Durban adventurer Sean Wisedale and five other South Africans summited the highest mountain in South America – Mount Aconcagua – on Saturday afternoon.
This climb was training for a South African expedition to Mount Everest next year which will be led by Wisedale.
The group of climbers – Andrew Barnes of Pietermaritzburg, Scott Stanton of Durban, Nolan Cohan and Marlette Hegyi of Johannesburg and Wilmien van der Merwe of Limpopo – left South Africa for Mendoza, in Argentina, on December 29.
Wisedale’s wife, Katherine Wisedale, said her husband organised expeditions to Mount Aconcagua – which is 6 962m high – every year.
He (Wisedale) was the first South African to have climbed the Seven Summits (Carstensz list of the highest peaks on each continent). He had summitted Aconcagua three or four times, Katherine said.
She said the 2015 expedition to Mount Everest would include Hegyi, Van der Merwe and Stanton.
Katherine said Sean first went to Mount Everest in 1996, as a cameraman with the M-net show Carte Blanche.
At the time he did not climb the mountain, but had done so since, and had summited Kilimanjaro 22 times.
She said this was the first time this group had climbed together but each one was an experienced mountain climber.
On their arrival in Medoza, the team took a trip to Penitentes (at 2 700m), where they spent New Year’s Eve.
On January 1, they trekked to Confluencia at 3 368m. The next day the group undertook an acclimatisation trek to Plaza Francia at 4 200m, where they spent some time getting used to the thinner air before descending back to Confluencia to rest.
On January 3, the team climbed for eight hours along a river bank to Plaza de Mulas, which is a base camp at 4 200m.
Here they rested for a day before continuing to the peak of Cerro Bonetti – a 5 100m cone of scree standing 5km from base camp. On January 6, the team headed up to Camp Nido de Condores at 5 500m. This was followed by a last rest day before the final trek to the summit on January 7.
They stopped at Camp Colera before summiting on Saturday.
Katherine said the team had to climb up and back down to base camp several times to build up their red blood cells because of the lack of oxygen higher up.
She said this climb was one of the more treacherous ones because of the altitude and that every member had to be self-sufficient.
“You have to carry your own bag, set up your tent and cook your own food. You have to be fit but how you cope with the altitude is most important.”
After reaching the summit, the group began its descent to Mendoza.
They are expected to arrive today, where they will spend some time enjoying the “creature comforts” of a warm shower and comfortable bed before flying back to South Africa on Saturday.