And So it Began……
Saturday afternoon of 20th December came around way too quickly. A complete whirlwind in fact. The last month or so at work has been so hectic that I have hardly had time to draw breath, and so there was barely time to think properly about the trip, let alone get excited. Excited however I should be :- this is the longest trip I’ve been on; to a totally new country for me (Argentina); to the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere; to hopefully the highest I have ever been (and may practically ever go), just shy of 7,000m; and to one of the World’s Seven Summits; and my third of these. Oh and I’ll be up the mountain at both Christmas and New Year too. How much more excitement can you get?
Having packed everything into two 100l duffles (yes two), I was ready and away to Heathrow. Both duffles contained everything I would need for the 23 days ahead of me, including my new 90l rucksack. Upon getting to Mendoza, one duffle would stay at the hotel there (we’d stay for one night each end of the trip there to sort stuff out) with anything that wasn’t needed on he mountain. The second duffle would be packed with all of the high mountain gear, and go by mule to Base Camp. Everything else would be on my back in the rucksack for the duration of the trek.
With a fair wind, or should I say not too much wind at all, and a lot of luck, the itinerary will get us to a possible summit bid on the 4th January, exactly two weeks from today.
Meantime it was travel, travel, travel. Just as well I like travelling, as this was the most brutal journey I’ve ever undertaken. From leaving the house at 3pm local time, to getting to Mendoza at a scheduled 6pm local time the next day, this was a 30 hour journey. I’m sure you can probably get to the moon as quickly these days, but so be it. It’s all part of the adventure, and allowed me to (albeit briefly) to touch down in both Brazil and Chile en route. In fact I write this particular piece on a flight from Sao Paolo in Brazil to Santiago in Chile. If I tell you that his was the shortest journey I could get, then you’ll get the picture of how far Mendoza is from Milton Keynes!
One thing I’d say to anyone reading this who might be making this journey in the future (and there are a few of you :)) then I’d say make sure you get yourself a window seat on the plane if you fly into Mendoza via Santiago. The views out of each side appeared breathtaking as the plane flew over the spine of the Andes. I was sadly stuck in the middle of the plane and was frustrated as people had their noses pinned looking out over cloudless skies to the massif below. Lessons learned and all that……
Santiago airport was about a three hour layover following the flight from Brazil, and then it was a hop and a skip (albeit a very bumpy skip, we had a lot of turbulence, and I was told by the German lady sat beside me that it is always like that) back over the Andes to Mendoza. The flight took probably 35 minutes, and again if you are doing this trip get a seat on the left hand side of the plane as you’d see Aconcagua from that side. I didn’t know, and so saw not much of it at all.
When finally at Mendoza airport, I was mightily relieved to see my duffle bags had made it, and I jumped in a cab to the Nutibara Hotel in downtown Mendoza, just about 5 miles away. The door to door journey was 30 hours, and with very little sleep on the plane I was fit to drop when I got in at about 6pm on Sunday evening. I met quickly my roommate, Kuntal, who hadn’t been so lucky with his luggage, and then took a quick walk into town to keep myself awake.
In the evening we met our guides, Peter and Johnathan from IMG, and talked about what to expect over the next few days. I tried to pay attention to the guides but I have to say it was hard as I was so beat.
Tomorrow would be kit sorting day, permit day, and getting ready to trek out. I’d need to sleep very well, and I was ready for just that………