We know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats waiting to find out whether or not the Three Amigos – Simon Wallis, Jason Harvey and Mark Thomson – were able to make the final push to Mount Aconcagua’s summit. The good news is that you don’t have to wait any more. This just in…
“16th Feb - Summit day at last! As planned, Micky knocked on the tents at 4:30am with hot water to top up our flasks. However, the weather had deteriorated badly overnight and the wind chill factor meant it would be very difficult to attempt the summit at that point. He said he'd reassess in an hour. The wind didn't abate, so we assumed we'd just have a rest day and try again tomorrow. However, at 6:50am, Micky said we were going up at 7:30am! That meant we had 40 minutes to wake up and sort out our water, clothes, day pack etc. It was all a real effort. By 7:25am we were outside our tents. We were already very tired from the effort of getting ready and we were freezing. The sun had also not yet come up. We started walking around 7:45am, which is late for a summit attempt that usually takes 10 hours up plus 3-4 hours down. Before the first break, we were already shattered, struggling with the cold. But the fast pace was needed because of the late start and our general fatigue. As we climbed gradually, we got more used to the additional layers we were wearing, but we were still so low on energy and most of our fluids had frozen overnight. We hit a spot called Independencia in less than 2 hours, a record time for our guide. After a short break there, we then had to tackle the traverse, an open and extremely windy area where just the previous day a female Russian climber sadly lost her life after being hit by a rock slide.
The traverse leads to a spot called the Cave at 6700m, just below the toughest final push called the Canaletta. We stopped at the Cave for 20 minutes to recover and stash unnecessary kit items for the final climb. This area is the most treacherous with steep and rocky stages, but it’s only 270m to the top. Micky and Mauri didn't tell us at the time, but teams usually take around 6-7 hours to get this point and we'd managed it in 4.5 hours. They were pushing us because of the late start, but we didn't know. We took our time and took several breaks, and within 2 more hours we were close to the summit. But Dee had dropped back a little. We decided to wait for Dee to catch up so we could summit together as one team. We crested the final lip, and we all made it in around 7.15 hours… an amazing effort by all!
The cross marking the top was colourful, but actually very small at only about 2 feet tall. The weather had closed in, so views weren't great and we summoned our last strength to reach the cross together to touch it. We took a few pictures, Zippy included and had some emotional “well done” team moments. Then, after about 10 minutes, we turned around to do the reverse. After spending all that effort getting to the top, you don't think too much about the way down. But it's still a good 3 hours of effort and the Canaleta is especially treacherous going down. As world famous climber Ed Visteurs put it "the summit is only half way".
This is a critical and dangerous time, and the guides are watching all of us carefully to gauge our ability to descend without the assistance of ropes or oxygen. At one point, Simon’s legs buckled and one of his walking poles snapped, sending him head over heels down the slope. Fortunately, he landed on his backpack and – apart from the initial shock – he recovered to move on.
The way down was tough for all. Everyone's legs were spent, so there was a lot of slipping and stumbles. After about 3 hours, we'd made our way back to camp three. We were exhausted and barely able to crawl into our tents. We all immediately fell asleep and about an hour later we were woken by Mauri giving us noodle soup for dinner. We didn't want it, but we knew we still had a long walk tomorrow, so we forced it down and went back to sleep.
Micky said because of the harsh conditions, wind and cold, we would have spent at least 17,000 calories each today! We deserved a good sleep. Of course, little did we know at the time there was more drama to come…”
Ok, so we’re going to leave you with another cliffhanger. (No pun intended!)
If you’re eager to know what happened next, tune back into Your Edge next week for the final dispatch from the Three Amigos about what happened on their descent down Mount Aconcagua.