Life is oh so short

It has been so ridiculously long since I have put up a blog post, that it has taken me some time to find out how to log back into this site. Sad!

I thought I now needed to do two things here though, if even only for posterity. One is to update anyone who doesn’t know already (that is if anyone actually still reads this site outside of anyone who knows me :O) of what has happened re my intended trip to Aconcagua. And then secondly to tell a bit about my future mountainous plans.

Aconcagua

Firstly an update then on Aconcagua. In short, it isn’t going to happen, well not this year anyway. I won’t dwell here into too many of the reasons why, but in short, my father got diagnosed with terminal cancer this summer, with a prognosis which talked about a matter of months, as opposed to years, in terms of life expectancy. I cancelled my trip practically the day that I found out, simple as that.

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d say something about my decision about who to go with, and I thought I’d still take time here to tell a bit about what happened there too:

So basically when I chose my (also aborted, that time due to two broken heels :)) trip last year, I had booked with Jagged Globe, whom I went with on my Alpine Introductions Course, and who I have found absolutely excellent throughout. They would, and perhaps should, have been my natural choice for this time around, but something told me to search around and do a bit of due diligence here and there, and so I did.

There are actually not a lot of firms who do Aconcagua trips, and they basically are divided into three categories. There are local firms in Argentina; there are a few UK firms (e.g Jagged Globe or Exodus for example); and there are the bigger international outfits (mainly US-based) who focus on Aconcagua as it is one of the Seven Summits.

I had ruled out the Argentinian outfits straight away. Maybe they offer the best value, or even the best expeditions. I just don’t know. My thinking was that there is so much to know, and so much to go wrong, even before you get there, that I’d rather be in the hands of someone closer to home, and who speaks my native language, just in case. Then I started reading this year’s Everest coverage (and what an incredible, and also very controversial, season it was) and began seeing some names appearing to me from the operators over there. One name kept appearing and also jumping out to me, and it was International Mountain Guides (IMG).

IMG have been going since 1986, and they cover the four corners of planet earth in terms of the mountains. They lead expeditions to all of the Seven Summits, and therefore put people on Everest every year. I first heard about them from reading Alan Arnette’s wonderful blog (http://www.alanarnette.com). He has climbed with them himself (including on his own Seven Summits bid), and so if that is not an endorsement in itself then I don’t know what is.

Literally from the moment I enquired about availability, I got nothing but first class, prompt (bordering on immediate) replies from them. It was also very personal too, as in they wanted to know about me, to make sure there was a fit for both sides. I was contacted (surprisingly) by one of the founders, Phil Ershler, who was brilliant in every regard. Most importantly for me, there was no big hard sell. In fact almost the reverse was true – I had to pass and prove my worth, and they invited me to ask all sorts of questions of them to make sure that this would work. I’m glad to say that it most certainly did, or would have done anyway.

One of the other key factors about IMG for me, apart from reputation, safety record, success rates etc., was about the way they actually¬†climb¬†the mountain. Instead of an ‘armchair ride’ (as if this is ever likely at 23,000 feet!), IMG like their clients to do the mountains expedition style. In other words, you carry your own stuff, you do carries up and down to each camp, and you put up your own tent etc. Everyone mucks in basically, it is a team, and you need to graft, hard, along with everyone else. Good.

Anyway, basically almost as soon as I hap put down my deposit, I had to call them and tell them I wouldn’t/couldn’t go after all. The very satisfying thing was that instead of saying “sorry but you’ve lost your deposit” etc (which under their terms and conditions they would have been entitled to do). they said they’d hold it over for me for a future trip. That to me just vindicated my decision to choose them in the first place.

What next?

Having cancelled my trip, I have spent most every weekend up in the North East visiting my Dad in hospital, and now in his Nursing Home. He’s still hanging in there, and my time with him is precious, and so it should be. I haven’t been able to plan anything else meantime though, and so that, being selfish for a moment, has made me a bit stir crazy.

So a few days ago, I got, for a host of reasons, to deciding that I needed something, anything, to look forward to. And to cut a long story short, here it is:

Mount Elbrus

Mount Elbrus….

The above is the tallest mountain in Europe. Now many people think that particular honour goes to Mont Blanc, but Mount Elbrus is about 1km higher, at 5,642m (18,510ft). It is a dormant volcano, in the Caucasus Mountains, which are in southern Russia, close to Georgia. I have booked my trip for next August, and all I can say is that I dearly hope it comes off. There is lots to learn and know about Elbrus, and my education has begun with great excitement and vigour.

Mount Elbrus is of course also one of the Seven Summits, and if I can reach the summit (I have some work to do in many respects between now and then), then I would look to try to do Aconcagua next winter too. I won’t get too carried away yet though.

To go back to the title of the post, life is very definitely too short. This one will be for my Dad.

I’ll post more soon, promise.