Local Hikers Schooled by Altitude and Weather
Leader Staff Writer
The winds of Aconcagua ultimately decide whether a mountain climber will summit. The highest mountain in the Americas as well as outside of Asia demands respect. For Bear River Valley residents Rob Rasmussen and Will Hornberger, the winds were about to speak.
The duo had left the U.S. on Dec. 24, 2009. For 13 days they had pushed higher and higher on the mountain and returned to lower elevations to recover as they acclimatized.
There was a one to two day window in which to summit when Rasmussen and Hornberger decided to go for it. At 2:30 a.m. they began the ascent. They must make a certain cave by 3 p.m. or turn back.
“We forged ahead without resting much,” Hornberger said. They met up with a Swedish climber who had some chocolate and after days of granola bars and jerky that chocolate tasted so amazing, Hornberger added.
Two Japanese hikers caught up and passed them. The sun peeked up over the top of the mountain, casting a giant shadow across the valley and a wind began. By the time Hornberger reached the Independencia Hut, a roofless wooden A-frame hut that is the highest man-made building on the planet, the Japanese men were already huddled there. Hornberger squatted through the low door, he said, and hunched low to receive shelter from the walls, leaning on his pack. The winds were so strong, they would pick his heavy pack up from under him and throw it across the hut.
The Swede pressed on 500 feet above the hut and returned, reporting that it was much worse higher. He emphatically stated, “Don’t go up, go down.” The Swede gestured by wiggling his fingers, “When these are gone, they’re gone forever. The mountain will be here forever.”
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