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el fede

Mission Statement:

Federico Campanini, an international Argentine guide, lost his life on Aconcagua in January 2009.  Created in memory of Federico, The “El Fede” Campanini Foundation is dedicated to providing information, guidance, training and financial assistance to support ongoing efforts to improve mountain rescue on Aconcagua and in other commercial climbing areas.

The endeavor will not be easy, but it is possible through the support from those who share Federico’s love for the mountains.

The project: December 28th-December 31st

On December 28th the SAR, porters, park rangers, workers for the outfitters of each camp, guides, and me, got together to discuss the maintenance of the rescue caches which has to be a communal effort. The caches are there for anyone to use who needs them in an emergency; however, some people, usually independent climbers often open them out of curiosity and do not close them. Or, others steal things from the caches because not everyone has a conscience. Luckily, most often the caches are used in a necessary situation. However, when a person uses the equipment inside, such as oxygen, the tank needs to be refilled and then returned to the cache. Or, if a Sked is used to lower someone from a certain place on the mountain, the Sked needs to be returned to the cache. Therefore, we got together to discuss how to organize and communicate with this as well as how to transmit the message to climbers that the caches are there for an emergency and not for curiosity or anything else. Basically, it is going to be an ongoing process. In order to try and protect the donated equipment as well as remind everyone that it is from a foundation we marked everything with stickers and paint.


On December 29th we left Plaza de Mulas for Nido de Condores. It was a 4 and a half hour ascent and a 1500 meter elevation gain. When we arrived I did an inventory of what equipment was available there. As you can see, there is ample equipment.

I talked with the SAR rangers there and they told me how often the equipment is used to save lives, that at least 100 lives had been saved because of the equipment. Tears streamed down my face when I heard that number. One life for a hundred. Ah, Federico Campanini, you continue moving mountains.

We made our plan for the next day. We would leave at 6a.m. and take more material to Colera and then we would continue up to Independencia.
The SAR rangers and a park ranger, Pablo Ruiz, would take the materials for La Canaleta (a Sked, an oxygen tank and regulator and emergency sleeping bags and blankets). Myself, Matias, and two others would ascend to Independencia. All of us were a bit concerned because wind conditions were supposed to be between 50-60 kilometers per hour. We woke up at 6a.m. to melt snow and hydrate for the mission.


Inside Refugio Elena at Colera. The refuge was donated by Elena Selen’s family (Elena was Federico’s client that also died in the 2009 tragedy).

It was a long day and the wind was strong and the altitude gain was intense. I became frustrated at times with the fact that I had to even be there, bringing equipment and doing the labor to install the equipment. I had to lose my husband to be in that moment. But, then I looked at the people who were there with me, Matias Cruz, who had fought to try and save Federico’s life and who continued to help me because he is just one of those good people in the world. After that realization I continued on and we completed our mission. I am happy to report that Aconcagua now has four rescue caches: Nido de Condores, Campo 3 (on the Plaza Argentina side), Independencia, and the Canaleta.
More pictures to come.

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At Plaza de Mulas base camp organizing the project

We left on December 25th for Aconcagua and arrived yesterday at Plaza de Mulas base camp. Thus far, the community here has been amazing. Everyone has offered help and support with what we are trying to do. The most important effort that will have to continue and have to be fostered for a long time is the continued effort to take care of the rescue caches and the equipment inside. The caches are there to help people who have an emergency and for no other reason. Since being here, I have observed a lot of climbers who are trying to summit alone and too fast. This is unfortunate because it puts everyones life in danger.

The plan is to stay two more days here to acclimatize and to then begin ascending to Nido de Condores.

´Tomorrow the community here which includes guides, porters, the camp crew, the park rangers, the medics, and the Search and Rescue rangers are getting together to discuss the project and how they can continue working together to keep this mountain safe.

More to come…

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The Plan

It’s time. Time to go “arriba”, up.
The plan:
Matias Cruz, my Argentine friend, who is also a porter, as well as one of the volunteer rescuers during Federico’s accident, is coming with me. We are going with the new co-director of the park, Pablo Portuso.

December 25th: leave Mendoza, Argentina and drive to the entrance of Aconcagua Provincial Park (about 3 hours), Horcones. When we arrive we must check in even though we have been given permission to enter the park without pay (it is the least the park can do). We will leave the donated equipment there and the helicopter will take it to Plaza de Mulas base camp. From Horcones, we have a 2-3 hour hike to Confluencia (about 11,000ft), the first camp. We will spend the night there to begin acclimatizing.

December 26th: walk to Plaza de Mulas, base camp. It is a 7-9 hour hike to arrive at the approx. 14,000 ft. base camp. We will spend 2-3 days there in order to acclimatize. At base camp, the goal is to inform people of what we are doing and to try and get more help. Since we are going to install new caches and equipment it will take manpower because the helicopter is only able to take the equipment to Nido de Condores.

December 29th: hike to Nido de Condores, the first high camp (approx. 18,000ft.) The first cache is at Nido de Condores, however there is also a SAR base as well as a new post for doctors. Therefore, this cache is useful, but not as important as the higher ones. My goal is to revise the equipment and make sure everything is intact and to replace what is needed.

December 30th: Hopefully, three different expeditions will be organized today. One group of people will go to Refugio Independencia (21,000feet) another to La Cueva (22,000 ft) and another to Campo 3. Again, we want to install a new cache in Campo 3 which will include a Sked, oxygen, a stove, a splinter kit and emergency blankets and sleeping bags.
The distribution of the rest of the gear will be decided.

December 31st: to Plaza de Mulas to rest
January 1st: return to Mendoza and to a new beginning, but to continue maintaining what has been accomplished with this project.

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The donated equipment

4 Skeds
3 oxygen tanks and 3 regulators
2 stoves and two pans
6 lighters
30 emergency blankets
30 emergency sleeping bags
20 handwarmers
30 rehydration packets

It isn’t much but it is amazing how little can move a mountain…

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A few statistics about Aconcagua

Today I met with the Directors of the Park as well as representatives of the governor of Mendoza to make the donation official. The city of Mendoza and Aconcagua Park appreciate what the foundation does for one of the seven summits. It is unfortunate that the Argentine government cannot support this mountain that brings a lot of revenue and tourism, but as they say in Spanish: “es lo que hay” (it is what it is).
The donation is official and the project will begin on December 25th.

Here is a bit of interesting information about Aconcagua park according to the statistics of the previous climbing season 2012-2013 (Diario de los Andes)
Official climbing season: November 15-March 15
33,000 visitors
5.551 climbers
62 rescues from the SAR (Search and Rescue)
170 people (in total) were evacuated from the mountain.
6 people died while trying to reach the summit

Compare these numbers to the number of people that work on Aconcagua–however, this is NEVER AT THE SAME TIME because they work in shifts:

45 Park Rangers (normally there are 2-4 in each region of Aconcagua: Horcones (the entrance of the park), Confluencia, Plaza de Mulas base camp, and Nido de Condores high camp)

22 doctors who take care of all of the tourists and climbers that enter the park (there are 2-4 doctors who are stationed at Plaza de Mulas and Nido de Condores)

6-7 SAR who are at Plaza de Mulas and Nido de Condores.

As you can see, the mountain lacks manpower. Therefore, during an accident guides, porters, park rangers, and doctors must assist the Search and Rescue team. Aconcagua needs more manpower but the government claims that it is unable to pay more people. Once again, it’s all about people and working together.

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