Climb Aconcagua Solo

A first hand account of a successful unguided, solo climb of Aconcongua.

Medical
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Medical Issues and Concerns

Climbing Aconcagua, especially solo can cause serious injury or death. Climbing without a partner means that you may be alone in the event of a medical emergency. Also, you will not have someone constantly with you to help make an objective assessment of your health or notice a sudden change in your condition. The mountain is very dry, high, and with unpredictable severe cold weather. Your body will have to contend with all of these factors.

Short of living or training at higher elevations, or having access to altitude generation systems or chambers, there is no way to train for acclimatization. Being extremely fit is no indicator on the body's ability to adjust to high elevations. If fact, it is usually the over confident competitive marathon runner or bicyclist that rushes up the mountain that fails to summit due to illness. Individual physiology, and the ascent profile and schedule that play the largest role in acclimatization. Some individual have an altitude ceiling that they are unable to exceed. Study books such as Altitude Illness: Prevention & Treatment and Hypothermia Frostbite And Other Cold Injuries prior to your decision to climb Aconcagua. Finally, see your doctors to assess both your ability to attempt this climb and to also receive proper medical advice in dealing with high altitude situations and conditions.

Before the Trip:

You should be in good health with good training and conditioning before setting foot in Argentina. As mentioned, you should see your doctors before your trip. I went to my dentist, eye doctor (Contact lens wearer), and an Aviation Medical Examiner that is trained and knowledgeable in high altitude medicine.

Hypothermia and Frostbite:

Study these topics and discuss prevention and treatment with your doctor. Remember to hydrate properly and keep your body warm and dry. Utilize proper gear try to anticipate possible severe weather conditions. Remember that bare skin is particularly susceptible to frostbite and plan accordingly. Weather on Aconcagua can be unpredictable and the windchill can drop suddenly and with little notice.

Sunburn:

Higher elevations give way to higher UV exposure. Apply a high SPF sunscreen and lip balm on a regular basis. Wear a sun hat along with a scarf or thin balaclava to help prevent burns and blisters.

Altitude Sickness:

Altitude sickness may cause serious injury or death. Do not underestimate this mountain. Hydrate and try to keep a conservative ascent plan and profile. Study this subject and discuss it with your doctor.

Listen to your body and constantly access your condition. Utilize tools such as a Pulse Oximeter to help evaluate your acclimatization. I logged my O2 saturation levels during my climb to assist me with my self evaluation. I recommend logging all symptoms and signs of altitude illness to help with your evaluation. Examples of these symptoms would be: Headache, shortness of breath, cough, insomnia, extreme fatigue, ataxia, mental impairment, loss of appetite, and faintness.

Your doctor may prescribe medications for your trip. Follow your doctors instructions should you find it necessary to self medicate on the mountain. My doctor prescribed meds included the following: Dexamethasone, Nifediac, Diphenoxylate-Atropine, Zolpidem Tartrate, and Acetazolamide.

First Aid Kit:

I also brought on the climb a light weight general first aid kit (Adventure Medical Kit: Ultralight .9).

My O2 Saturation:

Note: Each entry may not represent one day. There were at times multiple readings during the same day. All readings were at rest.

Location

O2 Saturation

Pulse

Los Penitentes

92

70

Los Penitentes

91

73

Confluencia

87

77

Confluencia

85

75

Basecamp

79

96

Basecamp

82

87

Basecamp

83

75

Basecamp

88

87

Basecamp

86

84

Basecamp

87

68

Basecamp

90

78

Canada

83

85

Canada

85

75

Canada

84

94

Canada

84

80

Canada

83

88

Canada

86

91

Canada

86

82

Canada

85

76

Nido

82

84

Nido

81

83

Nido

76

77

Nido

81

81

Nido

80

90

Nido

82

83

Nido

83

80

Berlin

76

88

Berlin

77

85

Basecamp

91

74

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