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The Aconcagua trap: why with better weather there are still more deaths


Three foreign climbers died and two others suffered injuries. Record visitors, lack of experience and a combo that can be lethal.

A season with more snow in Aconcagua and thousands of mountaineering fans who arrive

without sufficient training

and equipment for the mountains, have forced the police rescue patrol to carry out

28 rescue operations in one month.

In the last week

, there were three deaths and two serious accidents

on the highest hill in America (6,962 meters high).

The specialist doctor in mountain medicine, Ignacio Rogé, assured that the

minor controls, lack of personnel on the hill,

insufficient equipment and little preparation for the journey have affected this outcome.


People with less experience arrive

. More tourists than athletes and each time it is a

more commercial

activity ," says the doctor who has been head of the Aconcagua medical service for 13 seasons, before the pandemic.

One of the reasons that Rogé uses is that climbers rent crampons with rounded tips that

are not useful for the last stage of ascent:

"In the area of ​​the Cave and La Canaleta there is a lot of snow and ice, and it requires being attached to a fixed rope Amateur climbers are unaware of the risk of falling down the Canaleta or the detachment of stones that can cause a fatal accident".


Police patrol rescue in February 2023.

The unforeseen and mishaps happen every day, compounded by the

number of fans attempting the summit.

The head of the Aconcagua police patrol, Marcos Páez, admitted that many climbers disobey warnings about the risks.

"You have to listen to your body, if you have a headache, you have to stop, hydrate,"

he advised.

The person in charge of the rescues in the Colossus of America said that

between 7 months and a year of training are needed prior to attempting the summit

: "It is necessary to climb hills and acclimatize to the altitude. It is not enough to go running in Buenos Aires", Paez specified.

The victims 

On Friday of last week, the Norwegian athlete Moi Oystein (62) died, just 400 meters from the summit, in the La Cueva sector.

And in the early hours of Sunday, the American John Michael Magness (58) lost his life, who broke down on the way to the top and died before they managed to stabilize him.

The latest victim was the 41-year-old American Anthony Simmans, who collapsed on Tuesday afternoon after reaching the top and descending at 6,600 meters.

The climber had started the ascent to the summit with another tourist from the United States.

Their guide recommended that they not continue climbing

, noting that they were not in optimal health conditions to do so, but the athletes decided to continue.


The last stretch to the 6,962 meter high summit requires you to be attached to a fixed rope.

The guide accompanied the duo for prevention.

Once he reached the summit, Simmans began to show signs of

neurological damage

and it was only in those instances that they managed to convince him to descend, according to official information.

As they descended, the climber's physical condition began to deteriorate greatly.

Around 4 o'clock on Wednesday, in the vicinity of the Independencia refuge (6,300 meters), two members of the Police Rescue patrol

verified that the North American climber had died.

"The first two deaths were in people in their 60s, who

died of cardiac arrest.

It's known as sudden athlete's death from maximum exertion and a possible heart condition or

risk factors

that can be detected in routine studies such as ergometry", explains doctor Rogé.

The other case, of the 39-year-old climber, coincides with the symptoms of the so-called

acute mountain sickness

, which leads to pulmonary edema and cerebral edema, due to lack of acclimatization to the altitude.

According to Rogé, these clinical pictures of acute mountain sickness are presenting less and less due to the prevention work carried out by the guides of the people who arrive to reach the summit.


Three foreigners died and there were two serious accidents, in the first week of February 2023.

"There are preventable deaths and there is negligence of the system

, which allows them to continue ascending when the person is manifesting physical complications to continue. In the case of the American, the best prevention would have been

to prohibit the ascent

," says Rogé, 

The doctor, who has filed complaints with the Mendoza State Prosecutor's Office against the administration of the Aconcagua provincial park, assures that

the season has collapsed

, "There are fewer park rangers and two doctors instead of the five that there were in the previous seasons, impossible to fulfill the service", he assured.

And regarding the number of climbers at altitude, the doctor warned of the risks of greater deaths in a letter sent to the Mendoza Environment Secretariat on November 2: "Two operating companies on the hill stopped selling services along the route normal since they

saturated the capacity".

The two seriously injured were a 32-year-old British climber who suffered a leg amputation and is still hospitalized;

and a 55-year-old Frenchman, who remains in intensive care in a Mendoza hospital after


in the Nido de Cóndores area, at 6,300 meters above sea level.

Regarding the injured, Rogé affirmed that they are a consequence of accepting the entry of climbers who come with

less experience and without sufficient equipment.

more rescues


Police helicopter rescue in season 2023.

The police rescue patrol has 26 members.

It is in charge of the search and assistance of climbers throughout the Mendoza mountain range.

In some emergencies, they request the intervention of the police helicopter.

"We have the

power to prohibit the ascent of a climber

when we see that he does not have the necessary technical equipment for that journey, or when his life is at risk due to snow conditions, storms or avalanche risk," the patrol chief clarified. .


Photo: Shutterstock

During January 2023 they have carried out 28 rescues of different complexity.

"The greater the height, the more complex the rescue is," says Páez.

In the case of the last victim, the American, they have not yet been able to remove the body, which

was left at an altitude of more than 6,000 meters

due to the conditions of the terrain, which occurs with a lot of snow and ice.

The 6,962-meter peak received more than 70,000 tourists

between November 11 and January 31

, according to data from the Mendoza Environment Secretariat.

This summer the Plaza de Mulas base camp (on the way to the summit via the northern route and at 4,300 meters above sea level)

is in full swing.

It is a small town with a hotel, store, cafe, restaurant and medical room, in the heart of the Andes.

Visitors to the provincial park located on Route 7, high mountain road, in Mendoza, have different climbing and trekking options that people without training can do;

and others only suitable for elite athletes.

The busiest route is the short circuit, about 10 minutes of walking to capture the typical postcard of its snowy peaks.

It does not require training or particular physical condition.

It is followed in number of visitors by the

Laguna de Horcones circuit.

A 2-kilometre path, at 2,950 meters above sea level until you reach a lagoon that is fed by meltwater from Cerro Tolosa.

In the more complex sports activities are the daily trekking, the three-day trekking and the one-week trekking.

Eight climbers were isolated in Aconcagua because one of them had COVID.

The ascents to the summit,

the most complex challenge, which requires a year of training and several days of acclimatization to the altitude in the camp, exceeded 2,000 athletes until January.

The Aconcagua season lasts

until the beginning of April,

weather conditions permitting.

It is the first time, after the pandemic was declared, that it will remain

open for four months.

The previous two years, it only opened one month.

The tour operators of the highest mountain in America speak of a

record season

, which has been accompanied by

windows of good weather.

"There is a full occupation of the installed capacity of Aconcagua for the moment, and the recovery of 100% of the jobs," said Pablo Tetilla, from Inka Expediciones.

The activities have costs that oscillate between $200 and $1,000 (they are the most basic and the rates for Argentines and residents of Mendoza), up to U$D 1,300 in the longest ascents for foreigners. 

look too

Helicopter pilot and expert in night combats, who was the American who died in Aconcagua

Another climber died in Aconcagua: a 41-year-old man is the third victim in 6 days

Source: clarin

All life articles on 2023-02-10

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