Moutaineering – Aconcaqua, Island Peak


Volcano Osorno

November 3, 2013   


The first thing you see when you arrive by sea into Puerto Montt is snow covered Volcanoes all around. So being a climber it was necessary to climb one especially as it is topped by a glacier. The closest to Puerto Montt is Volcanoe Osorno in the Los Lagos region it is 2,652 meters high and perfectly conical.


Osorno is on the shore of Llanquihue Lake and Todos Los Santos Lake. It is considered to be very active with 11 eruptions between 1575 and 1869. The conical shape reminds me of Mount Fuji which I went to as a little girl when I was either 7 or 8.

On Friday after work I picked up some rental equipment from Ensenada as I hadn’t brought my harness, boots, ice axe, crampons and helmet.


Then on up to the Teski Refugio on the side of the mountain just above the snow line at the ski resort. The view of the lake was stunning and got even better as the evening wore on.


After a tasty dinner it was time for bed in our bunk room as I had to be up at 4am to head on up the mountain with my climbing partner/guide Paulo.


The CONAF office is 100 meters from the Refugio so at 5am you fill out the permit application and get a permit to attach to your backpack. Then head on up past the ski lift as the sun comes up lighting up the underside of the clouds which you are soon above.

P1120697The shadow of the volcanoe can be seen in the clouds.

P1120708We put on our crampons and continued up to one side of the heavily crevassed area of the slope. The mountains of Patagonia spread as far as we could see ranks and ranks of them on all horizons.

P1120711 As it gets steeper time for ice axe and then roping up.


The ice features were incredible all swirly shaped from the wind.

iceclimbIt was very icy and we really needed an ice axe and hammer preferably a technical set as it became steep. But we made do with an ice axe each and had to cut steps.


To get onto the summit it is necessary to climb under the cornice which is very stable along a very exposed shelf.


The summit was spectacular it is a large flat platform that was windy and cold. We were the first up to the top after a bit of an ice climb! Other volcanoe summits popped out above the clouds.

Total return trip was 10 hours. It was hard work getting down hill as the snow got soft in the hot sun above the clouds.

Home sweet home – altitude experience

November 5, 2012   

This last trip to high altitude was moderately challenging physically and very slightly mentally. For the last 12 years my profession of racing yachts has taken me to much more physical and mental extremes than my altitude endeavors in 2012. The high altitude failures are frustrating, disappointing and puzzling for me all at once.

With SFYC burgee at 6000m smarter this time as I brought the fabric version. The plastic burgee fell apart in the cold at Aconcaqua at 6500m.

I was still making rational decisions at 6000m – gathering information on what remained of the climb and figuring out what percent of energy I felt I had left. I made a promise to myself that if I didn’t think I would have 50% of my energy left on the summit that I would not continue. At those altitudes the only person that will get you down the mountain is yourself. At lower altitudes you can have helicopter rescue (unlike the middle of the ocean). My heart wanted to continue up the hill but my lungs and my brain made the decision for me.

All that was left was to persuade Jon that I was capable of making it to crampon point to give the team each a good luck hug. I did try very hard to put on a smiley face after getting up from my hands and knees from a coughing and vomiting fit! The antibiotics didn’t stop my cold going to my chest and causing an infection.

The guys heading on up without me.

I have always been able to prepare myself and my boats with lots of hard work and if not finish the races entered but end up on the podium. This new sport is something I haven’t found a successful equation for. Maybe there isn’t one – what I do know from reading is that your body reacts differently to altitude every time you go to a mountain. If the speed is down on the boat we logically figure out why and rectify the situation. To some degree this is possible with high altitude climbing but I think there is a large percent that can’t be controlled. The problem is we aren’t dealing with mechanical parts it is human physiology and if you get it wrong the potential for physical damage is higher. I monitor my pulse ox and that helps me with many other clues to understand what my body requires to go higher. I don’t get worried about those figures I just analyze why my figures are not as I expect them to be. My body does react quickly to help in the form of water, rest etc. at altitude but it does seem to lag behind others in acclimatization once I get to 5000m. We all acclimatize at a different rate which makes commercial mountaineering trips a difficult thing for my body to deal with.

I think maybe a full days rest at base camp and then moving up to advanced base camp and starting from there would have made a difference to me however, commercial pressure would not allow that.

This last trip was physically a lot easier than Aconcaqua. We stayed at teahouses with heated communal areas en route except for two days in a tent. We ate sitting upright with knives and forks and didn’t have to carry our excrement in bags up and over the mountain. We didn’t carry our own gear as we had porters a huge difference which I didn’t get use to. This all meant it was more of a cruise in an Oyster 82 than a race in a Rogers 46. As a result I wasn’t ever in such a horrible state as I was on summit day back in January. So I guess I am very slowly learning from the experience despite not getting as high as in January it was an amazing trip with beautiful views and so much cultural history to learn.

Ama lighting up as the sun comes up.
Will I go to high altitude again – yes. Why? Because I like to push myself, set myself goals, learn new things and besides the views from up there are stunning. It is time to take what I have learnt from three years south up to high altitudes and use it in a new environment.

Singapore 10 hours

November 4, 2012   

Arrived airport 10pm and outside the gate was a set of computers so went online and booked a $16 bunk bed in a nearby hostel. Then jumped in a $9 shuttle to the hostel and I am now in my bunk about to go to sleep for 6.5 hours before heading back to Changi airport for the next leg of my journey home. Have a great Sunday.

Changi airport is a great experience would be nice if all airports were like this!

Stupas and Durbar

November 3, 2012   

Last bit of shopping done – purchase of three synthetic down jackets for my nieces and nephew for Christmas sking. Then we walked to Durbar square where they wanted a heafty entrance fee so instead we walked around the outside of the square for lunch on Freak St.

The square was where the city’s kings were once crowned and from where they ruled. It is the heart of old town Kathmandu and if there wasn’t so much dust and pollution it would be possible to make out the erotic explicit scenes that adorn the roof struts. We didn’t concentrate much of the buildings as we were trying to beat off touts attempting to sell the boys flutes and chess sets for 5 times the price at Folk Nepal. Rob’s line was pretty good when the tout told him very good made from sandlewood he replied I live in a sandlewood forest! We retreated to a roof top terrace with a resturant which had a very funny waiter and alright food.

The group split with the girls and Gerry braving a bone shaking taxi ride 5km out to the Bodhnath stupa built sometime after AD600.

The dome is whitewashed with a gilded tower painted with the eyes of the Buddha. A few worshippers were constantly prostating themselves to the stupa while tourist spun the prayer wheels and took multiple pictures of the prayer flags. We again retreated to a roof top and watched the sea of humanity below. A peaceful way to look at the monument. Before another taxi ride which wasn’t as bad as the one out there as the driver stuck to the main ring road instead of the pothole ridden side streets.

Kathmandu is indeed a strange mix of a very few fancy buildings containing shops and hotels surrounded by areas that look like a bomb was dropped and nobody has done anything to rectify the situation.

Shopping in Kathmandu

November 2, 2012   

Those who know me know I hate shopping however, presents need to be purchased. So the boys headed to the barber shop for a shave and the girls headed to Thamel and then onto the local market in deepest Kathmandu. I ended up with my primus stove (similar to what we use at BAS) and Claire and I both got thermos’s. Jay wants one so I will be taking him back to the local market today – what a fun experience.

Dinner with the team last night before everyone heads their seperate ways. Jon back to the mountains this morning and Claire off to the UK. The band is dispersing.

Happy Halloween

October 31, 2012   

We stayed in Phakding last night and the Shangri La. On the way down from Namache we ended up sunbathing by the river just after the confluence of two rivers on a very large boulder. The group listened to the roar of the river and I handed out Halloween sweets which were by now well crushed but were still well received.

In the evening Claire had brought a small pumpkin with her so we carved it at the teahouse while the Nepalese looked at us in bewilderment. .

We are now in Lukhla very different scenery from the high mountains with green fields and only small amounts of snow on the mountains. It is sad to leave the mountains and the concept of returning to work not very appealing even though I love my job 🙂 We are all eating cakes and drinking tea and hot chocolate in a coffee shop attempting to get on the slow wifi and start our return to the real world. Hope you had a great Halloween. Looking forward to Thanksgiving.

At Namache

October 30, 2012   

We have descended quickly from the scrub and juniper and today walked through the rhododendrum forests and pine trees to Namache. Yesterday after everyone awoke at base camp after 14 hours of sleep we hit the trail hard.

First of all cricket had to be played at 5100m at the foot of island peak and Lhotse face using an ice axe as a bat. Picture of Gerry by Jon Gupta. I sat on a boulder on the outskirts of the field taking video and watching the reactions of the porters and other trekkers. Many of the porters put down their loads and watched. Many of the teams coming up the hill couldn’t believe our lot were running around at that altitude.

We arrived in Pangboche as the sun fell and looking back it looked like Everest was on fire it was stunning.

It was Jason’s birthday so I had ordered a cake to be delivered to Sonam lodge. It was interesting to say the least – chocolate with apples and cinnamon in the middle. I had asked for an outline of the mountains but instead he got lots of pretty roses!!!

This morning we again moved quickly down the valley stopping for tea at Tengbouche and had a few minutes to go in the monastry then on to Tashi (a very nice nepalese woman) for lunch. I purchased a yak bell from her to put on the outside of my house.

It is very hard to stay disappointed in yourself for not making the summit with the views on the trek out from Island Peak. I will be back to this country for sure it is so very stunning. Every turn in the path is another photo opportunity. For a good hour long point on the trail I was the only person with a porter going up valley every now and again. Four kids came running out of their house yelling Namaste at me so I stopped and they asked me how are you? the extent of their English. I took a photo of them and showed it to them on the screen which they loved. I also showed them a picture taken of Mum, Dad, Daniel and I at a wedding in Tahoe and said my mother, my father, my brother. They giggled.

It was wonderful to just listen to the river in the gorge below and the wind in the trees. Claire and I on the last little bit walked together and came across the most beautiful bird that looks sort of like a peacock.

Tomorrow we will bypass Monjo and stay closer to Lukla we were attempting to change our flights out till the 1st but that isn’t going to happen which I am thankful for. Another day in the mountains and one less day in Katmandu.

Using good judgement…. failure to make summit

October 28, 2012   

Up at midnight breakfast and then departed at 1am. The ascent was up large boulder/scree slope about 900m with the snow fall and bright full moon I didn’t even use my head torch. I started struggling with breathing and forced myself to crampon point to watch the sun rise and wish everyone well on the glacier and fixed lines. I was jealous of them moving out onto the glacier and the summit was looking so close. A quick cry, vomit, coughing fit and then watching the most amazing sunrise. I turned around and headed down with Hermanta one of our sherpa climbing guides.

The view from Island Peak of Ama Dablam which the head guide Jon will be climbing a few weeks later.

I turned around at 6000m and Claire at 6100m the rest of the team made it the last 200m to summit. I failed to reach as I was vomiting and coughing up from another chest infection like Aconcaqua. It was the right decision to turn around but I hate failure it is an emotion I rarely experience. The journey to the mountain has been amazing and this country is stunningly beautiful so two more days to Lukla and I will write more.

Onto base camp

October 27, 2012   

After the hike up Chukkong Ri for acclimatization Claire was pretty sick so we had a slumber party in the room and napped all afternoon. In the morning we left Chukkang for 300m height climb contouring along the valley side the trail led on to the moraine of the Ama glacier. Lots of information coming from Jerry our Geography teacher.A place was spotted by the group for some after summit cricket at 5100m. After about three hours we reached base camp at the foot of Island Peak and had lunch. After lunch we did some more rope training learning how to transfer from jumar to figure of 8 without dropping the figure of eight while wearing large gloves. Early to bed after a 5:30 dinner as we get up at 11:30 to start for the summit.

Aclimatisation day on Chukkung Ri

October 25, 2012   

Tweet from @JCGexpeditions: Day 8 – Aclimatisation day on Chukkung Ri, and the team are all chilling at 5500m! Views are out of this world!

Photo by Rob Nunn