Needless to say, they have more than a few of the “Seven Summits” in the bag, though this climb up Mount Aconcagua is sure to be the highest and toughest yet.
A Preview of Their Journey
After a long (and hopefully restful) flight from the UK to Buenos Aries, Jason, Mark and Simon will board a domestic flight to Mendoza in the Andes. From there, they expect to spend 19 days completing their hike (if you can call it that).
Mules will help them to base camp, but beyond that they will be on their own, carrying their kits and supplies up to camps at higher elevations alongside their guide team.
According to Mark, they will gradually acclimatize themselves to the extreme conditions along the way. Though considering that these Zebras will have to brave -40 degree Celsius temperatures and winds in excess of 100 mph to reach their destination, we tend to think that “extreme” is an understatement – especially considering that we as a company use the term to describe a typical working day in a quarry, warehouse, manufacturing plant or oil field.
If all goes as planned, the team will aim for the summit around February 15 – but that’s dependent on the weather, of course. (As if it could get worse than -40 degrees Celsius and 100 mph+ winds!)
From there, they’ll start their descent down the other side of the mountain.
The Preparation is Hard, but It’s Even Harder to Know How to Prepare
One may wonder if it’s really possible to physically train for such an intense summit. Even if you’ve reached the peaks of a dozen mountains before, it is impossible to truly know what you’re going to face this time around. And since your body isn’t exposed to such elements every day, it can be difficult to fully acclimatize ahead of time. (Thus, the need to set incremental altitude goals during the actual climb.)
But you certainly go in “cold” and survive.
As Mark explained to us, one’s general fitness levels need to be good, but not Olympic level.
“The real challenge is the altitude, which is harder to plan for as it affects different people differently, and even the same people differently on different occasions…so you never know.”
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that Mark’s training regimen actually looks a lot like the one you might follow for everyday health maintenance: he cycles both outdoors and on the turbo trainer and runs outdoors and in the gym. He’ll also jump on the treadmill with a gradient of 10 to speed walk. (Seems doable, right?)
But truth be told, much of the preparation comes in the packing. They carry (very heavy) kits comprised of sleeping bags that can handle temperatures down to -30 degrees Celsius and extra warm duvet jackets for the summit day, among other necessary gear. They will also wear double-skinned boots to keep their feet warm and as pain-free as possible.
And it does help that these three Zebras have completed climbs before and know what to expect mentally and physically to a certain extent.
As Mark notes, “We have become accustomed to long cold nights in small shared tents, with sleep interrupted by snoring and freezing temperatures. And we have all shared the joy of that first glimpse of sunlight swiftly followed by a steaming hot cup of tea!”
And that’s what makes it all worth it.
Their Motivation to Climb Mount Aconcagua Will Move You
For some, summiting a mountain such as Aconcagua may be a bucket list item to check off or simply a way to test one’s fortitude. And for adrenaline junkies, the thrill of traversing such rugged terrain and weather conditions to reach the top of the world negates the risks.
But, for these Zebras, it’s all these things – and more.
Though they started out challenging themselves to conquer such ruggedly extreme adventures for personal reasons, their motivation has evolved over the years, with several of their last summits used to raise money for charity.
This time, they’re aiming to raise nearly $4,000 USD for the Red Cross to support their good work. (You can make a donation to their cause here, if you’d like.)
However, they’re also using this climb to honor the memory of their guide and friend Gonzalo Vilches who should have been making this climb with them but sadly lost his life climbing the Matterhorn last summer.
As Mark reminded us, these treks are not only difficult because of the toll that the high altitude and perilous weather conditions can take on the body. The rugged terrain poses real risks to climbers’ lives. The Zebra team even had to take out special travel insurance with an Extreme Activity pack to cover them for all eventualities, just in case something goes wrong.
But, don’t worry: he reassured us that they will look out for one other and take it slowly.
If there’s anything we know about these Zebras, it’s that they are smart, strong and strong-willed. We have no doubt that they will conquer Mount Acancogua (and probably make it look easy)!
Want to Join the Zebra Team on This Epic Journey? Tune into the Your Edge Blog
Zippy, the official Zebra mascot, isn’t the only one that will be able to tag along with Mark, Simon, Jason and their guides on this three-week adventure.
Thanks to rugged mobile computers such as the Zebra TC52, the team plans to keep us appraised of its progress, with the first check-in coming once they make it to the WiFi-enabled base camp prior to their ascent. They also hope to send an update on the climb after they complete their descent and reach base camp on the other side of Aconcagua.
We’ll keep you in the loop here on Your Edge so that you can cheer them on (or sleep peacefully at night knowing all is well.) You can subscribe to our bi-weekly blog roundup emails here, or just check the blog homepage every day to see if we have an update to share.
In the meantime, please consider showing your support for these courageous climbers!
You can leave them a message in the Comments section below and/or make a donation to the Red Cross in their name: https://www.justgiving.com/team/Zebra-Aconcagua-2020.