The season went quite well.There was only one death during the season, a Japanese man of 76 years who collapsed on the summit and was unable to be revived
According to Antonio Ibaceta, head of the Search and Rescue: there were many evacuations, from just the SAR–53
In regards to the rescue equipment from the “El Fede” Campanini foundation, everything was utilized as much as possible. The Skeds were used so much that they need to be replaced.
One hope is that the government claims they will begin to invest money in the park so we hope that things will get even better.”
The Path of 8: It Begins on a Mountain, Moves Around It and then Moves It.
Spanning three continents and one of the world’s highest mountains, this is a young widow’s memoir of bicultural love and grief and the agonizing effort to find meaning in tragedy.
In 2002, Amber Christensen was brutally bitten by a dog while traveling through Argentina. She was forced to change her travel plans which led her to Aconcagua—the highest mountain in the Southern hemisphere—where she met a handsome and charming Argentine mountain guide named Fede. After spending only three days together the two had fallen deeply in love.
They embarked upon a bi-continental life together lit by love and adventure, fraught with challenges, and darkened by senseless tragedy. After only three years of marriage Fede was caught in a storm on the summit of the same mountain where their love story had begun. A torturous search and rescue effort ensued, ultimately ending in his death. In the wake of Fede’s untimely passing, Amber was forced to face the mountain that had both blessed and cursed her life, and to find a way to create meaning and purpose from insurmountable loss.
This is a story of love, death, and moving mountains. Christensen recounts her journey of bicultural love and grief, which brings her back again and again to a twisting mountain trail that offers her transformation, transcendence, and an ultimate acceptance: that in any language, culture, or moment, comprender la muerte es comprender la vida (to understand death is to understand life).
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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.
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…
It’s time. Time to go “arriba”, up.
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.
3 oxygen tanks and 3 regulators
2 stoves and two pans
30 emergency blankets
30 emergency sleeping bags
30 rehydration packets
It isn’t much but it is amazing how little can move a mountain…
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
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.
After four days of waiting my luggage finally arrived! On Friday, I met with the director of Natural Resources of the province of Mendoza, which includes Aconcagua. I also met with Pablo Portuso, co-director of Protected Areas in the province of Mendoza. We discussed the cache project as well as what the park is doing to continue improving the rescue system on Aconcagua. In the meeting, the Park agreed to provide logistical support for the cache project. Also, on Monday, I am meeting with several officials in order to donate the equipment and hopefully sign an agreement to continue working together. Since January of 2009 it has been difficult to work with the political system that controls Aconcagua. However, because of the passion and dedication of many people we have moved this mountain.
Federico Campanini always said that it is more valuable to have friends than money, and those words echo around me with every move I make in this project. I haven’t done anything alone. This project–and life–really is about people. Achievement and success are reached easier with help. It seems like such an obvious statement but I think we often forget.
It’s a chain of people and events. Tom Milne, of Remote Medical International, has been an ongoing provider of support and contacts for this foundation. He put me in contact with Bud Calkin, the owner of SkedCo, manufacturer of the lightweight stretcher that makes rescues easier. RMI (Rainier Mountaineering Inc) has also provided unlimited support to this foundation. The support from the companies in the U.S. has been paramount to this project. Luckily, companies and individuals in the U.S. are generous with their resources and finances.
The help of people in Argentina has also been vital. First and foremost, the foundation would like to thank the former head of Aconcagua Park, Ariel Ghilardi who continues to help the foundation despite his change in position. The foundation would also like to thank Mario Gonzalez who is director of the Mountain Guide Association in Mendoza as well as the director of Elena Refuge, a refuge that was created in memory of Elena Selin, the client that died in the January 2009 accident. Mario has helped the foundation organize meetings and the documents necessary for this project. In addition, Mario has a friend who is the manager of Aerolineas Argentinas, the airline that lost my luggage. I am convinced that this connection sped up the process.
The foundation would also like to thank the owner of INKA Expeditions, Sebastian Tetilla, who has given the foundation logistical support over the past four years.
The foundation would also like to thank Federico Campanini’s family for their support of Amber Christensen and her mission to change the rescue system on the mountain that changed all of their lives forever.
Others: Matias Cruz, Gabriel Barral, Carolina,and Hernan, Pedro Rosell and Mili, Leo and Carina, Mijel Lofti, Magali, Fernando Grajales, Nacho, Pablo Sampano, Tony Ibaceta, Fredy, Pablo Ortubia, Vero, my family in the U.S., my friends around the world…and so many more…
Yes, it’s about people. The person who helps give you directions, or introduces you to someone else, or hears your story and wants to help, just to help, just because that is what we should do as human beings.
So, thank you, to those that I mentioned and those that have helped, regardless. I truly feel supported by many, and despite the lack of governmental support change is happening.
There is power in people and passion and collaboration.
I arrived on Monday in Argentina, but unfortunately, my luggage did not, this includes 4 Skeds, 3 oxygen tanks, two stoves, 20 emergency sleeping bags and 30 emergency blankets for Aconcagua. I am confident that soon it will all arrive.
I was supposed to meet with the Aconcagua Park authorities today but there was a strike and the positions in the park are changing. I am still not sure if this is a positive or negative fact. Tomorrow I am meeting with Pablo Portuso, co-director of the Park to organize the logistics of changing the caches. It isn’t a simple project. Aconcagua is a mountain of 22, 841ft. The three caches are at about 17, 500ft., 21,000ft, and 22,000ft. My intention is to ascend to base camp and then to the first two caches in order to see how they really are. Is there still equipment in them? Has it truly been used for its original purpose? But, in order to even get to base camp will take some logistical support and manpower. Hopefully I will be able to explain the organization of the plan after the meeting tomorrow. Yes, more to come, including the equipment, hopefully.