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South America, Argentina, Aconcagua's Centennial, Aconcagua Mummy Disagreement and the Gendarmeria Nacional Rescue Team

Aconcagua ’s Centennial, Aconcagua Mummy Disagreement and the Gendarmeria Nacional Rescue Team. Aconcagua was first ascended by Mathias Zurbriggen on January 14, 1897. On the centennial of the first ascent, many climbers from throughout the world visited the mountain. Between late December and February, 2,666 people entered the Provincial Park to climb the mountain; another 660 went trekking. The success rate was around 30 percent. There were two casualties, a Swiss and an Argentinian. Twenty were evacuated due to different problems, particularly edema.

A controversy began when Governor of Mendoza Arturo Lafalla (who was among the season’s summitters) made a commemorative statement in Plaza de Mulas. He declared that the lack of rainfall and water in Mendoza was due to the taking of the Inca Mummy, found some years ago, from its ancient tomb. He also declared to the 500 people gathered that he wanted it replaced. Dr. Juan Schobinger, one of Argentina’s more respected archaeologists and chief of the expedition who brought down the Incan child, disagreed with Lafalla, saying such things were superstitions with no scientific base at all. In reality, 1997 experienced some of the greatest snowfall of the century.

The Gendarmeria Nacional (the border police) now has a very professional rescue team directed by the Second Commandant Balada. Its base is the Escuadrón Punta de Vacas near Aconcagua. They have very good equipment that includes a Hagglunds amphibian and snow vehicle.

Marcelo Scanu, Buenos Aires, Argentina.