It is the cleanest mountain of the so-called seven summits and the highest in the southern hemisphere. 6959 meters measures the aconcagua. A piece of cake for dettelbach adventurer and mountaineer peter schoderlein. With his 74 years he was once again the oldest expedition participant. He has already set himself the next goal. This fall he wants to climb five volcanoes in mexico.
On 26. December 2011 the dettelbach extreme mountain climber arrived at frankfurt airport with 13 other mountaineers to set off together to argentina for aconcagua. The name is derived from the quechua word acko-cauak ("stone watchman"). In 1985, an indian tomb from pre-columbian times was found in the southeast flank at 5300 meters. The "stone guard could have been already climbed to rough heights before the arrival of the spaniards.
Climbed for the first time in 1897 by saas feer mountaineer mathies zurbriggen, aconcagua is still today a rough target for ambitious mountaineers. "Aconcagua is not a volcano, as it is often mistakenly believed", explains, says schoderlein. "But a wide substructure of marine sediments, covered by volcanic andesite, which forms part of its summit." It is also one of the cleanest mountains in the world.
Need comes in sack
"Rangers are very careful to observe the laws", tells schoderlein. "No other mountain is as clean as aconcagua." A misdemeanor, such as leaving your urine in an unauthorized place, is punishable by 500 US dollars, as is leaving any trash behind. In the high camps are used for the excrement so-called "shit-bags" which have to be transported back down to the valley. It is possible, however, to use a "shit-porter" for this purpose to engage, which the group then promptly made use of.
Well strengthened, the climbers began a three-day trek through the scenic, high-western vacas valley. After about three hours the group reached the camp de lena at 2850 meters high. The next day we continued along the river to casa de piedra (3200 meters). Again and again the climbers had to cross streams and rivers, like the rio de las vacas. They changed their trekking boots for tewa sandals and waded through the ice cold water.
The pack was transported by mules to the base camp plaza argentina (4200 meters). "The camp is widely spread, the campsites are occupied by different agencies", reports schoderlein. There are internet cafes, local staff works in the cakes, the tents are sturdily built. "So spacious that the entire team was seated at a rough table." Several bottles of red wine from mendoza were served with the delicious three-course meal. "You will not experience such hospitality in any other base camp", tells schoderlein.
Report to the camp doctor
From here on there were twelve days for further acclimatization, setting up the high camps, reaching the summit and descending to plaza de mulas (4370 m) on the west side of the mountain. Beforehand, however, each summit aspirant had to report to the doctor stationed at the camp: blood pressure, pulse and oxygen levels had to be measured, and the same had to be done again after light physical exertion.
The next day the expedition leader distributed immense quantities of high camp food, stoves, gas cartridges, pots and high camp tents for setting up the high camps. First we went up morainic slopes, past glacier remnants to camp I. Because of the strong wind, the participants refrained from pitching the tents. They stowed the material in sacks and deposited it behind rough boulders. After a short rest and a quick descent in pathless rubble and sand, the base camp was reached again in the afternoon.
After a day of rest, another ascent to camp I was planned, and the following day to camp II at 5500 meters, in order to set up a depot there. Due to the persistent storms on the mountain, however, a reserve day had to be sacrificed and another rest day at base camp had to be sat out. Then finally the group could dare the summit ascent. In the meantime, the sun had melted the snow in camp I. The tents were completely immersed in water. "In teamwork the move to the dry was done quickly", tells the dettelbacher. "The wet things could still dry in the afternoon sun." At night another storm came up and shook the tents violently. Even in the morning the wind does not die down. "You could see the snow flags on the mountain ridge."
Around 12 o'clock the time was running out. The team set off for camp II despite the storm. "Against the wind, two steps forward and one step back, the stage goal was reached after a good four hours, remembers the 74-year-old.
But it was not easy to set up the tents in the stormy weather. "Four men held the tents in place until they were sufficiently secured." The provisions bag deposited days ago on a rock block had to be freed from a thick layer of snow and ice with the help of an ice axe.
But the climbers did not have time to rest – they immediately started to melt snow in order to compensate for the lack of flux. "The storm didn't let up that night either and filled the awning and the boots parked there with drifting snow", tells schoderlein. Finally, with sunrise, the wind dies down. In the late morning the group started towards camp III at 5980 meters.
Abundant hydration is obligatory in these high altitudes. The preparation of a liter of tea takes here but good half an hour. "So one is busy until the night's rest." At 3 o'clock it was time to get ready for the ascent to the summit.
The tent was steamed up inside with rime. Not the only problem: the two of us had to get fully dressed in the cramped expedition tent, pack our backpacks, put on the climbing harness, struggle into the cold expedition boots and strap on crampons. "At an altitude of almost 6,000 meters, it's tough and exhausting," he recalls, says schoderlein.
Finally, around 5 o'clock, all started together in a starry night. The wind loved. After two hours the ruined camp independencia was reached at 6400 meters. The first rays of sunlight broke through the damming. "Nevertheless it was very cold", the mountaineer remembers. The consequences were painful: one participant had already turned back because of frostbite on his hands. Another participant was too exhausted and turned back here. With her, another climber descended, because he too could no longer trace his fingers from the cold. The paso del viento was still to come. Here, strong wind and extreme cold were to be expected. Participant ralf dujmovits advised already at the pre-meeting: "wear everything you have with you here."
Over the long ascending traverse gran acero it went up to a rough cave at 6690 meters. Here the summit is already within reach. Schoderlein had also frozen quite a few fingers at this point in time. So he had to give up another ascent. He preferred to wait for the others to return from the summit with another participant who was having increasing problems with the altitude.
Steep 200 meters of altitude still had to be overcome. They were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the 3000 meter high south face and a panoramic view of the surrounding funf and six thousand meter peaks. The descent via the normal route of the aconcagua led first to the summit exit camp "cholera" back. At the canaleta, schoderlein welcomed the returnees with a cola that he had brought with him all the way here.
1000 meters of descent were still to come. All went immediately on the way. At the same time, as the descent progressed, the sick man began to feel better. In the meantime it started to snow. At about 17 o'clock was reached the departure camp. "After a short period of rest, all were well again", reports the dettelbacher.
The crossing of the mountain was successful. At the plaza de mulas camp, the evening was marked by a summit celebration, with plenty of red wine and champagne flowing. After a last night in the tent we went 35 kilometers in one train back to punte del inca and penitentes and later by plane to frankfurt. Schoderlein has the best memories of the tour in south america, which he is happy to share in a multivision show.