I always mark my calendar three months before I am about to commence any significant trek. Looking back on my previous summits, I had the same feeling and questions every time-with three months to go; why did I sign up to do this and how will I ever be successful? The three-month point is the no return point and the clock is ticking. My challenge this time is summiting Aconcagua and it marks the first for me as related to mountains as follows:
- Aconcagua is the highest Elevation for me: 6,960.8 m (22,837 ft)
- I will have to use Crampons: First Time
- I will have to use an Ice Axe: First Time
- I will be hiking through a field of penitents
I am somewhat ready. I have been running over 10 miles a day, divided across two or three runs a day (Fitbit Stats: https://www.fitbit.com/user/274ZR9) . However, I have recently discovered several weak spots in my personal fitness objectives that I am now fixing with jumping, squatting, (aka general core strength), and working to improve my upper body strength. Oh and again, I have three months left! I have come up with the workout gear and time needed to complete the three-month challenge. Additionally, I have also begun hiking up and down mountains and volcanoes.
I went to Mexico (for the first time) and completed a hike up a caldera of volcano (non summit) for altitude training. Living in New Hampshire, weather permitting, I will summit a mountain at least once this weekend and every weekend following that I am in country. So now if the weather would cooperate and provide me with snow I can start training for ice and snow hiking up north.
Climbing Aconcagua has really been a multiyear effort and something that I have been building up to starting with Kilimanjaro and everything since then. Here is the initial passage from Wikipedia about this mountain:
“In mountaineering terms, Aconcagua is technically an easy mountain if approached from the north, via the normal route. Aconcagua is arguably the highest non-technical mountain in the world, since the northern route does not absolutely require ropes, axes, and pins. Although the effects of altitude are severe (atmospheric pressure is 40% of sea-level at the summit), the use of supplemental oxygen is not required. Altitude sickness will affect most climbers to some extent, depending on the degree of acclimatization. Even if the normal climb is technically easy, multiple casualties occur every year on this mountain (in January 2009 alone five climbers died).” (Wikipedia, 10/16/2014)
The most important thing for me now is to simply keep up the training both in the gym and in the wild. I have received medical clearances from multiple doctors and I am good to go. Now to stay injury free!
In closing, many people believe that for a life to be well lived it needs risk and /or challenge. For me the risk is less important than the exploration of both the environment and myself. When I trekked in Nepal, to Everest Base Camp last November, I said to a couple of the climbers that I was with that to me the mountains were a place to reflect and leave behind things that cannot survive such a challenge. In reality I probably leave myself behind and a new me with different perspectives comes off the mountain. I am sure questions like this are best answered on the way up the mountain because on the way down my mind is always very free.