failed rescue attempt on Aconcagua


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Feb 20, 2009 - 03:55pm PT
I'd tie in with you everyday RokJox, knowing that you'd give me your all if the SHTF. But I have to say buddy, you're wrong on this one. The one dude shouldn't have been calling the victims names, no questions about it, but the dude may have had nothing else in his bag of tricks and may have been near collapse as well, and that's all he knew to do.

As far as you other assertions, you should re-read some of these other, wiser, posts above. The rescuers were obviously spent. They may have spent the previous hour working as a group until near collapse they gave up...we don't know. You saw the last few moments of a long drawn out battle for life there....that's all you saw, don't be jumping to conclusions which are most likely wrong.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Feb 20, 2009 - 04:23pm PT
I agree it sucks and I too feel real bad. I don't like the way it appears he was treated.

But it was noted earlier somewhere, only once, that one or two people stayed behind with him for 4 hours until he passed away.

If true, that was a pretty decent thing to do for someone who was doomed.

This thing just sucks ass, a horrible video. It's one reason I resign myself to moderate peaks and craggin'. I like having fun and the scenery, not suffering in extreme cold and thin air.

Oh, I'd tie in with Rocky anyday...

Trad climber
Washington DC
Feb 20, 2009 - 05:17pm PT
Well they did hike up but they where too macho. People die due to exhaustion. They could have done more. But I'm not sure the courts are the place for justice here. It made me sick to watch it. It could happen to any of us.


Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Feb 20, 2009 - 06:01pm PT
I'd also like to add it appears this guy died trying to keep his clients alive.

He deserved a decent way to go, hopefully he got it.
Doug Buchanan

Mountain climber
Fairbanks Alaska
Feb 20, 2009 - 06:26pm PT
It will happen again, on schedule, for the reason it happened again after the lesson was already learned a few thousand times. Only your actions can defend you and your friends.


When I came to Fairbanks Alaska I noticed that the University of Alaska had a climbing club near a superlative Alaska Range playground. But they had no mountain rescue group, and no clue of the concept. The club was primarily a bunch of environmentalist groupies with their typical attitude that the government should meet all their responsibilities for free. The environmentalists just want to play for free, and attack the rights of responsible people.

Government does not meet responsibilities. Its personnel just suck up tax dollars, arrest people for any excuse, lie about what they do, and practice incompetence since they function on government power rather than individual reasoning. The proof is manifest to everyone except the self-deluded government dolts who actually believe the lies of their superiors. They are clueless of asking questions of glaring contradictions. They can read these words, and will still never question the glaring stupidity of their superiors.

I formed a mountain rescue group among the actual local climbers, bought a rescue toboggan, radios and other common mountain rescue gear. Since I and the actual climbers were poor we suggested the government-subsidized University club might assist with the financing since their members went into the Alaska Range on occasion. They refused, clueless of the concept of meeting their responsibilities, typical of the University of Alaska and environmentalists.

The basics of a mountain rescue are that of climbers going into the mountains, putting a victim in a sleeping bag in a toboggan, and hauling him back. Add the details you want. Plain logic.

Without a toboggan, why would you go to a mountain accident victim? Yes, better than nothing, but a toboggan is too easy and logical.

We just practiced hauling body-weight loads in toboggans on Alaska Range terrain (winter storm vertical ice), partied hard in snow caves, and laughed a lot. Plain logic. The finer rescue techniques were practiced, but not at the cost of the basics.

And we offered none of the foo-foo ego paperwork official SAR certification credentials that fool fools, primarily government groupies and mountain cops. Certifications attract ego groupies, not actual mountain climbers.

What the Park Service worshiping, climber groupie "news" system does not reveal about the Park Service's impressively credentialed SAR actions and personnel, because those groupies never ASK EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS, reveals worse than the simple Argentinian error of this thread. Park Service mountaineering cop funding is based on CREATING problems in the mountains, commonly facilitating accidents and limiting rescue actions, some deadly, not SOLVING them. Effective questions reveal the Park Service lies.

The same neural process of power-damaged minds causes the institution of lawyers to CREATE lucrative court cases by discussing only the contradicting inferior laws, rather than simply revealing the related, easily verified prevailing law that resolves the contradiction without a costly court process.

The fact that the Argentinians did not have a toboggan and enough people to man-handle it in bad conditions on this particular rescue is just an ongoing learning experience among humans who inherently learn slowly.

They probably learned from the experience.

Compare that to the University of Alaska, whose environmentalist club teaches a University-credited climbing class each year, in the Alaska Range. To this date, 2009, their "climbers" and "instructors", have not produced a single local mountain rescue group member. And they have massive oil-tax University money that they use for everything except responsibilities. They teach the government mentality.

A few years ago, when they left three of their class members in the Range after a climbing class, in known bad avalanche conditions, who then did not get back home on time, rather than call the rescue group and get back to the Range with toboggans, avalanche probes, shovels, etceteras, the University "climbing class" instructor (local environmentalist activist) went back with two students and no equipment. They found an avalanche area with a section of climbing rope on the surface.

So they went back out to the nearest phone and called the State Troopers who are cops, not mountain climbers.

Three dead University students.

The University of Alaska does not care. It has a tax-funded "risk management" bureaucracy that NEEDS and facilitates such events to "manage". To this date the University has made no effort to address the teaching of a climbing class in the Alaska Range, with no mountain rescue group.

The mountain rescue group that the local climbers formed has mostly aged out of active climbing.

So climb in Argentina where they have probably learned from their recent experience, not in Alaska where, as stated by a National Park mountaineering ranger during an investigation of one non-rescue involving a multi-million dollar lawsuit, "Dead bodies in National Parks are good budget excuses."

The government, its Universities and all power-based institutions in the US teach people to NOT meet their responsibilities, which is the only way institutional power can exist.

If you climb, form your own local rescue groups with real climbers. The government SAR credential groupies/cops need and therefore facilitate dead bodies for their budgets, by design of the American government budgeting system. Less than a dozen questions prove the government propaganda as lies.

No reasoning will invade their permanently power-damaged minds. They believe themselves, and will never question their increasing contradictions. Protect your own mind from becoming so useless and malicious toward humans. Ask real questions of EVERY contradiction. Answer them.

Anyone else would have to buy a ticket all the way to planet Earth for a show like this.


Feb 20, 2009 - 06:52pm PT


Trad climber
The Windiest Mountain, Wyoming
Feb 20, 2009 - 08:00pm PT
Well, at least Majid has deleted the inflammatory remarks he originally posted in this thread.

For what it's worth, here's some external information:

This contains a first-hand account of the events by another guide:

I wish I could provide a better summary but I do not know Spanish and so I have assembled portions of this note from computer translations. Please correct my work if you are able.

The climbing fee of $500 is partly for rescue insurance; I would guess the budget for rescues is about $500,000/year based upon the 4600 climbers/year this year and the fee increase that was instituted when the rescue insurance became a part of the fee. There were a lot of rescues - about 5% of the people who try get hauled off! There does seem to be an effort to turn this into a tourist destination.

Visibility during the worst of the storm was 0.5m, temperatures dropped to -20C at the shelter below. Descent during the storm was difficult and uncertain, even with a GPS. During this time the victims descended down an incorrect path

Here's another source for information about this, from the Deseret News:

During the descent the group became lost, probably descending the Polish Glacier. Progress stopped when one member, Elena Senin fell into a crevasse. Campanini descended into the crevasse and attempted to extricate her manually but the exertion required made him ill and initiated edema, which disabled him. Elena is presumed dead and is probably still in the crevasse. There may have been a loose block of ice that killed or trapped her and injured Campanini.

More useful research and translations are available here:

The above site contains translations of first hand accounts by the rescuers. It appears Campanini located some good shelter in a rock band on the glacier and this is why they survived. The rescue was treacherous and difficult; during the effort to raise Campanini he and another rescuer almost were killed by falling off an edge.

The head of the rescue patrol has been dismissed as a result of the events:

This was the largest rescue operation ever undertaken on Aconcagua:

By the way, there were numerous simultaneous rescues besides this as a result of the storm, including one frenchman who is still missing:

The rescuers tried hard and stayed long enough to end up with frostbite on their hands and feet:

Campanini worked for RMI, here is his page with a link to a memorial page:

Again, any comments I have made are pieced together. Nothing is very authoritative except for the poorly translated first hand accounts in the articles themselves.

It's unfortunate and I think a crime that someone released the tape to the father. It's deceptive - it shows some exhausted men during rest intervals on level spots. If you take it at face value you'll be misled. And the wisdom to look between the frames seems limited, even among the climbers here.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 20, 2009 - 08:01pm PT

> The basics of a mountain rescue are that of climbers going into the mountains, putting a victim in a sleeping bag in a toboggan, and hauling him back.

You got that right (in places/conditions with lots of snow and no helicopter available).

But it was a little rough sorting through the surrounding opinion chat.

The 3 Univ. of Alaska kids didn't die because of an inadequate rescue - they died in the original avalanche. [edit: my guess based on Doug's description - I could be wrong.]

State of Mine
Feb 20, 2009 - 08:02pm PT
dingus is the wanker. complaining about a power drill in a climbing mag then not understanding the emotion of death
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 20, 2009 - 08:05pm PT

Wow, great job on summarizing and linking all those sources - I read them all.

I thought the most informative postings were the ones posted by Brian from SLC on (The guide who died, Federico Campanini, was married and living in Utah).

Feb 20, 2009 - 08:29pm PT
I came off a summit once when I could not see my knees. I was lucky in that I recognized a rock so I knew I was at the summit. And in bad conditions you need to have memorized your compass headings well beforehand.

You don't want to come down on a wrong heading.


Jeremy brings up a point that makes group trips really hard. When you are alone you can pause as needed to keep your layering dry. Inexperienced people pushing along in a group are going to be wearing wet clothing. Disaster arrives the minute you stop.
Doug Buchanan

Mountain climber
Fairbanks Alaska
Feb 20, 2009 - 08:48pm PT

The timing and conditions were such that the University students may have lived if the original responders had shovels alone, and common sense instead of a "let the government do it" attitude.

A toboggan or liter does not need snow. As a previous helicopter driver having landed on high ridges in the Alaska range, a reliance on helicopters is a fool's illusion.

Regardless, the myriad of ongoing mountain accident situations each illuminate the opportunity to improve rescue techniques.

That requires reasoning process, the methodical asking and answering of questions to resolve the contradictions.

The common human dismissal of the toilsome reasoning or thinking process, as "opinion chat", or other such rhetorical dismissals, is the reason wars, inadequate rescues and all human-caused contradictions remain popular.

In time, humans will eventually learn the value of thinking (asking and answering questions).

Until then, wisely form your local mountain rescue groups with actual climbers, if you wish to do so.
Jeremy Handren

Feb 20, 2009 - 08:50pm PT
Just an observation.

I guided full time for around 12 years. I took clients up quite a lot of serious routes over those years, but always felt that I did so with a reasonable margin of Safety.
The exception was on the few high altitude trips that I went on,including Aconcagua. You would think that plodding up talus fields and snowslopes wouldn't present much of a problem compared with alpine walls of rock and ice. But to my mind at least, dealing with altitude was such a wildcard that it made those trips seem insanely dangerous.
The guides are particularly vulnerable, you just spend so much time and effort tending to your clients, so much more stress, worry and effort compared to a private ascent.
Its therefore not much of a surprise to see these high profile guiding disasters on the high peaks. The truth of the matter is that at high altitude its hard enough to look after yourself, let alone a group of inexperienced clients.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 20, 2009 - 09:04pm PT

> A toboggan or liter does not need snow.

Right, a litter does not need snow. For a toboggan or sled, you want snow or some smooth surface.

Here's a photo which I believe shows part of the terrain in the Aconcagua rescue:

With a large group, anchors, hauling system, litter attendants, you could in theory raise the victim up this.
But it would take a lot of time and people/resources.
(I think this is what Rokjox has in mind).
I think most of us would like to see this guy getting more direct assistance, even if it is just supporting him on each shoulder.
But this may not have been possible if the rescuers were too tired.

> As a previous helicopter driver having landed on high ridges in the Alaska range, a reliance on helicopters is a fool's illusion.

I agree. They are very fast when they can fly, but in conditions where they cannot fly you have to do it with the ground team.

Social climber
The internet
Feb 20, 2009 - 09:24pm PT
"I'd also like to add it appears this guy died trying to keep his clients alive."

Yeah - right after getting one killed.

Doug Buchanan

Mountain climber
Fairbanks Alaska
Feb 20, 2009 - 09:33pm PT

Indeed, like helicopters, a liter or toboggan is dependent upon other considerations, such as enough people, and often ropes, to handle it. As the terrain gets worse, more people and equipment are necessary. They are not always available at the time and place.

The common types of mountain rescue toboggans can be pulled over rocks. They are just tub shaped liters.

Always better if the victim can move on his own. In this case the variables were such that a liter and more rescuers would have been better, but humans cannot be adequately prepared for what they learn after they arrive, or all problems would have already been solved.

And therefore the mountain rescue rhetoric yet streams forth in glacial volume.

I used the Argentinian example to note that the best of the US mountain rescue illusions remain primitive, with great opportunity for improvement when climbers belatedly figure out that they want to re-institute the volunteer mountain rescue groups of climbers, rather than their currently popular reliance on government that uses the rescue excuse for more taxes and fees that mostly get diverted to Obama's Presidential Ego Gratification wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or for more cops and prisons dependent upon arresting more people who harmed no one.

Or so I might imagine.

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Feb 20, 2009 - 09:40pm PT
The best thing about this failed rescue attempt is that it did not drag on for months or years!

Feb 20, 2009 - 09:47pm 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 - 04:27am 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 - 07:35am 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.

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