From the Journal

Climbing Mt. Aconcagua: debrief


Ambassadors

When you start considering -20 degrees as good weather and you are taking out emergency evacuation insurance up to 5000m above sea-level, we think it’s safe to say that you are taking your hobby to the next level. Literally. Ker & Downey Africa ambassador Justin De Wet plans on doing this a few times – seven to be exact. We caught up with Justin to find out what it’s like climbing Mount Aconcagua, the second highest of the Seven Summits.

climbing mount aconcagua aerial view
climbing mount aconcagua summit

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them gains your membership to the Seven Summit Club. First achieved by Richard Bass in 1985, the Seven Summit challenge is noted as the most prestigious exploration and mountaineering accomplishment in the world.

Climbing Mount Aconcagua

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” - T.S. Elliot

While many people can’t understand why someone would want to pursue entrance to the Seven Summit Club, explorers like Justin understand what T.S. Elliot meant when he said “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

After Justin’s summit of Aconcagua (his 2nd last summit before he heads to Everest), he gives us a debrief on climbing Mount Aconcagua, tips on how to prepare for the climb and what’s in store for him next.


When asked about facing death on his expedition Justin casually replies 


“It’s on your mind, but you have to face your fears”


When you are climbing the 2nd highest summit in the world at 7,000m above sea level the possibility for error becomes fatal. Justin admits that although the climb is not considered difficult technically, you still have to streamline your focus for each step – avoiding the risk of steep drops, avalanches or unpredictable rock falls. But, what becomes your biggest enemy when climbing Mount Aconcagua, is altitude.

Camping Mount Aconcagua
Climbing Mount Aconcagua Shelter

With 50% less oxygen than at sea level, breathing no longer comes naturally. “You have to breath purposefully.” Justin recalls that after 13 hours of hiking on their summit day he had to force himself to breathe. It is also at this time, when you legs are shaking, the cold hits and hungry strikes that Justin’s mental stamina was most challenged. It’s at this stage that you realise that the mental aspect of summiting the highest peaks in the world, can’t be trained for – it lies in your personal motivation and accepting the challenge. “The challenge becomes 80% mental when you are on that mountain”.

“The challenge becomes 80% mental when you are on that mountain”.

climbing mount Aconcagua 4

His favourite moment? “After the second day of trekking you start to see the iconic image of Mount Aconcagua and this makes the tough climb so much more worth it. The view you have is referred to as the “false summit” or the “South Slope” as this is not the route your average climber would use to summit. This route has only ever been tackled by a few advanced climbers.”


Justin cuts in halfway through his answer “Oh, and summiting off course, that was one of my favourite moments too”. He tells us that he felt a huge sense of accomplishment when he reached the top, not only because he was one of the few climbers from his group who was able to summit, but also because at that moment in time there was probably only a few hundred people higher than him – and they had to be on Everest.


On top of the world? We think so.

summiting mount aconcagua

Next up?

Justin admits that his success with climbing Mount Aconcagua has made him hungry for more. He is excited to see how much further he can push himself mentally and physically on his next expedition. Next in store for him and his team, is Denali (also known as Mt McKinley), the third highest peak in the world. At 6,190m Denali is the highest peak in North America. Although it lies slightly below Mount Aconcagua at 6,962m, it is considered a more technically advanced climb with colder temperatures. Knowing Justin, he is welcoming the challenge with open arms, or so his life motto suggests:


“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
– Dylan Thomas
Ambassador Justin de Wet climbing mount aconcagua
Ambassador Justin de Wet climbing Mount Aconcagua 2017
Joey Cameron
Written by
Joseph Cameron

NYC based, South African transplant, Joey Cameron, is a freelance writer, travel-nerd, natural food enthusiast, personal trainer and brand owner. Characterised by an insatiable hunger for passport stamps and a somewhat strange (non)sense of humour, he can found regularly scanning the skies for ways to up, up and getaway.


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