Marcus’ Mountain Grand Slam – The Final Peak!

26 Jan
In our last update from Marcus – Engineering Technician at Groundforce – we heard of his Africa adventure. Climbing Kilimanjaro, facing the elements and overcoming challenges all in aid of his mission to raise vital funds for Prostate Cancer Research.

In December last year, Marcus took on his final climb – Aconcagua. A mountain in the Principal Cordillera of the Andes mountain range. Noted to be a highly underestimated climb, we were keen to catch-up with Marcus on his return in the New Year, find out how he got on below;

Can you talk us through the climb up Aconcagua?

We spent the first few days focusing on acclimatising, with a few of the team already suffering from altitude sickness; we embarked on a 16km journey to reach a viewpoint of Aconcagua’s imposing south-face. A further 19km trek through Horcones Valley complete, we reached Advanced Base Camp on the fourth day. Upon arriving at Plaza de Mulas we saw an array of colourful tents, this is the second largest basecamp in existence, with its own art gallery!

As we spent Christmas day in the camp, it was a nice change to be surrounded by snow. We prepared to make the final push toward the summit, stockpiling camp provisions, fuel and equipment. The climb continued through ice-cold hail and roaring winds, hiking through a blizzard to reach the next camp.

We were snowed in for 2 nights and digging ourselves free from snow-buried tents simply to eat and maintain strength.  Day 13 saw us wade through knee-high snowdrifts, on the strenuous ascent toward high camp. Huddling inside our sleeping bags to escape the weather, we braced ourselves for another cold night before our eventual push to the summit. A previous summit party returned late that evening, dishevelled and exhausted, having experienced 60km/hr winds, temperatures below -20 and waist-high snow, they had been unable to reach the summit.

Prior to our final ascent, our guide decided we could no longer continue on our push up to the summit; the risks were too great- “we would lose fingers and maybe our nose going up in these conditions- I don’t want to return looking like Voldermort”. Now left with no alternative, we had to make our retreat back down the mountainside to the relative safety of basecamp.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the climb?

 Often, the biggest challenge was simply doing nothing; waiting out the acclimatisation process can be frustrating. All you want to do is push ahead to higher camp and when we were snowed in at camp 2 the cabin fever really started setting in.

What was your greatest high during the final climb?

Spending Christmas out on the mountain was certainly a unique experience and one I will not forget. Alongside this, there were some magical sunsets from Nido de Condores – the second camp – and despite the cold, I was out there with my camera!

With the final climb of the ‘Grand Slam’ complete, how would you summarise the challenge?

It has been an incredible few months, filled with so many ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences that will stay with me forever. Achieving over 50% of my £1000 fundraising target for Prostate Cancer Research has been a pleasure and it would be great to achieve the final target before the end of the month!

Groundforce Shorco are delighted to be supporting Marcus & his cause, visit his fundraising page now to donate.