failed rescue attempt on Aconcagua


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Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Feb 21, 2009 - 12:40am PT
The best thing about this failed rescue attempt is that it did not drag on for months or years!

Feb 21, 2009 - 12:47am PT
You're kidding right, about things changing via any litigation? Things shouldn't change here. You go into the mountains, you take your chances. You go in as prepared as you can be. Since when do we count on a rescue in that environment? Is that what we want? Not no how.

How many deaths on Aconcagua every year? About five; way less than the French Alps which is about 50 due to ease of access and general local population.
rodrigo MUJICA

Mountain climber
Feb 21, 2009 - 07:27am PT
VIDEO HAS BEEN MISINTERPRETED: I feel deeply for the family. The video has been of incredibly negative impact in Argentina and Chile, BUT they did what they could, communication was maybe lacking and to have A team more skilled...maybe, but those guys work very HARD to be up there and did all they could. Everyone criticizes the rescuers and the treatment: when you are desperate at 6,700 meters, exhausted and with no response, that is what you do: you swear and scream from frustration, this guys were risking there lives by being up there and could not have "camped" is too high! and they were not prepared to spend the night up there. This guys should be recognized not criticized.
Rodrigo Mujica, veteran of 32 Aconcagua expeditions, 28 summits, owner of , we have lead over 200 trips to the summit and 1000s of clients. We are the only or one of the few companies that never had a fatality on Aconcagua or elsewhere in 24 years operating there
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 21, 2009 - 10:35am PT
Rodrigo- you are right. The guys tried hard and the video only shows a short segment. Rescues take hours and even days.

Jstan- a litter raise could be set up quickly. in that terrain, you may chose to forgo a belay and just haul. 5 200 footers gets you 1000 feet. lowers on the other side, would go really quickly.

Perhaps a stashed litter in one of the high camps is a good idea. Reading those links posted above, there was an organized SAR team there and a lot effort went into this rescue, so that's good.

All SAR teams can do better, and I hope they are analyzing what was done to make improvements, and report to the world what they come up with.

Doug, sheesh man, you make some good rescue points, and there is a mentality of some people that everything will be taken care of, but dang, take a deep breath and think of things in life that make you happy.

Out Inyo SAR team is pretty good,though we could always use more people, we're government sponsored volunteers and many of are climbers but not all of them.

Chris Fasoldt

Mountain climber
Rockport, Maine
Feb 21, 2009 - 10:42am PT
It is jury-rigged and jerry-built

Trad climber
boulder, co.
Feb 21, 2009 - 11:05am PT
Thanks Chris for clearing that up.

Trad climber
Feb 21, 2009 - 11:28am PT
If the rescuers were expecting Federico Campanini to be dead then why did they go to the rescue on such bad conditions and in such quick pace as rescue organizers claim. Also, didn't the rescuers state they video tape the rescue to help them improve their future attempts.

I have real "a lot" of rescues from Everest, Mt. Hood, K2 and have been really impressed with the organization and the "rescue bags" they use. There have been a lot of miracles that have off those mountains.

This is not the dark ages. If you are a confident rescue climber then your heart is to rescue that person, because you fear that happening to you or your clients someday . That is why you learn from other's mistakes. I believe most guides practice and participate in alot of rescues to stay in shape and in tune their clients. They need to for liability purposes and to gain clients. I would imagine alot of the rescue team for Federico Campanini were probably trained guides. I agree with Federico's father, the rescue did not look very well planned. The only rescue item I saw was a rope. You would have to read the bigger mountain rescues to understand that this was not a good attempt. Only the confident climber would have volunteered for a rescue and usually it is the ones who really care about their jobs and the people they represent. I see an over-abundance (sorry teacher my spelling may be off) of red flags here.

But how am I to judge. I wasn't there and I didn't volunteer. I probably couldn't have made it either!
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 21, 2009 - 11:32am PT
nope- do you? Anyone ever tried? Share the info, what works what doesn't.

their problem was that they had to go up. that sucks, but there is a lot of effort and time involved in dragging a guy too.

Crawling slowly can take way too long too. I've seen a five minute walk take an hour when the victim insisted on walking. Werner - remember that slowpoke on the mist trail?

If brute strength doesn't work what do you do? I'd be thinking mechanical advantage, to assist the brute strength that is going to be needed.

Mountain climber
Bay Area
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 21, 2009 - 11:44am PT
Tom did you see this ?

Trad climber
boulder, co.
Feb 21, 2009 - 11:49am PT
Majid there is no comparison!


Feb 21, 2009 - 12:07pm PT
Yeah Tom, I remember that old man, 1 hour to go 5 minutes. Hahaha

Anyways, The guys number was up. 30 Alex lowes, Jello's, Stumps and whatever bad ass m'ofukers on this planet would never have saved him.

Well ..... maybe Rocky?

When your numbers up it's up ......

Feb 21, 2009 - 12:33pm PT
What Werner said.
Unfortunitly, there was no Alex Lowe present. Just guys trying to do a seemingly immpossible task of getting a largely un-responsive climber up several hundred meters over a 23,000 foot summit and then down the other side. They were already tired from racing up there and did what they could. This was not the Marine Corp, Denali Nat. Park rescue Team, or YOSAR. There is NO comparison to the Broad Peak rescue.
Perhaps it is true that they were unprepared, under-maned and poorly trained.
To those of you who are overly critical; have you been over 6000 meters, tired and in a storm, trying to "man -handle" dead weight up and over a 6968 meter summit? I find it poor style to coment what you cannot fathom. Try not judge these people too harshly.
I would like to think that I could have done something, anything to change the outcome had I been there. But expeirance and the reality of the video tells me different. Sad, very sad.
Peace to all,
Ain't no flatlander

Feb 21, 2009 - 12:33pm PT
Werner is right. The situation with Alex was not at all comparable: acclimatized and rested climbers choppered up, descending 400 feet then going back up to waiting chopper. Versus unacclimatized climbers going to the summit then down 400 meters and having to climb back up and down the other side again. Those rescuers did as good a job as anyone could have under the circumstances.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Feb 21, 2009 - 01:01pm PT
We should let this go. The man is dead, dead, dead!

The only thing that remains to be discussed is how to prevent this from happening again.

Tom Woods is one of the few trying to accomplish this. How do we better outfit rescue teams to deal with this.

Tom, I hope you never have to drag me off a summit!

Rodrigo, thanks for your input...

Trad climber
The Windiest Mountain, Wyoming
Feb 21, 2009 - 01:26pm PT

Under those circumstances everyone's work capacity is greatly diminished. Mechanical advantage doesn't reduce the energy required to raise the load. So things go slowly.

And there wasn't enough time for that.

The only person I really blame for this whole thing is Rocky. He should have been paying attention. He should have, when he heard about it, just gone down there and GOT ER DONE!

Feb 21, 2009 - 01:41pm PT
You know each of us gets up every day and confronts a half a dozen things we can't do anything about. So when we see something that we really think we might have been able to affect, it is hard to sit back and admit it may only be a perception that we could have changed things.

Sitting back is almost harder than confronting the impossible itself.
Scared Silly

Trad climber
Feb 21, 2009 - 02:34pm PT
The guide's death was a combination of several mistakes. The failed rescue was the last nail in the coffin (punned intended). We can sit here and discuss the rescuers' competence or lack there of until like them we walk off in despair but that does change the fact that series of mistakes lead to his death.

The guide made the decision to lighten their load and ditch their packs in the cave. Many do this. IIRC at this point you have just started up the into the heart of the Cantaleta which many say is the hardest part for most people.

Lateness of the hour. Pushing on too late into the day is a time proven fatal flaw. My partner got into scrap with a "ranger" during his summit attempt less than 50 meters from the summit because the ranger said it was too late in the day to go up. It was around 4pm when this occurred and he had about 4 hours of light left. As it was I met him at 9pm in the dark with top tea and light back to camp. When I headed up the day before I gave myself a turn around time of 1pm. I had been suffering from a respiratory infection so I wanted a big buffer. Fortunately, I made it with in my time limit.

Weather awareness. Squalls can come up quickly and disappear just as quickly. However, it sounds as though the wether was more long term. The Cantaleta is protected on both sides which makes it difficult to see weather coming in from the west. Further, at the top of the Cantaleta the route stays just slightly under the ridgeline before heading up to the summit block. However at the top of the Cantaleta it is possible to peak over to the south by scrambling up anywhere from 10-30 meters. Many people do this so they can look down the south face.

Route knowledge. I am still trying figure out how the guide managed to get to where they were. From the pictures they traversed right which means the hill was on their right yet when coming down from the summit the hill should mostly be on your left until you drop into the Cantaleta. With the many people on the hill there is typically there is a well worn path either in the snow or rocks. So even in a white out there should have been some clues. The other is that from the top of the Cantaleta to the summit is less than 100 meters. So if indeed they were ~250 meters below the summit that is a ways down to have missed an important feature. (Note the group stopped at ~6700 meters but then the female client fell from there another ~100 meters which is were the guide was found).

As for the rescue, from what I can gather many people went up the hill. From the sounds of it they were some what prepared. But what bothers me the most is that sleeping bags were not brought. The reason I have to question at least this point is that there was abundant communication between the higher camps and those below. After being out for 2 nights in the open they needed to be warmed up, the rescuer brought some hot liquids. Getting them warmed up might take hours, getting them out of the elements would have helped. A sleeping seems to me to be a fundamental component that was missing.

If nothing else a sleeping bag makes a bag which to drag a person who can not function on their own. All else fails it becomes a body bag. So while while many want to question the competence of those on the hill I would rather call into question the competence of those at the base. After all they did manage to get some of the rescuers up the hill in a helicopter.

One other comment regarding the money paid for a permit. IMHO that money gets taken out of the parc faster than a rock trundled down the south face. The upper camps are a shite hole - if the money from a single season's worth of climbers was put into a descent shitter system the quality of the hill would improve greatly.

Perhaps the good that might come from this is that a rescue cache is put into place at the Indepencia Hut. It is not good for much else unless it has been repaired since I was there in 2003.

Doug Buchanan

Mountain climber
Fairbanks Alaska
Feb 21, 2009 - 03:31pm PT
Tom and colleagues of the mountains....

The obviously primitive condition of the humans is largely predicated on their self-induced inability to use or understand the meanings of words.

The words they speak or write have little to do with the thoughts they wish to convey or derive.

Unlike everyone I have encountered, the words I use hold their meanings. That required several years of retraining my mind after the public school teachers taught such absurdities as our government being of, by, and for the people, while the government creates and keeps secrets from the people, describing an impossibility.

If you learn how to use words that hold their meanings, your knowledge will rapidly advance beyond everyone else, by design of the human mind, but other people will not understand your plain usage of words. No problem. The other chaps are self-confused with words anyway, including their own laughably illogical arrangements of words, so you have nothing to lose by advancing your knowledge.

Case in point.... Somehow Tom perceives that the person who laughs the laughter sought by all people, myself, needs to think of things that make him happy.

If you are not rolling on the floor, kicking and pounding, clutching your aching sides, gasping for breath, tears of howling laughter streaming from your eyes, you are missing the greatest comedy in the galaxy - the humans on Earth.

There are no real mountain climbers working for the Park Service, because real climbers will not arrest climbers who climb without begging permission or paying the Park Pigs who are only there to arrest the climbers who do not pay them or kowtow to them.

There are no real mountain climbers working for government mountain rescue agencies, because real climbers will voluntarily help other climbers in need of rescue. Re-create your local volunteer mountain rescue groups that the Park Service usurped with tax money. They are a great excuse for interesting climbing opportunities - the quest of real climbers. And they enrage the mental midget government cops who demand control of all human activities.

Trad climber
Idaho Falls
Feb 21, 2009 - 03:51pm PT
These links go to an archived Sports Illustrated account of a rescue on Otter Body route of Grand Teton in 1962. While not entirely relevant to the recent tragedy on Aconcagua, it is testament to what Rokjox wrote about motivation and sincere humanity being core ingredients in sucessful rescue.

A large party of Appalachian Mountain Club members, most of whom had no high mountain experience, were caught in a severe storm above 12,000 feet on a seldom climbed route with rather severe objective dangers. A hastily organized rescue team of several Exum guides, GTNP rangers and well experienced Teton climbers saved all but one of the AMC individuals, of whom, several were in a state of delirium or seriously reduced functioning capacity. In Teton climbing history, this rescue is legendary.

The story is written in two parts, Seventy-Two Hours of Terror and Night of the One-Eyed Devils.
Ain't no flatlander

Feb 21, 2009 - 04:02pm PT
"While not entirely relevant to the recent tragedy on Aconcagua, it is testament to what Rokjox wrote about motivation and sincere humanity being core ingredients in sucessful rescue."

Totally irrelevant is more accurate. 21k is an entirely different subject matter.
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