Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gear Check and Goodnight

I've always been a sucker for overpacking... and this time isn't any different. As Eliana, the guide who stayed behind with me in Mendoza, observed, I seem to have brought double the amount of stuff. Then again, better safe than sorry. I didn't want to have to spend a day in Mendoza rounding up gear.

Top 5 Overpacking Examples:

5) Bringing 10 lbs of yummy goodies... Most notably raspberry Clif Shots, Honey Stinger Energy Packets, and--my favorite--NZ's famous Bumper Bars. They're just so good! But when you have to lug all this stuff up 23,000 ft you give all those snacks a second thought...

4) 4 pairs of long underwear bottoms. My legs usually stay pretty warm. And turns out you're only supposed to bring one pair of long underwear bottoms. Oooops.

3) A humongous first aid kit. I blame my mother for this one... Her instance that I stay "safe" and "healthy" might have been my undoing on this mountain if I had really lugged all of the pills, bandages, medicines, and other assorted medical tools she had wanted me to carry with me.

2) A solar charger and a solar charging Steri-Pen (to purify water). Two comments on this one: 1) It seemed like a good idea when I was back in the US... and 2) Turns out Iodine does a perfectly good job (and is about 5lbs lighter...).

1) Bringing 5 pairs of sunglasses... yeah... the high alpine sun might be a killer, but 5 pairs of sunglasses is definitely overkill. :P

So now that I have all of my mountain gear packed into one of my duffel bags (with my extra gear and street clothes stuffed into the other), I'm ready to head off to Penitentes to meet up with my group tomorrow morning. I'm going to get my climbing permit from the National Park office there and then we'll begin our three day hike to Base Camp.

Awesome!!! So glad it all appears to be coming together. :)


What Could Have Been a Very Quick End to this Expedition...

About an hour ago, it felt like anything that could have gone wrong, had gone wrong in the first 24 hours of this expedition. After leaving JFK, I discovered two things: 1) that I had been upgraded to Business Class (sweet!) and 2) that my connecting flight was (inexplicably) delayed three hours. This meant I would miss my all-important morning connection from Santiago to Mendoza. When I arrived in Santiago, I discovered that the flight I had been rebooked onto--the later Lan Chile flight--was actually oversold by 30% and that I did not have a seat. I was on standby for a flight that would already have me arrive 24 hours late for my expedition. Not good. Then I realized that things could get even worse. And they did. My bags had only been checked to Santiago, at which point they had to be transferred from Copa Airlines to Lan Chile. This switch was apparently difficult for the two airlines, because when I finally arrived in Mendoza (having managed to snag the last seat on the plane), I did not have either of my two gear bags.

I drove to the hotel to meet the group in sullen silence. This was so frustrating. I had finally made it to Mendoza only to be stuck here because my bags were delayed or--even worse--lost. I met the group for the first time as they packed into their shuttle bus to leave for Penitentes. Before they left, the guides warned me that if my bags did not show up on the 3pm flight (the last flight of the day), I would have to rent all of my gear in Mendoza in addition to being three days behind the team. After talking with my parents, we agreed that if my bags did not show up on the afternoon flight, I would probably reassess the entire expedition and possibly return home.

An hour after the last flight landed, I still had not received any word about my bags. In a moment of desperation, I hopped in a taxi headed to the airport hoping beyond hope that my bags would be there. I walked quickly up to the (empty) Lan Chile desk and noticed two huge, orange North Face duffel bags. My bags made it!

My bags: stuffed to the brim and ready to head into the Andes. 

Thank goodness, because otherwise that would have been one quick (and remarkably unsuccessful) expedition!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Long Journey Begins... (JFK --> PTY --> SCL --> MDZ)

At this point, I'm just praying that I arrive tomorrow morning in Mendoza with both of my bags. Forget enjoying the flight or sleeping at all, I just want those bags...

I'm at the airport now about to get on the first of my three flights to Mendoza, Argentina. I'm flying Copa Airlines through Panama City, Panama to Santiago, Chile and then switching to Lan Chile to fly from Santiago to Mendoza. One issue with this, though, is that I have to pick up my bags and check in again in Santiago. Santiago charges a $150 "reciprocity fee" to American citizens for going through immigration. So even though I'm only transferring, I still have to pay the fee because Copa decided not to check my bags all the way through to Mendoza.

Me at JFK with my COPA Airlines plane in the background.
Then again, this could be a blessing in disguise if it means that I actually HAVE my bags when I land in Mendoza... so, back to my first statement, I'm just praying it's all worth it and that my bags don't get lost or delayed.

When I get to Mendoza, I'll meet up with my 10 expedition teammates and our four guides. We'll get our Aconcagua Provincial Park passes and then do our gear check before heading up into the mountains. Talk about quick transitions! No room for error on this trip...

Because of the speed of the transition, I don't think I'll be able to update you before I head out into the wilderness. So to follow this expedition, you can read our Team Dispatches here:

Wish me luck!!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Last night before Aconcagua

Hey everyone, I'm about to go to sleep; it's my last night at home before I begin my Aconcagua expedition! In case you didn't know, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in South America (and the highest mountain outside of Asia...). It's 6962m high. That's almost 7km straight up! It frightens me a little that I'll soon be climbing this great peak. I will update you all on my ongoing project and on my preparation for this expedition tomorrow when I am on the plane. For now, though, I need to sleep. I only have 12 hours before my flight takes off!