New Year 2012/13 – Aconcagua

No Comments Written by Tam on 12/01/2013 in past expeditions.

Not long after finishing the epic cycling trip through the Andes, we headed back up to Mendoza to attempt to reach the summit of Aconcagua. The season to date had been very unsettled with unusually high winds, but they dropped and gave us a reasonable shot. Rapid ascent through the higher camps, however, left me struggling with the altitude and so I called it a day at camp 3 (6000m). It still made for an awesome adventure, and I have every intention of returning in the next couple of years for another shot. I used 7summits who actually use the local guiding, porters and facilities of Aymara… all excellent and if I can get a different schedule (better acclimatisation) I’d use them again.

My blog for the duration is archived and photos will be up soon.

Aug – Dec 2012 – The Andes Trail, South America

One Comment Written by Tam on 12/01/2013 in past expeditions.

With a generous leave of absence of 6 months (thanks boss!) I got the opportunity to join Bike Dreams for their Andes Trail 2012 tour of South America – starting at the equator, just north of Quito in Ecuador, and finishing after 138 days, 106 stages, 108,036 metres of climbing, and 10,937 km, through 5 countries, at Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of Argentina.

Obviously I didn’t walk this one, but took my mountain bike, and saw so much of an amazing mountain chain, different countries, cultures, food, drinks, scenery, weather, temperatures, met some fantastic people, and learnt a lot. My blog for the duration is archived, and photos will be up shortly.

Mendoza – 3

One Comment Written by Tam on 07/01/2013 in Aconcagua.

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Safely back from the mountains and in Mendoza – luxury! Showered for the first time in 2 weeks!

Adie and I made it up to 6000m (camp 3) (-17C in the tent overnight), but suffered a lot with the altitude so called it a day then. 2 of our group managed to summit – David (Spanish) and Lila (Russian). The winds had lessened from when we were in Mendoza last, and Aymara‘s 14 expeditions with 0 summits for this season is now up to 18 expeditions with 4 summits (usual success rate for them is 80%).

Our plans to come back in a couple of years’ time to try again include a gear review, especially for summit day (given how cold we now really expect it to be, and the key issue being wind); and to ascend through camps 1 and 2 more slowly with better acclimatisation (possibly by booking a private guide, since the itineraries run by the companies are all otherwise quite rigid). If you plan to try this and want to discuss, you’re welcome to drop me a mail (below) and I’d be happy to share experiences/advice.

We have a couple of nights here then head over to Santiago for our flights home. Sitting in the minibus on the way back from Puente del Inca last night I saw the stars and realised that for the last 6 months I’ve been looking up at the constellations of the southern hemisphere, and in a week’s time I’ll be back staring at the northern stars, like I did for the previous 33 years. Big thanks to everyone that made it so special for me – all the crew and cyclists of the Bike Dreams Andes Trail 2012, and the guides and climbers of the Aymara 23 Dec 2012 Aconcagua Normal Route expedition. It’s been an amazing adventure, and hopefully I’ll retain many memories and friends for a long time to come.

Fernando (our lead guide on the Aconcagua expedition) said, as he described the way the guides kept encouraging us all to maximise our experience, and suggested we adopted as a life mantra: keep pushing :)

Plaza de Mulas – 2

No Comments Written by Tam on 31/12/2012 in Aconcagua.

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Heading off up to camp 1 tomorrow after a couple of training days and a rest day. Happy New Year to everyone! Already celebrated Moscow and Barcelona New Years and wishing the UK a good one… then Brazil at 11pm (local time), Argentina at midnight (with burning of a giant wooden Mulas on the helipad! (- it turned out to be a guy rather than a mulas…)) and Canada at 1am… We’ll be back down here in 5 days’ time! Best wishes to all!

Plaza de Mulas

No Comments Written by Tam on 28/12/2012 in Aconcagua.

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Enjoying a rest day on day 6, having made it up to Plaza de Mulas. Day 2 up to Puente del Inca was amazing – I can’t upload photos right now, but it?s an amazing natural bridge the Incas used to use to cross the river, where warm water caused a build up of minerals creating some cool structures – the place isn’t just named for a laugh! Day 3 we did a short walk up to Confluencia where we stayed overnight and were met by a very friendly, welcoming team who fed us and made sure we were comfortable. The wind dropped and Day 4 we went for a 6 hour day walk up to the South Face – impressive wall that some crazy hardcore climbers have ascended via! Day 5 was an early (cold) start from Confluencia to pack the bags and tents for the mules to take at 7am before we had breakfast and headed off on an 8 hour walk up to base camp (here). Our guides have taken great care of us and kept up a good pace to make it here on time. They all seem to love their job and their energy never seems to wane – wish the rest of us could say the same!

Our group is 13 people plus 3 guides – 6 Brazilians – 2 couples and 2 more guys, 1 Russian girl, 1 Canadian guy, 1 Irish guy, 1 American guy, and 1 Spanish guy who made a summit attempt 2 years ago and made it as far as camp 3 before the group turned back due to high winds. An interesting, and very caring, bunch.

We have another 4 nights here, a hike tomorrow up Cerro Bonete, then a run up to camp 1 with equipment and supplies the day after before a 2nd rest day then a 4 day summit attempt. The wind has dropped quite a lot but is forecast to pick up again on Monday. We’ll wait and see a longer-term forecast before we leave here.

This place is pretty cool! We’re currently in the highest art gallery in the world, at 4300m, where Miguel Doura paints awesome pictures for 3 months of the year, every year. You can even find hot showers and a telescope!

It’s very warm in the sun, and very cold in the wind, and at night. Mostly recovered from the altitude so tomorrow’s stroll up to 5000m should be fun… hope xmas was good. Happy new year to all!

Mendoza – 2

No Comments Written by Tam on 23/12/2012 in Aconcagua.

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Leaving Ushuaia was undesirably eventful – the post office wouldn’t accept parcels in the afternoon, only before midday, so we had to go back just before our flights on the morning of the 18th… to be told that our bike boxes were too big. Much discussion and demonstration of them more-or-less fitting in the sacks, maybe requiring more than one cable-tie to loop through the holes in the top of the sack, and arguing that it was still secure… resulted eventually in some larger sacks being found, but an insistance that the brown cardboard boxes were re-wrapped in brown paper, and were directed across the street to the shop for paper and tape. Much wrapping and form-filling later (and BIG THANKS to Chris and Graeme for their assistance!), we were separated from a large sum of pesos and fled back to the hotel to check out and taxi to the airport… another stress given the protests in Ushuaia and threats that the road to the airport was blocked. However, we made it to the airport expecting to pay excess baggage (Aerolineas Argentina’s bag limit was 15kg), and faced no extra charges, and instead found ourselves in comparable luxury in Row 2!

So a fun evening in Buenos Aires ensued where we caught up for the final time with Malcolm, Michelle, Jaap and Ricardo for dinner and (slightly too late) drinks – up there on the list of people i’ll hopefully catch up with again – then attempting on-line check-in over breakfast, I suddenly realised the last minute booking of flights I’d done from Rio Grande were booked for 19 January, not 19 December – oops! A dash to the local LAN office resulted in them being changed free of charge to the ones we thought they were, and after coffee, late checkout and lunch, we headed to the airport.

A slightly bumpy and hour-delayed flight later, we were met at the airport in Mendoza by a pickup who took us straight to the hotel! Phew…

A couple of days later, much planning, shopping, visit to the guide company to pay for the extra hotel nights, questions answered, hire company located and gear borrowed where not bought… finally today we met with a couple of our guides and 7 other people in our group (another 4 have gone for extra acclimatisation and will meet us up at Puente del Inca tomorrow night), had gear checked, paid for park permits and packed… we leave tomorrow morning at 9am and head up to Puente del Inca for lunch. The full itinerary can be found here: – today was ‘Day 1’. Power and internet access *might* exist at various points up to and including Basecamp (Plaza de Mulas) which we leave for the final time on the morning of Day 10 with summit day hopefully Day 13 (4 Jan 2013).

So off we go! Fingers crossed. It’s apparently been very unusually windy – it’s usually windy in November and drops by December but speeds of 150km/hr are still happening on the top at the mo (see here). This evening we saw some rather disappointed, tired kids roll into the hotel out of a van bearing the name of the guiding company we’re climbing with. Stuff is looking better on the forecast though… Here’s hoping! Watch this space…

Oh and feliz navidad to all!


One Comment Written by Tam on 16/12/2012 in Andes-Trail.

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So we made it to the fin del mundo, just in time for the end of the world! A great final few days riding, very lucky with the weather – a bit cool, but the wind was so gentle to us, and the “lucky weather edition” of the 3rd Bike Dreams Andes Trail came to its conclusion. Champagne and snacks on the promenade, then a big group dinner later. 10,937km with 108,036m of climbing, in 106 stages, over 138 days. And that’s it.

I’ve had an absolutely amazing time and can’t thank the crew of Bike Dreams enough for all of their support, without which such a trip would not have been even vaguely possible for me for several years. Also sincere thanks to all of the cyclists – a fantastic bunch of characters that helped to shape such a memorable trip; and some that I will hopefully retain as friends for years to come.

The hotel is now full of partially dismantled bikes as everyone looks forward to returning home for xmas…

Except us! Now we’re packing everything up to post all the bike stuff home, and writing kit and shopping lists. We have another 2 nights here then head up to Mendoza (via a night in Buenos Aires) to climb Aconcagua. The expedition (with 7summits) starts out on 23 December, and returns to Mendoza on 9 January.

So best wishes for the festive season to all… I’ll do another update before we leave Mendoza and hopefully be able to do the odd one from base camp, but can’t make any promises after that, until we get back down.

Punta Arenas

No Comments Written by Tam on 10/12/2012 in Andes-Trail.

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Wow, Patagonia is windy! I got properly blown off the road by a massive gust 2 days back and have a sore knee and stiff neck as a result. 200km/hr gusts blew 2 buses over in the Torres del Paine national park since we left it too!

We arrived in Punta Arenas yesterday where we have 2 nights in a hostel. It’s quite nice not to have to pitch tents for a change! Yesterday we had a party to celebrate Michelle’s, Sander’s and Harry’s birthdays, then went out for dinner and a bar and more drinks until the early hours. Happy birthday / Gefeliciteerd to all!

Tomorrow we cross the Straight of Magellan by boat before heading back into Argentina for the last few days ride to Ushuaia. A few days heading east might mean the wind will be behind us rather than in our faces or from the side… but the day out of El Calafate was supposed to be like that and we got a rare easterly wind so I’m not going to speak too soon… 53 degrees South.

Puerto Natales

No Comments Written by Tam on 07/12/2012 in Andes-Trail.

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3 more days fighting with the wind from El Calafate saw us down in the Torres del Paine National Park where we were suddenly treated with a wonderful day of sunshine, clear blue skies, and only strong winds picking up on the tops later in the afternoon. A bunch of us went for an awesome all-day hike up to the Parador de los Torres for some lunch under spectacular views of the towers themselves.

Another day of wind and rain has brought us to Puerto Natales, and another 2 days down to Punta Arenas…

Too many border crossings… where are we again!? 52 degrees South. Brr…

El Calafate

No Comments Written by Tam on 07/12/2012 in Andes-Trail.

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Sorry for the lack of update, but it’s been a fun and busy few days with a distinct lack of Internet connection, so this is getting written a few days late in Puerto Natales…

The 9 days of cycling from Coyhaique started with 4 long tough days followed by 5 shorter, fun days, with a couple of cool camps at Estancias, a quick afternoon ride down dirt tracks to the shore of the lake nearby for some stone-skimming and an after-dinner race to the top of the nearby hill to watch the sunset, coffee one afternoon with Andy (a random Brit we picked up who drove trucks for Bike Dreams a few years back and is travelling around on his motorbike at the mo), a pairs time trial down a 47km stretch of lovely paved road with a tail wind – averaging over 40km/hr, spectacular rivers, glaciers, and lakes full of icebergs!

When we reached El Calafate, Roffie and Michelle had collectively managed to book us an all-day glacier hike for the rest day which was awesome! It started with a bunch of rain, but cleared up while we were on the ice and so could enjoy lunch, some fun crevasses, and a whisky on the (glacial ice) rocks on the boat on the way back.

Weatherwise it’s got pretty cold, and the winds are often strong – mostly westerly so unpaved roads can be pretty treacherous when it’s a strong crosswind, or slow progress when it’s a headwind. When accompanied by rain it’s only fun for about 60km 😉

50 degrees South! And colder and crappier than 50 degrees North in the UK…