BRV men attempt Andes’ highest peak
Editors Note: This is the first of a two-part series chronicling the summit attempt of two local men on Argentina’s highest mountain.
Leader Staff Writer
Aconcagua rises above the other peaks in the massive Andes mountain range. The range is 4,300 miles long and is the world’s longest continental range. But, near Mendoza, Argentina, lies a mountain climber’s paradise with a giant of rock dividing Argentina from Chile. Its weather, even in the summer, can snap a climber’s dreams as it changes from sunshine to winds in which one can hardly stand upright.
These winds are the ones that dashed the dream to summit Aconcagua for Bear River Valley residents Rob Rasmussen and Will Hornberger. But with six other climbers who were on the mountain at the same time suffering from cerebral edema, putting their lives gravely at risk due to their attempts to summit in this weather, this was a good decision for the pair to turn back without summiting.
Base camp for Aconcagua is at 14,500 feet. To put this into perspective, the highest peak in the lower 48 states is Mount Whitney. The highest point on Mount Whitney is the same elevation as Aconcagua’s base camp. The trailhead of Aconcagua begins at 9,000 feet, however.
Rasmussen and Hornberger left the U.S. on Dec. 24, 2009. They flew in to Santiago, Chile, where they spent the day meeting other people from all over the world who would also climb Aconcagua.
“It was a melancholy day [at the airport],” said veteran climber Rasmussen, “wondering what we had got ourselves into.”
Hornberger met Rasmussen three years ago at a local Klondike Derby. Hornberger had heard a great deal about Rasmussen’s previous climbs, including his Mt. McKinley trek that the Leader covered in 2004. Rasmussen admired Hornberger’s igloo he had built and thought that anyone that had bucked hay in 40 degrees below zero temperature where he grew up in northern Alberta, Canada might be a fine hiking partner.
After much prodding and encouragement, Hornberger agreed to make the trek to Aconcagua. His wife, Jennifer, who had previously told him, “There is no way you are going to die on a mountain,” finally gave him her okay. The sixth grade teacher would be able to go around Christmas and take some time off in January. This would be Austrial Summer in South America. He would buy a lot of gear on Ebay and get into shape by alternately biking 50 miles per day and then climb a mountain around the valley on the other days.
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