I lied on my application form to attempt Aconcagua. Some previous high altitude experience was a pre-requisite to attempt the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. At just under 7,000m, it’s an undertaking that should not be underestimated. Aged 18 with little experience but high ambitions of climbing the highest mountain in every continent, this was a bold strategy.
As it transpired, this was a worthwhile decision as I made the summit in Feb 2008 and became one of the Youngest Britons to have done so.
It was an enormous learning curve from start to finish. I was the youngest member of our team by a decade and was sharing tents with seasoned climbers from all over the UK; the sort of experience that forces you to grow up. Living together for over a month in a cluttered and claustrophobic atmosphere does that. It helped me understand what being part of a team meant.
Aconcagua is not a technical ascent but it is high. We traversed the mountain which added a few logistical challenges. Up we went to Camp Colera situated at 5,950m. After sunrise on summit day, my extremities thankfully began to warm up and I felt pretty confident that I would get to the top. Even when you have that feeling, the moment when you reach the summit of a mountain is a unique one. There is something euphoric and exciting which is heightened when you’re at the highest point of a continent.
A few snaps with the team, a little video for the records (thankfully my camera skills developed with time) and off back to high camp we went. A few days later and we were celebrating back in Mendoza.
Aconcagua was a brilliant expedition. You live out of a bag in a tent for weeks on end; crowded and uncomfortable much of the time yet peaceful with the environment around you.
I had botched a lot of what I needed in terms of kit and administration. I made mistakes I would endeavour not to make again but made the summit and it furthered my ambition to climb the Seven Summits.