Blown Around on Aconcagua

Bjarne and Andreas' Excellent Andean Adventure, No. 5: To the tallest peak in the Americas

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(Ed’s note: This is the fifth post in a series by Andreas Fransson and Bjarne Sahlén chronicling their travels in South America. See earlier dispatches HERE ".)

“We could probably have returned a week later or so, but it’s just another really expensive sand pile and the world is full of great objectives for the future.”

By Andreas Fransson

We just got blown down the mountain. It was impossible to walk in any kind of controlled manner with the skis on the pack acting as a sail. First I got blown down the few meters I had just gained, and in the next second I found my self running lightly uphill with the wind in my back.

Aconcagua is infamous for high winds, rising majestically up the highest mountain in the Andes, at 6,962 meters (22,841 feet). We got turned around on our first try, but it was part of the plan. With nine days worth of food and plenty of gas, we had all the time in the world to wait for a good weather window.

Buddy movie on Aconcagua - Bjarne Sahlén, left, and Andreas Fransson. Photo: Sahlén

Buddy movie on Aconcagua - Bjarne Sahlén, left, and Andreas Fransson. Photo: Sahlén

In mid-November, this normally busy pile of rock and gravel is beautifully wild and empty of people. We were the first to arrive in Plaza Argentina, one of the base camps, and up higher we had the mountain almost to ourselves.

After a week on the mountain with hard winds and the textile of the tent slapping my face all night, we finally got our chance. I really wanted to ski something challenging and wanted to be on the top early to have the whole day to play for the ski, so we set off early in the morning. 

But after a few hours it was just too cold to go any higher. We had all our clothes on and were walking as fast as we could but still only got colder and colder. There was nothing else to do than walk back down a few hundred meters and wait for the sun.

Hugging behind a rock with Bjarne's feet in my jacket, and mine in his, we quietly waited for the warmth of the sun. Two hours later we were once again warm and ready to continue our ascent. By now the weather was perfect and we easily summited in just a few hours.

My plans to ski something different had to get canceled since the wind had destroyed the conditions after my reconnaissance trip a week earlier. Bad conditions and late timing made the decision to ski the Polish Glacier an easy choice before walking down the gravel. 

Nah, the skiing wasn't perfect, but this journey has not been about perfection. Let's just call it a grand adventure. And an adventure implies not knowing how things are going to end, not being able to plan every step ahead and just taking on the conditions as they happen to reveal themselves. 

We have gotten out of shape, weak and maybe a little bit fat, but we have gotten another amazing adventure worthy to tell the grandchildren about in the future: 56-hour nonstop bus rides, shitty food, amazing wines, poverty, late nights, high mountains, rude police and helpful locals, and everything shared with a great friend.

Some good turns here and there, bird-views over endless desserts and rainforest, the feeling of desolation showing up in a deserted town in the middle of the night, gastric problems on unbarked hostel toilets and card games in cigarette smoke—it’s all part of the memories from our journey. 

Not that I like to get stuck in the yesterdays escapades. This was sweet, but but we are both ready for the next venture into the unknown. It starts now.

Find Fransson’s personal blog HERE, and Sahlén’s HERE.