Wind swept heights of South America
The lower reaches of Aconcagua are almost barren, with scree-like soils and sparsely dotted with scrubby bushes. Climbing them is less climbing and more plodding than anything else. Getting to base camp on every mountain has been different. This one especially, as we used mules to carry the gear. It was December 2002 and five of us had decided to add Aconcagua to our growing list of summits climbed. But at base camp, three of my friends had to pull out. They were struggling to acclimatise and it’s never safe to carry on if you can’t get to grips with the altitude. The mountain is unsympathetic towards climbers. Jon Bojar and I kept pushing on to attempt the summit in January 2003. I found myself struggling with altitude sickness right near the top. What made it even worse was losing a glove. The cold and the extreme wind resulted in me getting frost bitten on the fingertips of my one hand.
Apart from reaching the summit and the view from the top, the head-height sastrugi we had to come through were stunning. The wind and sun sculpt the ice into dramatic needle-sharp towers like something out of a science-fiction film.