0to8848 - 1200km along, and 8848m straight up

Life at base camp

by Robert 0 Comments
Life at base camp
Well, it appears that the last email didn’t send, due to lack of internet, so you are likely reading this directly after our last instalment. The last four days have been based at base camp, at approx 4,300m. Base camp itself is a large collection of tents clustered at the western face of Aconcagua.


The west face of Aconcagua, with base camp just visible bottom left.

After our first rest day here, our second day consisted of an acclimatisation climb to the summit of Mount Bonete, which stands at about 5,000m.this was a long day, taking us about 5 hours to summit, and another two or so to descend. Again the terrain is fairly unforgiving, with a lot of loose rock and scree under the scortching sun with no share to be found.

Thankfully, Rona and I both made it with only minor headaches to remind us of the altitude we were climbing at. The remainder of each day, and the majority of rest days, are spent in the communal tents, where the remarkably good meals are served, and where you can try and escape the heat during the day, or the cold at night. It is impressive how the environment here manages to make you feel both too hot and too cold at the same time, resulting in constant layering and unlayering of clothes.


The communal tent

Yesterday we made our first ascent to camp 1, at about 4,900m. This functions as both an acclimatisation hike, and an opportunity to move some of our communal gear to our next camp. The ascent was quick and relatively painless, with a very fast descent down what is essentially a 600m scree run! Camp 1 is predictably smaller than base camp,and tucked in closer to the mountain. However from that height we had a lovely view across to some of the Andes beyond Horcones valley.


View from Camp 1

Today had a little crampon practice, and our final (successful) visit to the doctor to confirm that we are able to make our attempt on Aconcagua. Unfortunately, one of the elements outside of our control does not seem to be on our side; the forecast for the few days to the 10th is for high winds in the summit. At this point there may be a chance of making a summit bid on the 11th, and we don’t get have a forecast for the 12th, which would be our latest possible summit date.

However, tomorrow we move from the comforts of base camp to camp 1 and begin out ascent towards camp 3. If we are lucky, we will get our single shot at a summit bid, however, it is also perfectly possible that we will be confined to our tents at camp 2 for several days, yet alone reaching camp 3 and trying for the top.

Predictably, we will not be able to be in touch from today, as we will be in the high camps from now until our final descent. Wish us luck with our potential summit bid, and we will let you know how we get on as soon as we can!
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Getting to Base camp

by Robert 0 Comments
Getting to Base camp
So, it’s been about four days since our last update, but it feels a lot longer than that. Our first day trekking took us from Penitentes, where we spent or last hotel night, to Confluencia. This is at about 3,300m, and consists of a small area crowded with tents from a variety of trekking companies as well as independent climbers. 


Walking the approach to Confluencia

This walk was extremely hot, with temperatures well above 30 celcius. But in Confluencia we were met by very welcome food and drink prepared by the trekking staff. We were also extremely pleased to find that bit only were there clean toilets, but that they were plumbed in and had running water!  Certainly a cut above what we have come to expect from such places. 

The next day was an acclimatisation hike along the Horcones inferior glacier to the south face of Aconcagua. Again, the temperature was high,and with the ascent to 4,100m, it combined to make a pretty but taxing day. Both Rona and I suffered a bit through the altitude and heat combination, and returned to Confluencia sporting headaches.


The south face of Aconcagua, 3000m high! 

Another new experience on this expedition is the compulsory medical checks. These are conducted at three different points in the ascent of Aconcagua, and Confluencia is one of them. Fortunately, despite the headaches, Rona and I both ‘passed’ the check, and were permitted to continue our ascent to Base Camp at Plaza la Mules the next day. 

The trek to base camp was another long and hot one, from 8am to 4.30pm in the unrelenting south American sun. A large portion of this consists of the ‘wide beach’, a seemingly unending  and very exposed Valley floor. With no shelter, we were both a little anxious about coping with the heat, but we survived the 20km experience relatively unscathed, and found ourselves at the 4,300m base camp. 


The ‘wide beach’ portion of the Horcones valley 

Since arriving at base camp we have enjoyed an acclimatisation day off, and today another strenuous hike to 5000m. Tomorrow we make our first ascent to camp 1, and we’ll update you on both the acclimatisation and camp 1 hikes in a couple of days. 

Thanks for reading, we’ll be in touch again soon!
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Getting to Base Camp

by Robert 0 Comments
Getting to Base Camp
So, it’s been about four days since our last update, but it feels a lot longer than that. Our first day trekking took us from Penitentes, where we spent or last hotel night, to Confluencia. This is at about 3,300m, and consists of a small area crowded with tents from a variety of trekking companies as well as independent climbers.

Walking the approach to Confluencia

This walk was extremely hot, with temperatures well above 30 celcius. But in Confluencia we were met by very welcome food and drink prepared by the trekking staff. We were also extremely pleased to find that bit only were there clean toilets, but that they were plumbed in and had running water!  Certainly a cut above what we have come to expect from such places.

The next day was an acclimatisation hike along the Horcones inferior glacier to the south face of Aconcagua. Again, the temperature was high,and with the ascent to 4,100m, it combined to make a pretty but taxing day. Both Rona and I suffered a bit through the altitude and heat combination, and returned to Confluencia sporting headaches.


The south face of Aconcagua, 3000m high!

Another new experience on this expedition is the compulsory medical checks. These are conducted at three different points in the ascent of Aconcagua, and Confluencia is one of them. Fortunately, despite the headaches, Rona and I both ‘passed’ the check, and were permitted to continue our ascent to Base Camp at Plaza la Mules the next day.

The trek to base camp was another long and hot one, from 8am to 4.30pm in the unrelenting south American sun. A large portion of this consists of the ‘wide beach’, a seemingly unending  and very exposed Valley floor. With no shelter, we were both a little anxious about coping with the heat, but we survived the 20km experience relatively unscathed, and found ourselves at the 4,300m base camp.


The ‘wide beach’ portion of the Horcones valley

Since arriving at base camp we have enjoyed an acclimatisation day off, and today another strenuous hike to 5000m. Tomorrow we make our first ascent to camp 1, and we’ll update you on both the acclimatisation and camp 1 hikes in a couple of days.

Thanks for reading, we’ll be in touch again soon!
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On the approach road

by Robert 1 Comment
On the approach road
So, after a lot of travel and logistics, we are finally ready to start the actual trek to climb Aconcagua. Having given ourselves a couple of days in Mendoza to get over the (minimal, only 3 hours!) jetlag and acclimatise to the south American summer, yesterday we met our guides and group.

Tales of a Christmas travel rush are a little exaggerated…

We are in a group of 14 in total which is large, but we have three guides and everybody seems to be getting on, so it seems to be working out. Having tried to get ahead of the game a little by getting to the rental store for jackets and sleeping bags in advance, we were taken back there with everybody else, having failed to bring our camping mats. With the gear sorted out, we turned out collective attention to getting the permits, which are both expensive, and require queueing at two separate offices to secure!  Thankfully our guide company, Acomara, were on top of it all and ensued we got everything we needed.
So now we are in Penitentes, at the tail head, just itching to get started. Tomorrow is our first day of three approaching Base camp. From our current height of about 2,600m we will climb to 3,300m tomorrow, make an acclimatisation trek to the base of the south face of Aconcagua, and then climb again to around 4,200m at base camp.

View from Penitentes

While in Mendoza we met others who had attempted Aconcagua in the last few days, and heard cautionary tales of high winds which had prevented many groups summiting. So it is with cautious optimism that we set out, knowing that as prepared as we feel, the combinations of both the higher altitude (about 1,300m higher than Elbrus summit) and changeable weather can combine to prevent anybody reaching the top.
Although we don’t know our future wifi/mobile phone reception, we hope to update regularly and let you know how we are getting on. Until next time,  happy new year!
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Last minute packing

by Robert 0 Comments

This is just a brief update, as our expedition has somewhat crept up on us! Tomorrow we fly to Argentina for our attempt to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalaya at 6,962m. Finally, the day before we fly, we are actually organising all the gear and things we need. We have picked up currency, checked in to our flights, sorted our gear, and now packed it all up ready for a start first thing tomorrow morning. We were prepared enough to book a hotel for when we get there, but even that only happened on Monday.

Our training stopped a couple of weekends ago, and then last weekend was our own early Christmas weekend, as we’ll be in the air or in an airport for most of real Christmas. The last few weeks have been pretty busy, sorting out work before the extended absence, getting in last minute gear, as well as making Christmas come early, and now finally getting sorted for the actual trip.

Our trip starts in Mendoza, where we will meet the rest of our group and guides, before the three day trek into the base camp. It is from there that the climbing really starts, although base camp itself is over 4,000m. On Elbrus we climbed to 5,600m, but on this expedition we’ll have to camp 300m above Elbrus summit height the night before we attempt the summit. This means that on the way we have a series of acclimatisation hikes and rest days to make sure that we don’t get too altitude sick. Experience tells us that some altitude sickness is inevitable as you climb 1000m on summit day, but as we are descending back to a height we are ‘comfortable’ at (i.e. not feeling like we’re dying), we just have to tough some of it out while making sure you aren’t putting yourself at risk. It’s a fine, but vitally important, line to walk between the minor symptoms while safe at altitude, and the more advanced stages of altitude sickness which are extremely dangerous.

Thankfully, we hope to be able to keep you updated for most of our trip. With luck, and technology, we should be able to email in updates from the ascent, at least up to the day we leave base camp. After that, we are at the whim of the mobile networks in Argentina (which seem unlikely to reach the summit of Aconcagua), but we can try. Keep an eye out in your inbox, and we’ll give a full update with lots of pictures, as soon as we get back. In the meantime, Merry Christmas, and a happy new year. We’ll see you in 2017!

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Winter is upon us!

by Robert 0 Comments

So, our launches are over, and we’re back to ‘normality’, or as normal as it gets when you’re trying to climb Everest. Our first launch event was in Perth Tiso, which had a lovely informal feel with people wandering around the store all evening. Following some technical problems preventing the videos in our presentation playing that caused me to get just a little stressed, we got everything working and did our 15 minute presentation, which seemed to go well.

p1000616The presentation itself was adapted from a presentation I gave to some of my work colleagues a couple of weeks ago and, although much shorter, it seemed to be well received. The event at the Tiso on Rose St., Edinburgh a week later was similar. However, armed with knowledge gained from the Perth event, we took along a pack for people to try on, and secured a spot near the food and drink table on the top floor.

There were many more people at the Edinburgh store, unsurprisingly, and it was great to get to tell so many people about our expedition. At both events we were very pleased to talk to a lot of different people about the expedition, and were lucky to be met with enthusiasm and encouragement in return. So a big thank you to everyone who attended the events, and particularly to those who came and spoke to us. We certainly got more chat than the Helly Hanson or Petzl reps that we were stood near to!

p1000648Away from the events it has been a good couple of weeks on the hills and in the gym. The week prior to the Perth event, Rona had been suffering from some migraine which had restricted our activities, so it was great to get out and about again. We have been pretty lucky with the weather of late, managing to avoid large downpours and cloud for the majority of our trips. This included a longer-than-intended walk on two of the munros making up part of the Rannoch Wall, Beinn a’ Chreachain & Beinn Achaladair. It was first a notable walk due to the first snow being down on the summits, which is making us both look forward to full on winter conditions which are sure to be just around the corner. However, due to the now really quite short days, we found ourselves on top of Beinn Achaladair just before sunset. This allowed us to get some lovely pictures, but did result in a two hour walk down a boggy descent in the light of just our headtorches. Still, at least we were prepared!

p1000673We are still also making regular trips to Ben Vorlich (at Loch Earn), which has become something of a marker for our progress. Our record for a ‘heavy’ day is from lochside to summit in 2:20, including breaks, while for our ‘light’ days, that drops to about 2:15. The only slight difference surprised us, as the lighter days certainly feel quicker. But we’re clearly not pushing ourselves enough!

Finally, our search for sponsorship is also ongoing. We are still approaching companies, and also maximising our networks to try and find a ‘business ambassador’ (a term we’ve made up I think) who might be able to use their contacts to get us in the door at some companies. If you don’t already, please do like our FaceBook page, and follow us on twitter, it’s the little things that will help us secure sponsorship in the future. Hopefully our new tactic will prove more successful, and if persistence is key, we’ve certainly got lots of that!

Hope to see you on the hills soon!

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Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming

Ap1000513s I think we mentioned in a blog a few weeks ago, it turns out that climbing Everest is as much about the things we do behind a computer or telephone as it is about the training we do to go up hills carrying 25kg. This fact has been driven home in the last few weeks as we have been starting to approach companies that we think might be interested in sponsoring our expedition. From our perspective, it’s quite simple, if we don’t get sponsorship at some point, we don’t go and climb Everest. It’s just too expensive for us to do on our own.

So, with that in mind, we have been spending quite a lot of time writing sponsorship pitches for various different companies. So far we have approached Brodies LLP, Carbon Financial, Highland Spring, Standard Life, the Edrington Group and the R&A town fund, all with no success. This is a little frustrating, as there is actually quite a large amount of work that goes into each approach. Not only do we have to research the company itself, but we have to write each proposal to fit with that companies’ values and objectives, and- often the most difficult part- we have to try and track down who to send the proposals too.

We have been lucky enough to have a couple of contacts made within some of these companies which has made approaching them easier, but others are still reliant on researching marketing managers or sponsorship teams to find out who is the most appropriate individual to email. Cold calling is always difficult, but if you have a name to address, it does make things much easier. Of course we haven’t given up by a long shot. There are a lot of companies in the world, and many who fit well with our values and aspirations. We just need to find the ones that make a good fit.

p1000555            p1000544

Alongside the sponsorship applications, we are getting ready for the formal launch of the 0to8848 expedition on Thursday the 3rd of November in Perth Tiso! This will be held in conjunction with Tiso’s Outdoor Experience evening, and we will also make a presentation at the Edinburgh Rose Street Tiso on the evening of the 10th. We have arranged for all our 0to8848 supporters to get into both of these events, even if you don’t have an Outdoor Experience card, so please do come down and say hello! It is an opportunity for us to tell a lot more people about our expedition, and hopefully generate some more interest and widen our audience. After all, my research has taught me that sponsorship is really marketing, marketing is really advertising, and advertising is dependent on having an audience. If we can speak to a lot of people, then we increase our chances of getting sponsors on board.

Of course training continues as ever. With our Aconcagua expeditp1000601ion looming in December, and Denali already booked for May 2017, we have a lot of training to do to make sure we are in the best condition possible to attempt these large climbs. With the winter nights closing in on both our mornings and evenings, it makes getting up to go to the gym that bit more difficult, and means that we have less light to complete longer walks in the weekend. However, with the winter hopefully comes some snow, and the challenge and excitement of undertaking some more winter walking in Scotland, something that we have sorely missed since last winter.

In any case, we hope to see you at one of our two events in the coming weeks. and if you have contacts in a company you think might be interested in sponsoring us we would love to hear about it!

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Launch Date Confirmed

Launch Date Confirmed

Don’t try to push over a cow. The truth is they’re surprisingly heavy, and attempting to get them shifted may lead to frustrating injuries.

This week training has been off the agenda as Robert and I have both been nursing separate injuries. Robert has been suffering from what seems to be a trapped nerve/ inflamed tendon in his arm, and is taking an aggravating amount of time to settle down. In sympathy, I decided to strain what I thought was an intercostal p1000485 muscle trying to push over a cow. (For anyone new to the blog; I’m a vet, and this was in the course of a medical intervention. I’m not just a crazy cow-hater). I think I would have got away with this, had I not decided it wasn’t much of a problem and carried 24kg up Ben Vrackie a couple of days later. Two hours later and I was rewarded with nasty muscle spasms deep to my left shoulder, which have taken the best part of a week to numb to a dull ache.

The good thing to have come out of this interruption to our training effort was that we decided this weekend to have a “fun” climb- i.e. unweighted. The top our to-do list was Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor, and we were granted a beautiful day to attempt it. It’s a great fun scramble with most sections having multiple route options to make it as hard- or easy- as you like.

We had a great time negotiating our way to the top, andp1000475 made a leisurely descent via the bealach between the two munros.

To make up for our lack of proper training this weekend, we’ve also been putting a lot of effort in the logistics of our expedition. This includes drafting letters to the companies we hope will sponsor us, as well as blogging and looking at our next magazine article.

Our other big news is that we are working with Tiso to launch the expedition through a  couple of their Outdoor Experience nights.  This means that we will doing a short and exciting presentation, as well as taking questions on the night. As someone with a healthy fear of public speaking I am both delighted and horrified by this opportunity, but it’s certainly one we’re going to accept gratefully. We will be at Tiso Perth Nov 3rd 6-8pm, and Tiso Rose St Edinburgh Nov 10th 6-8pm. Entry is free with a Tiso OE card. Please come along, bring some friends and hear our chat.p1000504

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Boarding the publicity train

by Robert 0 Comments

One of the toughest aspects of trying to complete an expedition of this size is organising all of the dozens of things around the actual training and climbing that need to happen. Publicity is necessary, as are both money and time. As this is an area we haven’t put as much effort into recently, this month we have been working on getting these aspects into shape.

First up was the decision to have a ‘launch’ event. It may seem a bit after the fact, we’ve been blogging about this expedition here for about two years after all, but it is important to make sure that we get media attention if we are to get sponsors. So, with the assistance of a couple of our media guru friends, we decided to have a launch event. We hope to have it in a Tiso store in the October half-term holiday, and to make it a fun event for both children and their parents to come to. There will be activities based on the expedition, and our patron Mark Beaumont will be there as well, to answer questions alongside ourselves. It is the early days of arranging this, but you are all welcome, and we will be sure to update you on it as soon as we have more informp1000364 ation!

Having a launch event is aimed as spreading the word about the expedition through both individuals and hopefully some media coverage, and the purpose of publicity is to raise awareness of both the Bantuan Coffee Foundation that we will be raising money for, but also to show potential sponsors that we are able to organise such an event and reach out to more and more people. So alongside the event we have been working to get our sponsorship information in order. This has meant revising and updating both a brief introduction document, as well as a more substantial sponsorship pack, and picking out companies to approach.

We hope to start sending out our initial approaches to selected companies who are a match with our values and aspirations in the next couple of weeks, and it is sure to be a nerve-wrecking process both approaching sponsors and waiting for responses from them. However time is moving on, and with our plans becoming more and more settled by the week, we need to make sure we are engaging sponsors at the right time.

We have also finally had confirmation from both of our employers that they are willing to give us unpaid leave to pursue the 0to8848 expedition! Given the length of time training expeditions to Aconcagua and Denali take, it was essential that we were able to take time out from our jobs to complete them. Thankfully we are both luck enough to work for understanding and flexible employers! The University of Strathclyde and Crieff Vets, take a bow. We are certainly very happy that they have seen the value of the expedition, and that clears another of the many challenges to completing the expedition.

p1000401Last, but not least important, we have also been training hard in and outside of the gym. Going to the gym isn’t much fun at the best of times, but when it’s a nice day outside it makes it doubly hard. However, sometimes there are just no good alternatives to get the workouts we need in the short times we have available. Thankfully, we have also been lucky enough to have enjoyed some of the Scottish summer, in particular last weekend, when we managed to find two sunny days to do training walks up Beinn Glas and Ben Lawers, on the Saturday, and Meall Ghaordaidh on the Sunday. Over the two days we managed to carry a total of 85kg up 3,000ft, so we’re certainly getting stronger!

Our days continue to be filled with the variety of both everyday life and the additional tasks associated with the expedition, and we’ll update you on progress as soon as it happens. Enjoy the summer while it lasts!

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Type II fun

Hello everyone.

It’s now been over 3 weeks since we got back from Russia and our ascent of Mount Elbrus. Since then we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future. We have used the opportunity that comes after every major climb to think long and hard about the commitment we are making to this expedition, and at length have come to the conclusion that, as Rona put it, ‘it may not be sensible, but lets do it’. So the planning for the next 18 months begins.

I think it’s worth spending a couple of sentences on that decision though, because it is an important one. The training for this expedition is certainly not easy, and it also takes up a LOT of time. This has the knock on effect that it is hard to squeeze in other things around the edges. Like seeing friends or family. The climbs themselves are also a mixed bag. Don’t misunderstand, there are many many parts that make them very enjoyable, and there is certainly the feeling of achievement at the end. But as has been noted before, it is very often ‘type II’ fun. That is, ‘fun’ which is only fun in retrospect. That is especially so for summit days, which are long, hard, and by their nature higher than you are used to going. Of course, there are positives to be said for continuing. Getting to climb some iconic mountains around the world, and critically, the chance at the end to raise money and awareness to help out some of the most vulnerable people in the world (www.bantuancoffee.org for those that have forgotten). But overall, it took some serious consideration, and once again we settled on the less sensible side.

So now we just have to do a lot of work both on and off the hills to try and get prepared. On the hills (or in the gym) that means developing our training plans and getting a personal trainer on board to provide some expertise to our workouts. We’re hoping to find the time to get out to France and climb Mt Blanc towards the end of the summer, and there are always more munros to have a go at. Off the hills, we have even more to do. We were incredibly lucky to get Tiso on board very early in our expedition, and now we need to move to get more sponsors if we are to have any hope of completing the final expedition. So that means finding appropriate companies to approach, fixing up our sponsorship pack in general, and then personalising it to each company. Trying to arrange events to raise our profile, as well as thinking up as many different ways of getting ourselves noticed as possible.

These are guaranteed to be difficult things to do. We are developing a plan to get them done, and with a little bit of help and a large amount of luck, I am sure we can get where we want to. Our next major climb is scheduled to be Aconcagua, Argentina, in December 2016/January 2017. At 6,961m it is well over 1,000m higher than either of us have ever been before in our lives (outside of an aeroplane), and promises to be our hardest challenge yet. But without the sponsorship bits going the right way, we may never get close. We’ll keep you posted on how we get on approaching companies, and climbing hills etc. but any bright ideas are gratefully received!

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