Adventure continues in Cordoba...
The highest mountain in South America (ARGENTINA)
This video was taken by Rafael Etges with his GoPro toy (which he loves).
Watch his lead up preparation and then follow our team on the expedition to the summit. Great Job!!
Although, had he just been coherent enough to capture the 'Death Zones' - now that would have been amazing!
OK - so he was busy trying to stay alive he tells me. hmmmm
You can watch all his other amazing videos on YouTube. Just search RN Etges.
DATES : 10th January - 31st January 2014
CLIMBING WITH : Berg Adventures International (excellent company)
Sent 3 Feb 2014
ARGENTINA - PART 2. Enjoy...
The Truth !!
Sorry it's taken a few days to recover from shock and update you on my status. Fact is I'M STILL ALIVE !!!! Well - parts of me are...
I have been back and forth to doctors, in and out of hospital and now inject blood thinners into my stomach twice a day in hope of keeping fingers attached to the rest of my body. SO HOW DID I GET TO THIS POINT??!!...
Let me start at the beginning...
We finally got back to Mendoza - read the dispatches and had a good laugh. We are always smiling, and as Raf says - it makes it sound like we were in Disneyland. Lol... There are no photos of the death zones as no one could possibly reach for a camera when you were about to die. So all you see is smiling faces.
Now don't get me wrong - we started off nicely with good weather and wonderful hikes. Of course my bag got stolen by the mule and never made it to camp 1. Ted and I were given donations, sleeping bag and jumper. We survived. Mule returned back the next day with my bag and off we went to PLAZA DE MULAS. An 8hr climb it was meant to be - but just like Gilligans Island the weather turned and we entered the DEATH ZONE !!!!! We hiked for 5hrs in 45*c heat (no kidding) through a river of rocks about 200m wide that never ended. No shade, no water just heat. Not too bad though. Then we sat for lunch and the clouds descended in seconds. We scrambled to put on our Gortex and cover our packs. What the heck - it was hot so a storm couldn't be so bad. Refreshing surely. We headed off and the rain came, then the wind, then the hail. Temperatures plummeted to 15 degrees then 10 then 5. Then came the sleet, then the snow. Temperature dropped to -5. Yes, within an hour we had gone from 45 to -5. ahhhh We were soaking wet (so much for Gortex), boots and all. Everyone's camera that was in their pocket drowned (inc Raf's new iPhone). Of course my trusty waterproof camera was the only one that survived. We continued to climb into the clouds, pelted in this snow storm with no where to go but up. For 4hrs I thought I would just die. There were dead mules around us and the thought of lying down next to them was tempting (no seriously tempting). We finally arrived at plaza de Mulas and everyone went into shock. Raf said 'welcome to planet Mars'. Hypothermia set into most, no one could even speak. They stripped me in the kitchen and the only dry item I had was my blue best & less hoody. Ha ha ha. It saved me. The photo you see after the Gortex is of Leila and I, smiling of course just after I finished crying.
We remained in plaza de Mulas for 4 days - no, not because it was paradise but because everyone was too wiped to move and it kept snowing. Finally a day of sun to dry our stuff out and up we went to Camp Canada. Not too bad. I must admit Berg Adventures do it in style.
But... then came Camp NIDO. Raf would just name them. Camp Hell 1, Camp Hell 2... We arrived freezing after 4hrs climbing through the snow. NO ONE had summited in 4 days. All you got was horror stories of avalanches, hallucinations and death. Ahhhhhhhh I was now sharing a tent with Raf. We laid down that night and nearly DIED !!!!! You think I'm kidding. I could feel my head swelling (yes more then usual) to the size of a watermelon. I sat up, the only way to keep the fluid away from the brain. Raf said if he had an emergency device he would had pushed the button. We laughed from then on. PUSH THE BUTTON - get rescue !!! He would call it the 'Call Mama' button. I was not physically able to move the next day and stayed in the tent for the next 36hrs - sitting up waiting for the fluid to drain and not kill me. I came good. Unfortunately for Martial (the Swiss guy) he laid down that night and nearly died. Fluid in the lungs. By morning his oxygen was at 48%. Raf said let's wait 5 min for the sun to come up to move him to rescue tent. Wally said 'We don't have 5 min he will be dead'. What?? !!! I have to give it to rescue though. Helicopter was there and gone within 10min flying him straight to hospital. Leila had her bag packed and running down the mountain to get to mendoza where she would translate and look after the client. For 15 hrs she hiked.
Now there was 4...
We headed to Camp BERLIN where we slept for 6hrs. Woke at 3am, dressed in hell again and headed off on the summit attempt at 5.30am. 3.5hrs in and we reached our first rest stop. when I say rest I mean 5min max. At this point Wally said - no matter how far we go we have all now gone higher than ever before. 'WE DO CRAZY BUT WE DONT DO STUPID' remember it. He headed down and asked if I wanted to go back with him. What??!! after 2 weeks of hell I was not turning around with 8 hours to go. I would go as far as the body would allow. 4 more hours and we made it to 'the cave'. It really isn't a cave, just a wall but again rested for 5min, dumped our bags and went for it. Osvaldo (the lead guide) said let's just go, leave the big jackets and climb as fast as we can. 'The body is dead, it is now the mind that will get you there' he said. 'No turning back now'. And so we began the final 3.5 hr climb into the death zone. Raf said it was 5 steps every 10 min (not far off the mark). But with 10min to go a snow storm started.
At 3.40pm 26th January (Australia Day!!!) we REACHED THE SUMMIT OF ACONCAGUA !!!!!!!! Yeeha.
As you can see from the photos, you can't see a bloody thing !!!!
I have to laugh at Simons summit photo. Ha ha ha it could be anyone. You can't see one inch of him. He was so rugged up he took his time getting there and hypothermia was setting in. We had to get down fast but we were now in a full blown snow storm. A WHITE OUT. Visibility zero. Then came the WHITE WINDS as they call them. Push the button I said. Raf tried to shove food in my mouth to keep me alive. If I had any energy I would have killed him. PUSH THE DAMN BUTTON!!. But there is no rescue up there. I was tied to Alex (the other guide) and it was only the rope that kept me in the right direction. Raf was getting angry and arguing with Osvaldo that we would die here. Simon was behind me delirious and repeatedly saying F*#k! F@#k! It was the only reason we knew he was alive. I couldn't speak so I sounded quite sane. They called rescue for Simon. We laughed later - much later. Days later. For 5 hours we descended in that storm. I went from hypothermia to thinking I'm doing good I can hold the walking poles. I'm cold but good and then thinking these gloves are really really good - I'm not cold anymore. These gloves are amazing. Little did I realise I couldn't feel the cold anymore BECAUSE I HAD FROSTBITE ,!!! Ahhhhhh. I was officially a frozen Popsicle moving on 2 legs, knowing that stopping meant death. A Polish guy fell off the mountain, not tied in and had to be rescued by our guys. Really !! Then a French guy had a cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated right there on the ridge. The goggles had frozen and we were seriously walking blind, Simon took his off and his eyes froze. By the time we made it back to camp Berlin (never been so happy in my life to see a tent) - they tried to pull the ice off Simons face but no go. And as they pulled my gloves off, Maria (the Cook) started shouting for Wally who calmly says YES you have frostbite.
Now you need to imaging doing anything - anything at all with no fingers. You CANT EVEN PEE !! Maria undressed me that night and Osvaldo dressed me the next morning. They tied me to Wally early in the morning, put big mittens on my hands and started on a 6hr hike down the mountain. Not so easy without hiking poles and zero energy. Did I mention I couldn't get pants down to pee. Wally was right though - all I dreamt off was a coke and fries. I had not eaten in 36hrs. I seriously wanted a COKE !!! We arrived at Camp de Mulas and there was everyone waiting for me. Fries and coke at the ready. Hip hip hooray. Only.... The doctor walks straight in (she had been notified I was arriving) - checks my hands and says NO coke! NO wine, NO sun. Everyone just looked at me. We waited for her to leave and I drank the coke. Was she kidding. It was my only dream. An hour later the other doctor was saying we can cut the ring off or cut the wrist off - take your pick. Verrrrrry funny - NOT. Check the photo out. I thought he would chop my finger off right there and then.
Next day we headed down the mountain on a 10hr hike from hell AGAIN with my big mitts on. Arrived back in mendoza at 11pm and was at the hospital at 9 the next morning where finally shock set in and I nearly fainted twice as they explained we will try and do everything to save the fingers. What???!!!!
And... Hence the blood thinning injections began. With enough pain killers to give you 50 stomach ulcers. I'm sure they think I'm a junkie at the Hyatt with syringes and pills everywhere.
So here I am. The decision to come home was there but I thought what the heck - I'm here now. I can't really do anything at the hospital (heck tried to cut toast this morning and it flew across the Hyatt dinning room lol...) waiter just walked over with a silver tray, laughed and picked it up. Can you imaging me trying to hold a baby. But... They tell me nothing more can be done for a month or two before the extent of the frostbite is known - so I thought I would still head to Cordoba and immerse myself in the lifestyle here. Everyone is verrrrrrry friendly. This time I can't end my email with a bubble bath photo (harder than you may think). So instead I was taken to a Haman (Turkish bath house) where we steamed, soaked and had full body mud wraps for 3hrs. This of course followed by a wine tour. THIS IS MORE LIKE IT!!!
Now Ted would like you to know it's not all about me. He too was frozen on the summit when he was removed from his waterproof bag and never made it back in. However, he thawed out very nicely the next day and has slept ever since. So he's fine !!!
I received all your emails on my return to the Hyatt and would like to say THANK YOU !!! I had a good laugh and needed it. Of course Kim still thinks she's hilarious - yeah yeah keep laughing. You'll be happy to know I have donated all my climbing gear and WILL NEVER climb again!!!! (No more funny moments at my expense lol... )
I am finally ready for Hawaii (Monica here I come). So - good news is I'm alive. Bad news is I'm staying another month so you will misssssss me lots.
I know you will.
We are now off to Cordoba...
Ted and Marg Signing off from mendoza... Yeah yeah OK missing you alllllll lots too. (Just a weak moment)
After having climbed Mt Elbrus (Russia) with Berg Adventures, it was a no brainer that I would climb with them again. They are professional, easy going and have a great sense of humour. I had planned to climb Aconcagua in Dec 2014 but as I enquired about the trip in late 2013, I received a reply 'why don't you consider doing it with us next year, Raf will be on it'. hmmmm 'what are they talking about' I thought. I am looking at next year. 'January' they said. What??!!! Am I considering climbing Aconcagua in 2 months time??!! NO. But heck - the seed was planted. I thought about it over the weekend and thought, I could be dead in 12mths time (no I wasn't dying - I just decided to stop planning so far in the future that I didn't grab the opportunities when they arose). So I emailed back - 'OMG OK yes I'm in'. And so it began...
The following are the emails sent from Argentina at the time.
Sent 11 Jan 2014
Hi Everyone ,
It's that time again and here I am in ARGENTINA !!! Another adventure...
This time I will be climbing MT ACONCAGUA (6961m) - or so that is the plan.
Arrived yesterday 6pm but first I needed sleep, a glass of wine and a lie by the pool before my brain could engage to write. I got picked up at the airport by Maria (the cook) and Osvaldo (one of the guides). They were very impressed with my Spanish (and Mum says it's bad - ha) lol... Mind you they come from Bolivia and live above 4000m. No worries then - they should be able to carry me.
I meet the rest of the Berg Adventures team tomorrow, Sunday 12th and we head off on Monday 13th. Rafael Etges - Canada Jean-Pierre Carbonneau - Canada Martine Rochefort - Canada Simon Turner - Vanuatu Federico Marescotti - Switzerland Martial Fellay - Switzerland Marie-Jose Fellay - Switzerland Dennis Comfort - USA Charles Martin - USA. Wally And Leila Berg (the owners) - Canada
As you can see they all come from snow country (currently at -25C they tell me). Except for Simon but I'm putting money on it he is originally from some frozen place on earth. Which leaves ME - and yes, I will be complaining again that I am dying!!!
The plan is to summit on the 25th (weather Gods permitting). If not - we have 2 more alternate summit days factored in (fingers crossed) as I refuse to leave the mountain without a summit (OK or at least not before being frozen or having a heart attack). Last year they were not able to summit due to the weather. Ahhhhhh. NOT funny. Imaging 2 weeks freeeeeeezing just for a camp out and no summit. Ha ha ha. Ted would not be amused. Yes - he's coming with me again. Mind you he really hasn't done any training (knows I will just carry him).
I have decided to get with the times (NO - not Facebook ). Berg Adventures will be sending daily internet dispatches (updates and photos) from the mountain. For anyone that is interested in seeing if I'm still alive (I know you really do care) - you will be able to access the updates and follow the climb through www.bergadventures.com the link to the climb is on their homepage under dispatches. Just click on the Aconcagua stamp.
OK that's it. Try not to miss me too much and you will hear from me again when I'm back in Mendoza. That is after a bubble bath and a good nights sleep. Maybe 2 nights sleep.
Ted and Marg signing off...