sad at their departure.

Breakfast was cereal, milk, and dried fruit as had become custom. The breakfast gathering served as a great forum to discuss the following days plans. The original plan was to carry to Camp 1 today, return for the night, then repeat the next day. The third day was the final move to Camp 1. After discussing with the climbers and Jordi, who has been monitoring the group, the plan was changed. Today would be the carry to Camp 1, and tomorrow would be the final move up.

The group went out in waves. Doug, Emilio, Marco and Lisa made it out of base camp first, while Greg and David P brought up the rear. The hike took approximately three hours, and was over loose soil and scree rocks. Most of the climbers described the climb as "not bad, but not pretty". Some of the ice buriend under the rock and dirt has faultedu up, making 20-30 foot walls of ice in the middle of rock. The front groups began to arrive in Camp 1 around 3:00 pm. Approximately 15 spots for tents make up Camp 1. The team put their gear on four spots. These spots were described as "exposed" by some and "great views" by others. The team is hoping that some of the more wind-protected spots may free up tomorrow as groups ascend or descend.

As the rest of the carry team came into camp, gear was unpacked and stashed in the campsites. Mostly the carry consisted of personal climbing gear, group climbing gear, stoves, fuel, and other items that were not needed in base camp or for the final climb to Camp 1 tomorrow. Most of the team spent about an hour at Camp 1 (16,000 feet, 5000 meters) to help acclimatize before beginning the walk down. [This "Climb High, Sleep Low" method is the most common way to acclimatize to altitude] Additionally, our short- and long-range radios were tested for communication to Base Camp, and everything worked wonderfully.

As their hour at altitude ended, the team members began the hour and a half descent to Base Camp. The Base Camp crew had spent the day filtering water, organizing the camp, organizing and labeling food for the summit and base camp teams, reading, charging batteries, and talking with others from camp. The team received a call from Ray at Minimed, and was happy to report that all the pumps are working wonderfully.

Apparently the cable for the satellite antenna was damaged in the winds yesterday, but some creative electronics (and duct tape) by Todd and David P got it working just fine. Todd and Jeremy showed off the satellite and solar technology to an interested guide from Chile. We thought we were bad with our technology, but he pulled out his Palm Pilot to take notes about companies and hardware. He had also worked as an ambulance technician many years ago, so was very interested in our stories about diabetes, the pumps, pens and monitors, as well as our outlook on the disease.

The final team members are filtering into camp, and preparations are being made or their arrival. More water is being filtered (and endless task when the recommended minimum is 5 litres per person per day) and a dinner of tomato based soup and dumplings is taking shape. Tonight will be quite busy, as our comfortable camp will be taken apart to send many of the tents to Camp 1 tomorrow. Our now organized homes and gear will all be shifted and shuffled to maximize space and efficiency for both Camp 1 and Base Camp. Additionally food needs to be analyzed and packed for the rest of the summit attempt. Once the team leaves base camp, thee are no plans to return, so this organization is crucial to a well fed but not overburdened summit team.

The sun is beginning to set now, although being so high it finally sets as late as 8:00. Although nobody wants the winds from yesterday, it was still from Base Camp up to Camp 1, making it a hot, dry day (up to 60 degrees F at Camp 1). The wind is picking up, and an immense cloud that has been forming on the horizon for several hours is fortunately blowing by. We are all ready for a hot dinner, some hard work, and a good night’s sleep. Each team member has expressed how much he or she enjoyed sending personal messages the other night. Since we are very busy and trying to conserve batteries, we cannot do it as often as we wish. But let it be known that each team member expresses their love and thanks to their loved ones, their excitement and pride in IDEA 2000, and their hopes for a safe and successful summit and return home soon!

We are sorry this is half a day late. Discussions at dinner last night took a lot longer than anticipated. Despite language and climbing skill differences, long and thoughtful discussions led to the final plan for the summit attempt. January 5th will be a rest and pack day at base camp. The 6th will be the move to Camp 1. The 7th will be a carry to Camp 2, returning to Camp 1 to sleep. The 8th will be a move to Camp 2. The 9th will be the first summit attempt via the Falso des Polacos route.

This route was chosen so that the majority of the summit team can summit on the same day. After the summit, the team will return to base camp the same day. This long day will bring climbers back to the safety of lower altitudes. Additionally, it will allow climbers to attempt the Polish Direct route, which is more difficult and less conducive to group travel. Trekking team members may also make a bid for the summit via the Falso route if time and logistics permit.
Date: January 5, 2001
Place: Plaza Argentina, Base Camp
Elevation: 14,000 feet, 4200 meters

Good News!!! We can now, thanks to Jeremy, transmit images with our communications system, despite the dead modem.. Click on any links to see the image! (We have many more, but thought these would show the general idea of the expedition so far. From now on, there will be two or three daily images).

Today was the final rest day before leaving base camp for the summit. The morning was spent discussing logistics of the upcoming days. In case you missed it yesterday, January 5th will be a rest and pack day at base camp (a nice view!). The 6th will be the move to Camp 1. The 7th will be a carry to Camp 2, returning to Camp 1 to sleep. The 8th will be a move to Camp 2. The 9th will be the first summit attempt via the Falso des Polacos route.

Critical items such as food, rope team assignments, tent selection and other factors were discussed over breakfast (cereal and fruit, what else?). After discussions ended, the group broke to enjoy this rest day. Although everyone did some work (organizing food and personal gear, planning equipment and tent packing) we all enjoyed our day off. Some took off for hikes around the surrounding areas. Others bouldered and climbed on nearby rocks. Others napped and read and wrote in journals. Jeremy and Todd (mostly Jeremy) got the system set to allow us to send images.

We all kept in touch with our short-range radios as we roamed the surrounding area. After several days in Base Camp, it was nice to get out into the surrounding hills and relieve some cabin fever. Base camp team members double-checked their gear and skills so that we can remain self-sufficient when the summit team leaves tomorrow. Chef Panofsky is cooking up "macaroni and cheese" in the kitchen, although it only technically falls under that category. We also were treated to an appetizer of popcorn, a great treat!

Since we have not sent any pictures until today, we chose some representative images to show you what the trip has been like so far:

Signing 2000 fundraising postcards in the hostel in Mendoza. Planning meals and shopping lists in the hostel. Loading the gear onto the vans for the trip from Mendoza to the Penitentes. Dinner in a Mendoza restaurant.. ONE TON (literally) of IDEA 2000 gear ready to hit the trail. The scale of this region is incredible. Team members walking the ridge on the way to the first trek camp. New Year’s Eve at Casa de Piedra, Trek Camp 2. Jordi 'crosses' the river. Part of the team eating in front of Aconcagua.
Date: January 6, 2001
Place: Camp 1
Elevation: 16,000 feet, 5000 meters

Today started with breakfast (more cereal!) and final discussions about today’s move to Camp 1. Yesterday other groups had come down from the mountain, so hopes were high that the more protected campsites than were originally marked during yesterday’s carry would be free. As breakfast concluded, summit team climbers packed any remaining gear that they would need over the next four days. This included food, cooking gear, water filters, water storage, cold weather clothes, and other essentials that were not carried to Camp 1 yesterday. Additionally, Petr’s request to join the summit team was granted due to his acclimatization and comfort so far on the expedition. He packed up quickly (including the small plastic hammer given to him by his son) and set off with the team.

The group moved out of base camp in groups of two or three. Two short wave radios also accompanied the summit team so they could check in with each other and the Base Camp team during the climb. The trail to Camp 1 moves up a steep section of loose dirt and rock scree, and then disappeared around the left of the large rock face that faces Base Camp. This part took the climbers about one hour, forty minutes. The team was treated to a field of penitentes, two- to four-foot high spikes of ice jutting out of dirt pits – a phenomenon caused by high altitude winds and sun combined with glacial ice and runoff. The climb then flattened out (relatively!) for an hour and a half. This section featured craters in the rock filled with water from the glacial runoff. Many of these had ice layers on top of the water.

Another field of penitentes met the climbers at this point. It was actually necessary to traverse through these ice structures to keep on the trail. Climbing groups were then forced to choose between an hour and a half of steep rock field and a snow hill to continue. This choice was a difficult one, because rock scree is loose and difficult to climb, with a possibility losing footing and sliding down the hill. The snow hill, on the other hand, requires climbers to kick steps into the snow, and is also slippery and easy to fall on. Personal preference dictated the choice, with approximately half choosing the scree and half choosing the snow.

This final steep section was difficult for all climbers. At such a high altitude and carrying significant weight in their packs, energy reserves were small and every step took considerable effort. Climbers of different levels of experience and varying approaches to such an obstacle chose different paces to overcome this final test of the day. Through teamwork, load sharing, and hard work, all team members were successfully at Camp 1 around 3:00pm.

On arrival, the group was happy to find that many of the less exposed campsites were vacant. Gear that was carried yesterday was relocated and five tents were erected. Stoves were lit so that the group could enjoy some tea (good both for warmth and liquid – two crucial factors in living at altitude). Dinner for the evening would be on a tent-by-tent basis. As many of you know, cooking at high altitude requires some modification to cooking methods. Many cake recipes define "high altitude" as 8000 feet. The summit team was now 6000 feet above this level. It is much easier to cook small batches of food, and much more pleasant to eat in the warmth of the tent as opposed to out in the open in a group!

Many climbers chose to go to sleep early, as sleep at altitude is often poor and restless. Although with all the energy expended today, they may have a restful night ahead. In our final radio conversation, David P told Todd that the group was doing great, and despite being tied from the day, he was extremely optimistic about the next few days. Depending on how the group feels tomorrow, the planned carry to Camp 2 may be postponed a day, to allow the team to rest and acclimatize.

David also reported that the team could not see the summit from Camp 1. Base Camp team members watched a dark and low clouds moving over the summit for most of the afternoon. Aconcagua is large enough to generate its own weather, and when the moist Pacific air is forced high into the atmosphere by its western side, severe weather can form. Happily, the cloud moved to the side of Camp 1 and dissipated. The winds were gusty at last report, but the protected site made the winds less severe than at base camp.

Base Campers spent the day moving and assuming all the duties of camp. Since most of the tents went with the summit team, Jeremy and Terra were forced to relocate. The radios were again tested and used for communication between the various groups of the summit team and base camp. Water was filtered, food was cooked, and daily updates were written. Jeremy accompanied the summit team to Camp 1, and returned in the late afternoon with images and descriptions. Dinner was spent discussing what we would rather be eating… Tomorrow several base camp members will climb to Camp 1 to bring additional items such as an extra water filter and water storage bag, more food, as well as to trade camera memory cards with Doug and Emilio, so that we can have images of Camp 1 life and Camp 2, if the carry is done tomorrow. Additionally there will be moe photos of Camp 1 life!
Date: January 7, 2001
Place: Camp 1
Elevation: 16,500 feet, 5000 meters (correction from yesterday)

Today the summit team carried gear and supplies from Camp 1 to Camp 2. The morning started with breakfast (cereal!) and hot tea. The group loaded up their backpacks with all the equipment they could afford to be without over the course of tonight.

The trip to Camp 2 took five and one half hours. There was no snow and the terrain was extremely steep and mostly loose rock. Doug described it as climbing a "vertical beach". David and Doug reported that the campsites at Camp 2 were extremely exposed to wind and weather. The team dropped their gear in the campsites and turned to leave for Camp 1. As they were departing Camp 2, a huge dark cloud came rushing over the summit ridge. The winds picked up, the temperature dropped, and ice crystal snow began to fall. The cloud blew down the eastern side of the mountain, keeping pace with the descending summit team.

The retreat from Camp 2 took approximately one hour. This speedy pace was due not only to the inclement weather, but also to the steepness and looseness of the terrain. As has been experienced by all team members at various points on Aconcagua, the descent was a combination of walking, skiing, and sliding. As the extreme cold and snow moved into Camp 1, Doug reported that the last summit team members were coming safely into camp. Petr decided that Camp 2 was high enough, and returned to Base Camp in front of the approaching storm. An hour later, David P called down to base camp to check in. He said that everyone on the team did a great job today, and was optimistic. There is the potential for a rest day tomorrow, and Marco and Vittorio agreed that a rest day was a good idea. As far as we know, the plan is to rest tomorrow. If the team is feeling good tomorrow morning, however, a move to Camp 2 is possible.

At last report, David had just returned from filtering water. The temperature had dropped to below freezing with the wind chill. As he poked a hole in the ice over the glacial runoff, the water refroze before filtering could be started. Everyone can see their breath in their tents, and the wind is picking up. Hopefully the team will have a restful night, despite the altitude, cold, and wind.

The Base Camp team also had cereal for breakfast (are you noticing a trend?) with hot cocoa and tea. Terra, Elise, and Todd planned to carry some extra gear to Camp 1 for the summit team (an extra water filter, bulk water storage bags, and a box of crackers). Jeremy rested at Base Camp after his trip to Camp 1 yesterday. David D also enjoyed a day at base camp. The carry team made it to 16,000 feet, but turned around after consulting with the Summit Team. The items they were bringing were not critical, and the incoming weather and already high winds (gusts to 60 mph) were factors in the decision. The final factor was remaining daylight, as the pace used by Todd (knee protection), Elise (fatigue from dehydration during a climb of the col two days ago), and Terra (fatigue from fighting the wind) was slower than necessary to return to Base Camp before dark.

As the Base Camp team reunited, the windstorm moved in. The team quickly set about distributing food and water to each tent, securing loose articles and protecting food and other items from damage from the impending storm. Everyone jumped into their tents and zipped in for the night. On a final trip though camp, we met a few climbers from Washington, DC. As soon as we mentioned diabetes, they yelled "IDEA 2000!!!" which was very exciting – apparently people are watching. As this update ends, the dark cloud is still on the summit, the winds are strong at 30 mph gusting to 60, the summit team is safe and all expedition members are doing well.
Date: January 8, 2001
Place: Base Camp
Elevation: 14,000 feet, 4200 meters

The night was windy at Base Camp and at Camp 1. The tents were rattling and the howling of the wind made it a difficult night for all. Base Camp awoke at 8:00 with a radio call from David at Camp 1: "Todd wake your lazy butt up!" Todd was sound asleep, and Elise got to her radio first.

David asked for a weather report for the next few days. The cloud that darkened the summit yesterday was still there, and the winds had not died down as hoped. Elise and Todd talked to the park rangers at their tent and asked for a weather report. There was no official report for the region (not sure why) but there was a large rainstorm over Santiago, Chile, which means bad weather for Aconcagua for at least the next two days.

David, Jordi, Doug, and Marco were all in the tent at Camp 1 discussing the situation when Elise radioed up the report. It only took about 2 minutes for the reply: "We’re coming down". While this seems a great disappointment, (and it is), days were planned into the schedule for just such an event, and often expeditions face several "up and back" trips before reaching the summit. It is better to walk down and climb back up than freeze or get blown off the side of the mountain. All summit team members are, of course, not looking forward to the extra trips up and down the mountain, but were prepared for this when they signed on, so spirits are high.

The team arrived at base camp between noon and 1:00pm. Some of the climbers made a fast descent, making the trip in about an hour. Others took a restful trip down, chatting with other climbing groups and taking pictures – about a two-hour trip. As they arrived into Base Camp, hot chocolate was awaiting the tired climbers. Tired but happy to be at lower altitude, the climbers ate lunch, gave reports of life at higher elevation, and set up tents for a hopefully restful night at base camp. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, planning the next few days, and watching the clouds on the summit. At first the day was clear up top, but by 3:00pm a large spinning cloud was streaming from the summit.

The plan as of now is to return to Camp 1 tomorrow, Camp2 the next day. Weather permitting, the next day will be a summit attempt. If the weather does not cooperate, he tem will wait it out at Camp 2. Extra food and supplies will be carried to allow a few days of bad weather. After summiting, the team will probably make the trip all the way to Base Camp. While this will make the summit day more than 16 hours long, the return to lower altitude and a warm meal prepared by base camp makes the effort worthwhile!

Terra, David D and Petr are leaving Base Camp tomorrow. David D’s flight and work arrangements had him leaving tomorrow anyway, and nobody was happy about him going down the rest of the way alone. Concern for David D as well as having been tentbound since last night (with the potential of being tentbound for another week) gave many good reasons to head home. Additionally, while the Base Camp support team is necessary, the workload is not enough to necessitate 6 people. Elise, Todd, and Jeremy will be the remaining Base Camp team for the rest of the expedition.

A final note about the weather. The team was talking around base camp and Vittorio was preparing to make a dinner of sauteed tuna, peas, and onions with a side of pasta in a parmesan cheese and olive oil sauce (we realize this sounds rather disgusting, but we assure you it was delicious). Suddenly the cloud that had been floating on the summit dropped into camp. Snow was blowing horizontally at 20-30 miles per hour. The temperature dropped suddenly and we were in a small storm. Fortunately it only lasted about a half hour. The cold and wind stayed around and made for a cold dinner. As of now, there is a tentative plan to go back to Camp 1 tomorrow, depending of course on weather and Summit Team feelings.

You can see more images at www.idea2000.org/expedition/
Date: January 9, 2001
Place: Plaza Argentina, Base Camp
Elevation: 14,000 feet, 4200 meters

Today was a restful day for all. The weather last night was calm, so many team members slept better than previous nights when the wind was howling and shaking the tents. After a traditional breakfast of cereal, David D, Terra and Petr set out on their two day hike back to civilization. While we all admit to be slightly jealous of hot showers, soft beds, and good food, we are all excited about the next few days. We wish them a safe hike out!

The Summit team decided to wait until noon to make a decision about the events of the day. Being that most of the gear was already at Camp 1 and Camp 2, the team could quickly move up to Camp 1 in the afternoon, if the weather looked favorable. Team members took advantage of the restful morning by napping, reading, and relaxing. Doug and Elise went for a small hike down the other side of the valley, and encountered barren, moon-like terrain.

The official weather report was given by the Park Ranger, "el guardia parka" at 3:00 pm. The weather is expected to be bad for at least the next two days. It is still raining in Santiago, and the humid Pacific air being forced high into the atmosphere by Aconcagua will continue to bring high winds, snow, and freezing temperatures. The Summit Team decided to stay at Base Camp today and tomorrow, with the following day questionable depending on the progress of the weather.

As this weather report was being given, in the middle of our lunch, the storm that had been on the summit began to grow and descend. Within a few minutes Base Camp was hit with 40 mile per hour winds, gusting to well over 60. The temperature dropped into the low 30’s and icy snow began to fall, often horizontally due to the winds. The clouds above camp swirled and mixed quickly, looking like a time-lapse video. The terrible conditions forced everyone into their tents for most of the afternoon. Again, we napped, read, and talked with our tentmates.

Happily, the strongest winds could not tear down our string of Prayer Flags. People who made donations of $100 or more received Buddhist prayer flags – pieces of cloth that are believed to send prayers and wishes to the spirit of the mountain every time the wind blows. We brought flags to camp to fly in their honor and to send their prayers and messages to both the team and the spirit of Aconcagua. Our donors can be sure that there were a LOT of mountain winds to carry their prayers today!

One nice result of the weather was that Greg had time to film interviews with individual team members for the video. He had tried at Camp 1, but the wind drowned out all conversation. A large tent at Base Camp made the perfect soundstage for the interviews. David P volunteered as translator for Vittorio, Marco, Emilio, and Jordi, who talked about the research he is doing and his medical perspectives on diabetes and IDEA 2000.

As the weather subsided a bit, a few brave team members ventured out of their tents. Jeremy and Todd filtered water to remove possible bacteria and other contaminants. Vittorio and Marco cooked for us again (tonight’s menu: polenta and sausage). We decided to pay a slight fee to use a tent that belongs to one of the outfitters here at canp for dinner. We discussed our message and how we can best accomplish our long term goals. It was an extremely informative discussion, both for us diabetics as well as for Greg and Bob, our cameraman and publicity guy, respectively, who are not diabetic.

Full of good dinner, we returned to our tents to warm up and to get out of the snow. While it is hard to spend so much time in the tents (especially with it being so long since our last shower!), we came prepared for just such a possibility, and the fact that we have become such good friends over the course of IDEA 2000 makes it much easier.
Date: January 10, 2001
Place: Camp 1
Elevation: 16,500 feet, 5000 meters

Last night was extremely windy at Base Camp. With rattling tents and howling winds, not many team members slept exceptionally well. Breakfast was, you guessed it, cereal and dried fruit. Team members spent the morning watching the swirling clouds at the summit, trying to decide the best course of action – move to Camp 1 and risk bad weather or wait at Base Camp and push the summit back yet another day.

After a vague weather forecast from the park guard, the team decided to move to Camp 1. The theory as that another night up high would further acclimatization, and most of the gear was already up there, so a light hike up could become a light hike back down later if the weather got worse. The summit team set out in small groups starting at about 1:30pm, with the last group leaving around 2:30. Greg (the cameraman) did a few more interviews with Base Camp folks, so he did not leave until around 5pm.

Greg was waiting with Todd, Jeremy, and Elise to relay the official weather report to the Summit Team, many of whom had already made it to Camp 1. Over a connection full of static and interference, the park guard copied many notes in Spanish. It turns out that the Mendoza forecast called for light clouds with no clouds at night, a freezing altitude of 7000 meters (meaning the air temperature was freezing at this level, well above Camp 1 or even the summit!) and winds around 15-30 miles per hour. More importantly, this good weather was expected to stay through at least tomorrow. The Summit Team would stay at Camp 1 and move to Camp 2 tomorrow.

Around 7:00pm Doug radioed down that Greg, and thus all the team, had arrived in Camp 1. He happily reported that it was warm (relatively – in the mid 30’s) and more importantly, there was NO WIND (a rarity at any place on Aconcagua for the last 6 days…). Everyone appears to be in even better spirits than the last visit to Camp 1, probably due to lighter packs, better acclimatization, and finally getting to move up the mountain again after a long period of inactivity. Soup for dinner and everyone was outside their tents socializing, taking advantage of the calm atmosphere. Tomorrow will be a move to Camp 2. There is currently a debate about when to leave. Sleep is an important commodity at altitude, but the weather and winds worsen as the day goes on. Most likely they will leave Camp 1 between 8:00am and 11:00am.

Base Camp was a flurry of activity today. The question that has been going around since we got here was finally answered: "What DO they do when the pit toilet gets full?" The answer: two unhappy looking fellows who work with the park guard bury the pit and dig a new 4 foot pit a few feet away. It makes one wonder about the spots we chose for our tents! More climbers from various nations came into camp over the last two days. It was extremely interesting to watch them build their rock wind walls, not yet acclimatized to the altitude. As we ran around camp carrying water and moving gear, they struggled with moving a single rock and then standing up. How time flies at 14,000 feet! We also solved the problem of leaky water. We had been ferrying water to camp in garbage bags lining a backpack. The problem was, a substantial amount leaked out of small holes before we could filter it. A little creative repacking of the barrels Marco and Vittorio had brought, and we had an instant cistern. Jeremy and Todd made three water runs, and we should be set or at least 4 or 5 days of water!
Date: January 12, 2001
Place: SUMMIT OF ACONCAGUA
Elevation: 22,834 feet, 6962 meters

At 1:30pm today, Lisa Seaman’s voice crackled over the radio to base camp: "I am standing here on the summit of Aconcagua, part of a group of 7 diabetics, 5 men, 2 women. […] We are happy to be here and have a SPECTACULAR view!" Shouts of excitement and joy covered over the rest of the transmission, but the message was clear, IDEA 2000 has succeeded in climbing the highest peak in the Western and Southern Hemispheres.

The team radioed at 3:00am that they were leaving Camp 2 for the summit. It was clear and cold, but the winds were calm and the team felt as good as you can at 19,000+ feet. The next radio transmission came at 6:30 to tell us they had completed the traverse of the glacier and joined the final leg of the Normal Route, as planned. At 7:30 they radioed that they had arrived at the Independencia hut (21,450 feet, 6500 meters). From 7:30 on, an empty silence came over the radio. Base Camp waited on pins and needles for the first crackle of the radio.

At 12:30pm, Doug’s voice came down the line: "The first 4 diabetic IDEA 2000 summit team members are on the summit of Aconcagua!" After waiting in silence, Base Camp erupted in cheers and screams. Doug, Vittorio, Emilio, and Marco were standing at 22,834 feet. About 15 minutes later, Chris’s voice came over the radio "Diabetic Number 5 is on the summit!." Again screams and cheers – just as strong and the cheers for the first four. About 30 minutes later, Lisa came over the radio, "Hey base camp, can you hear me? I’m up here!" Just like before, craziness erupted. Less than two minutes after that "Hello, this is Katherine! I’m here on the summit!" The rest of the base camp (quite a number of people) looked toward our tents to see what the mayhem was all about, and the jumping and screaming didn’t quiet or stop for a long time -- at Base Camp or on the summit. Bob came over the radio next, saying that he too had made the summit.

David P decided to turn back approximately 600 vertical feet from the top (still a long climb at that altitude). David radioed down just after Doug and the first summit crew, saying, "I just feel weak and slow. I think I’m sick with something else. Blood sugars are okay, a little high, but I think I’m just sick from something else." He sounded tired and disappointed, but satisfied with the decision, which everyone thinks was a smart one. Doug then told us that Jordi had turned back a while ago, he thought.

At 2:30pm, Doug came back on the radio: "Jordi is arriving t the summit!" with cheers in the background. Jordi came over the radio "This is Jordi, I am on the summit. I did not think I would make it, the climb was very hard. But I am here and very very happy. WOW!" He sounded exhausted, and Doug chimed in "That is one very tired, but very happy man" to more cheers in the background.

Now we are waiting to see what the Summit Team will do next. They will move to Camp 2 and evaluate the weather, time, and their energy. They could stay at Camp 2, descend to Camp 1 with all their gear, or carry Camp 1 gear all the way to Base Camp. Once they are here, we will post as many images as we can. After celebrating, of course!

Just a note, at the time of this sending, there are relatively friendly clouds moving in on the summit. Sprouting from the summit is a rainbow. What a great day…
Date: January 3, 2001
Place: Plaza Argentina, Base Camp
Elevation: 14,000 feet, 4200 meters

Today continued the excitement around Aconcagua. Other teams of people continuously passed by to wish IDEA 2000 congratulations and to lend their support. A radio contact camp this morning around 10:45. David P (who is feeling much better), Lisa, Marco, and Vittorio are staying at Camp 2 tonight to attempt the Polish Glacier Direct route to the summit tomorrow. The rest of the summit team spent the day gathering their gear from Camp 2, returning to Camp 1, and carrying Camp 1 gear as well back to Base Camp.

Doug was the first to arrive, with an immense and heavy pack. The Base Camp welcoming committee came out to welcome him with hugs and cheers. This repeated for the rest of the group: Greg, Bob, Chris, Jordi, Katherine, and Emilio. The exhausted Summit Team dropped their gear, set up tents, and dug into the vegetable soup waiting for them. A quick dinner and a few moments of watching an incredible cloud formation form on the horizon, and all were off to sleep.

The Polish Direct team expect to summit tomorrow before noon. Updates will be posted as we hear news.
Date: January 14, 2001
Places: Base Camp and Camp 2
Elevations: (14,000 feet, 4200 meters) and (19,470 feet, 5900 meters), respectively

The Summit Team members slept soundly last night, warm and tired at Base Camp. With more people around, Base Camp came back to life, and stories of the summit were told over breakfast, lunch, and throughout the afternoon. Most of the day, however, was focused on David, Lisa, Marco and Vittorio, all of whom chose to remain at camp two and attempt to summit via the Polish Glacier Direct route.

Around 8:00am, David called down on the radio saying that they were about 2/3 of the way up the glacier. Snow conditions were reasonable, with some excellent snow in areas, but with unconsolidated (loose and unstable) snow in others. From Base Camp, one could see a huge, dark cloud hanging over the summit, obscuring it. We were happy to learn that the climbing team was above the clouds we were seeing and that they were doing fine. David reported that they were tired, but feeling good and moving slowly. They estimated that it would be about three more hours of the hardest climbing before they reached the summit.

Around 11:00, Base Camp was expecting a summit call. David again came over the radio saying that they had reached the bottleneck, the steepest section of the climb where the route squeezes between a rock band and a section of seracs. Seracs are towers of ice that form when the glacier flows from a moderate slope over an edge to a very steep section of the mountain. The resulting convex stretching causes the ice to break apart. They are unstable and dangerous.

This section would be the last, steepest, and most difficult of the climb. David reported that the snow conditions were getting worse. Marco and Lisa had chosen to turn back and head for Camp 2. Lisa was very tired after the summitting less than 48 hours before. She and Marco descended the steep snow on belay (for you non-climbers, Lisa tied into the rope and descended the snow. Marco wrapped the rope around his ice axe, which was driven into the snow. As Lisa descended, Marco let out rope. If Lisa had fallen, the belay would have caught her. After she descended a considerable distance, she stopped, Marco descended to catch her, and the process was repeated.)

David and Vittorio radioed down, trying to decide what to do. They asked for a weather report. The park guard reported that Mendoza weather was lifting – temperatures were rising, winds were falling, and clouds were dissipating. Another rope team was coming up behind David and Vittorio. D & V had been blazing the trail all day – making a path in fresh, untouched ice and snow, a task requiring more exertion than following in someone else’s footsteps. They decided that they would wait for the next rope team, who had been using their path all day. If they could fall in behind that team and use their path for a while, they would shoot for the summit.

They were supposed to radio in within the next half hour with their plans, but no messages came. Base Camp was on pins and needles waiting, watching the bad weather roll down the mountain. Eventually Todd made a radio call to D & V, and got a reply back, difficult to hear over the winds. David said that they were descending over a "very hairy" descent in "whiteout" conditions (where the snow and winds are so severe that you cannot see much of anything) – not what anyone wants to be descending such a difficult route in. Base Camp replied with some news of weather (which turned out to be quite wrong) but expected no reply from D & V, because they were concentrating so hard on the descent.

Radio silence lasted for two stressful hours. The clouds on the summit because darker, snow began to fall, and winds picked up. Images of the dangerous descent played in all of our minds, and the stress level rose with no information to counteract it. Most base camp activity stopped and people sat and waited…and waited.

Finally at 2:00pm, David’s voice came through on the radio to nervous cheers. David, Vittorio, Marco, and Lisa were all on a rock ledge most of the way down. The weather looked okay, and the descent from there was distinctly easier than what they had just struggled through. Around 3:30pm, the call came from a very tired David: " We are warm in our tents at Camp 2, happy, tired, and eating chocolate cookies."

The team at Base Camp erupted in emotion and cheers. David said that the descent was quite scary and they were worried at times, but their skill and teamwork got them safely to Camp 2. Many rounds of beers were promised over the radio – debts that will be paid in a few days in the Penitentes hotel. We wished them a good, safe rest, and looked forward to seeing them tomorrow. After ending radio transmission for the day, many emotions came out. Tears of joy and relief came from the eyes of most of the team, and prayers of thanks were offered for what was truly the most important result of our expedition - the safe return home of all of our team members.
The second summit team will return to Base Camp tomorrow. We will pack up camp and prepare for the two-day trip back down to the Penitentes starting the day after. Todd, Doug, and Elise will start off tomorrow, to reduce the impact of the 10 hour trip on Todd’s knee (and to get Todd and Elise out of Base Camp – a little ‘cabin fever’ goes a long way!). They will make the trip down to Lenas (Camp 1 on the trek in) in two easier days.

Being that the craziness of packing begins tomorrow, there may or may not be a website update after this one. All of us at IDEA 2000 would like to thank our loyal cyber-watchers and supporters for their excitement about, and their help with, the project. We are truly proud of each Team Member, and the efforts of each contributed to the seven who stood on the summit of Aconcagua. With that goal behind us now, we will continue to work on our fundraising and awareness goals so that other diabetics may live long and healthy lives, and that they may LIVE their lives to the fullest extent, despite diabetes or whatever challenges they may face.

Not everyone wants to or should climb a mountain like Aconcagua, but each person should see his or her challenges and work to live beyond them. Still "Climbing Beyond Diabetes", we thank you!
Translation: Marisa Pedreira
back to news 2001