Friday, January 27

Alpine Climbing - What Should I Do Right the Next Time

After my attempt to summit Mt. Aconcagua last December 2011, I have been thinking what should I improve when given the chance to do alpine climbing again someday. Doing Aconcagua is not my very first high altitude climb, nor not my first winter or cold climbing. I have done several in the past but not as challenging as this one. This is the highest that I've done when it comes to altitude and the coldest because of the strong gusty winds that we encounter on the trail and on the campsite.

On this climb I believe I did my best to prepare on the best of my ability, mentally, physically, emotionally, in terms of my gears and other equipment needed for the expedition. I do countless research for me to have an idea what situations other climbers in the past encountered and anticipate what might happen on my trip. But not unless one is on the actual situation, one will really never know if what you prepared for is really enough, more than enough or not enough. And I want to  assess myself how I do, what went wrong and what should I do and improve the next time I will climb on the same kind of terrain.

On the Food
On long expeditions like this,  I guess nutrition to sustain ones energy and strength especially on the summit bid and up to the end of the trail is very important. I really do not know if it's only me who feel that.  I feel I do not have enough nutrients with the food that I am eating while up in the mountain. With that, on the next long expedition like this,  lesson learned, I should insist of having the list of menu months before the actual expedition. Why is that? That way I can think of a strategy on how I can get a proper nutrition while on an expedition. On the last expedition that I had, I should have done either of the two things; 1) for more than a month prior to the expedition, I should have practiced a rice less diet with more on cookies and biscuits and pasta while on my training. That way I guess my body will adopt to such kind of nutrition while exerting so much energy on the actual climb. or 2) plan the menu in such a way that it will support the existing menu of the outfitter and probably add/bring some food in order to have the nutrients that I needed in the mountain. Rice, not on each meal but most likely on an alternate meal, but I should also bring an MSR stove that has a moderate control in order to cook for rice, worst scenario in an absence of rice, I should have brought an oatmeal, not the instant one. And aside from rice, I should bring other rich protein food to balance with the carbo that the outfitter is bringing. 

Osprey Women's Ariel 75
On Expedition Pack
I use a TNF Creston 65 as my pack. I know from the start this is not an expedition pack but I thought I cannot afford anymore to buy a new one just for this expedition. I will just make use of what I have for this trip to save expenses. True enough when I was there I feel my pack has just no enough space for my gear though not all the time as well. For there are days I have to avail the porter's services so my pack is not that full. But really I find it difficult to fit all of my things on it. With that I've been thinking I should invest on a good pack, spacious enough to carry all my things on long expeditions and I've been thinking this kind of pack. I heard so much good review about osprey and I feel it fits to my need in future long expeditions.  

On Double Plastic Boots
I got a Scrapa Inverno size 7.5. It turn out it is still  an inch bigger on my feet. Despite my two socks on (one thin and one thick) it still has space on my feet which making it difficult to walk on uneven terrain for at times it seems like  the interior shoe will just slide out. Leo was right in telling us that this should fit well into our feet otherwise it will be very difficult to use. Next time, I thought of getting a size 7.00 koflac shoes. Looking at some climbers while on the trail during the expedition, this kind of plastic boots looks less bulky than that of the Scarpa Inverno. 

On Gaiters
I brought a water proof dueter gaiter, the one that Ive been using for several years on a high altitude cold trekking. But it turned out with the kind of shoes that I have and the pants, the one that I have is much smaller. It was always a struggle for me to put on my gaiters before I can have it fit to my shoes. I should get a bigger size, the one that should cover the shoe lace portion of the double plastic boots. Gaiter is very essential especially on a deep snow to protect the snow from getting into the shoes, minimizing the moisture that get into the socks.

On the use of Crampons
I know it is impossible to practice using crampons on an actual snow where I come from, there is no snow at all. But in high altitude climbing, we will not be walking in all snow with crampons and on double boots on. There are areas that it's just the scree and the rocks. I thought of practicing using this gears on an actual mountain here with a heavy load. Maculot is the mountain I thought should have been a good mountain to practice on, with a heavy load pack as well.

A Good Summit Gloves and Liner
Keeping my extremities dry and warm especially on the summit assault is very essential. I feel like the one that I have on that day is not sufficient to keep me warm. Making my both thumbs really very cold even when I keep on moving. I should get a real expedition gloves that would be warm and that which will protect my hands from the cold and the wind.

Summit Layering
I feel so cold on my summit day. I should have put an addition layer of inner clothes to keep me warm while struggling the cold gusty wind when the sun is still not out. It's a very big factor when you are warm enough on a tough times of fighting the cold wind and the altitude.

More Exposure on High Altitude Snow Mountain Peaks
On this expedition, I feel like I tried every physical activity in order for me to be physically prepared. I am up in the mountain  almost every single weekend for the past 10 months just to prepare myself physically prior to the expedition. I joined every possible race to build endurance and mental toughness. I even join a climbathon race, a high altitude run  at  Mt. Kinabalu doing the 4,092 summit twice.  But still on the actual climb I still feel short of strength to finish the climb. I am thinking what else should I do? To be exposed to the actual snow terrain with heavy load and with gears on I think is the best way for me to conquer such difficulty. I know it will be expensive but I guess that's the way for me to get the experience.

Team Dynamics
I wish the next time I do expedition like this,  I can convince a crazy female like me to join the expedition. I think I would be very lucky to find one, I am not saying there are just very few crazy minded female who will venture on the same trip that I am doing, but really it's very rare to get one. And others may wonder why, will I still wish to convince another female to join me,  that is because female still has a different strength than men. I acknowledge that men are still stronger and faster than female, they have an advantage to female in terms of body build and mechanics. With that, having to do a long expedition such as that of Aconcagua, it's always best to have somebody of my same sex, that way I will have someone on the same pace and same strength.

Unguided Climb to AC on the next expedition?
I am not really sure if I am going to do this if  ever I will climb again this mountain, without a guide. I am still not solve to the idea. I  cannot imagine how one will do it without an outfitter's services. For me getting an outfitter is not just having somebody to guide the clients where the right trail is. I mean, with the trail that we did, one will never be lost, there is not much trail to follow except the one that leads to the next campsite. I think there are pros and cons of doing any of the option and I think it should be something that should be taken into consideration. The advantages of not getting an outfitter: it is going to  be cheaper for sure. We can maximize the number of days stated on the permit (20 days), we can stop and do the rest if we want to and proceed to the higher camps when we feel like our body has already acclimatize to the altitude and we have recovered and enough strength to move to the next camp. Something that we feel we lack the last climb we had.   We can plan our own menu and have the meal that we want to rather than eating the food provided by the  outfitter which we feel is not nutritious enough to sustain our energy up to the last day. The disadvantage of course are as follows: we have to arrange everything, on getting a place in  Mendoza, I know it is easy to arrange, the hostel to stay, on acquiring a climb permit. But on the part of arranging transportation from Mendoza to Penitentes, and back to Mendoza after the climb,  the arrangement of the hostel in Ayelen. I cannot imagine having to carry my own big pack from the entrance of the park up to Plaza Argentina, and all the more to the higher camps. Where are we going to get the 4-season tent, well, I think we can rent this, but how about the cook set and stove. And who will carry it and the food load? I cannot imagine putting additional load to what I  carried on our previous climb. One option could be get a group porter and budget a designated one personal porter. Can we use the services of the mules? of Daniel Lopez at Plaza Argentina or that of Aconcagua tent at Plaza de Mulas? Who will give a call if in the event weather condition at the summit bid would be too bad? or worst if something will happen that needs immediate decision. Who will assist climber like me? Really, those are the questions that we have to put into consideration. Are we really ready to go for an unguided climb on a big mountain such as that of Aconcagua.? That I have to put much thinking.

And still more lots of prayers and positive attitude towards the climb I guess.


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