South America, Argentina, Andes, Aconcagua

Publication Year: 1955.

Aconcagua. The 23,036-foot summit of the Americas was climbed several times in the past year. The most notable was the French ascent of the South Face, which rises 10,000 feet above Puente del Inca in the Horcones Valley. The climbers compared it to two Eiger North Faces, one on top of the other. Under the leadership of René Ferlet, Lucien Bernadini, Andrien Dagory, Edmond Denis, Pierre Lasueur, Robert Pagarot, and Guy Poulet established their base camp at 14,100 feet on a rocky point above the Horcones Glacier. On the central rock rib between Camp 1 (14,750 feet) and Camp 2 (17,060 feet) the climbing on the vertical towers of rotten rock was so difficult that they fixed 1300 feet of rope. Camp 3 was placed at the foot of a band of rock below a hanging glacier, which continually threatened the whole lower route with avalanches. High winds plagued the climbers incessantly here as well as higher. The route to Camp 4 at 19,700 feet at the lower edge of the hanging glacier was so difficult that one vertical chimney took them seven hours to climb. From Camp 5 at 21,000 feet, at the upper edge of the hanging glacier, all the climbers except Ferlet, who was suffering from sciatica, set out for the summit. Climbing difficulties were not yet over and they had to resort to direct aid at an altitude of over 20,000 feet. Night forced them to bivouac on the face and only at 8 P.M. on the night of February 25, 1954, did they reach the summit. The climbers began their descent on the ordinary route towards the Plaza de Mulas, but, overtaken by storm and darkness, they had great difficulty in finding their way. Four of them found shelter in the 21,325-foot President Perón Shelter. The two others, Dagory and Lesueur, were found lower down during the night by Chilean climbers and an Argentine army detachment who had left the 20,000-foot Eva Perón Shelter in search of them. After a painful descent the exhausted climbers were finally evacuated to the hospital at Mendoza where all but Pagarot had to submit to amputations because of severe frostbite. It should be noted that the climbers aggravated their injuries enormously by vigorous massage and beating their frozen members with ropes!