Aconcagua – climb to the top of the Americas

by on 3rd October, 2012

Climb Aconcagua

Andean Trails’ Tom talking about climbing Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak.

“Not achieving your goal, initially, is difficult, especially if you are used to achieving them.

In a clearly hypocritical opening, I never quite made it as an England centre-back/off spinning-opener/rugby full-back, but hills and peaks were always ticked off. Life-affirming!

So hot on the heels of a successful Kilimanjaro climb, Africa’s highest peak, came my attempt to climb Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak. It’s a beast at almost 6,969m, but a beautiful beast with many faces. The valleys are warm, dusty, open. Its glaciers are dramatic and of incredible shapes. These glaciers feed bone-shivering waters you must cross to press on.

After leaving basecamp comforts, Aconcagua really starts to show you its real self. Winds can pick up, and climbs and carries are tough.  Yet at camp three, high above the clouds, the eye in the storm, I remember a soft orange sunrise with no wind, a precious pillow of respite, justifying all the efforts to get to here.


Quebrada Vacas, Aconcagua, Argentina

Quebrada Vacas, Aconcagua, Argentina


I never made it to the top of Aconcagua. My initial descent was the trudge of the defeated. When the successful joined us at basecamp, they brought the summit with them. It rubbed off on all of us.

As we walked back out, back into the warmth of the valleys, we carried the summit bagger’s daypacks for them, gave them extra food of ours, extra water. We helped them to trek their tired bodies out; they had hauled their tired bodies to the top for all of us. Because they could, and we couldn’t. And now we could, and they couldn’t.

When thinking about that climb, and turning back, it is not a feeling of failure but of a great success. The top I didn’t make, but that also helped to make me realise that initial goals are not always to be realised, and you don’t always realise what you need to achieve.


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