During our five hour 27km dusty trek along the moraine towards the Mulas Base camp, we were overtaken by a tiny female runner who was cheerfully heading up a dusty trail. Such scenes are rare here. Usually it is one of a pack of gayly running mules and struggling humans. I recalled hearing from my guiding friend Mike Hamill about a Brazilian ultratrail runner Fernanda Maciel who was looking to set a female record of running Aconcagua, much like the one set by Kilian Jornet in 2015 and subsequently beaten by Karl Egerlof (what is it about records that once set attract challengers?).
We met Fernanda a few hours later when we arrived to the base camp. She has a beautiful smile and a determination of steel. Prior to this attempt she slept in a hypoxico tent for 3 weeks in her native Belo Horizonte and then trained more on altitude. What she is trying to do is an amazing human fit – first run 35km from park gates to Mulas gaining 2000m in altitude and then continue on to the summit at 6950m with a cumulative time of 12 hours. She failed on her first attempt with altitude taking an upper hand at 6000m and is now training to repeat an attempt on February 2. Late at night she was pitching in in Grajales kitchen helping with washing up. She struck as one with right combination of grit, humility and an incredible will to achieve. I am looking forward to seeing her again this summer in Chamonix. Way to go, girl!
This morning the wind gusts rose to some 50km/h in the base camp. Colours are very bleak. Mountain faces dusted with fresh snow are both severe and majestic. The base camp – usually buzzing with activity – looks abandoned with very few climbers – most scared off the mountain by a spell of bad weather and landslides. We are staying put today at 4300m enjoying last (?) bit of fresh food and charging batteries for a move up in the next day with the summit on the January 31. That will be a rapid ascent for me with just 4 days after arriving to the base camp from sea level. My oxygen saturation here is at 90 which is very good indeed and I am hoping that the cumulative climbing I have done at high altitude in the last 12 months will help me to do this safely. The doc here insists on removing my wrist cast to avoid a frost bite replacing it with flexible bandage. Hmmm, not sure about that – I got quite fond of my protective layer.
Right now it’s back to watching the ‘now’ cast and it’s pretty rotten for today…Weather, weather, weather – the one variable that rules mountaineer’s life.