The Final Supper (Mulas Locas)

The Mulas Locas gathered at Mumbai Masala in Mendoza. It was one of the few ethnic restaurants in town and it had vegan and vegetarian food. A few Mulas had already changed flights and left, but the group still took up the main dining room.

Juan, Pedro and I had wedding speeches to the group.

There was a speech of fulfilling the groups commitment to being safe, to being able to sit as an expedition and still tolerate each-other after weeks.

There was speech about the inimitable nature of a chance meeting such as this expedition. The paths that would lead 15 people for 3 weeks of their lives to one place to one mountain was astronomical.

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The Shortest Month (Mulas Locas)

The next morning was clear and the still cold air hinted on experienced skin that it would be a sweaty walk out. The Mulas Locas, many suffering from blackened nails and blisters from the summit day or descent, many still recovering from Montezuma’s revenge, a few with bad jokes probably still suffered from mild AMS, there were also: rolled ankles, cut fingers, cracked lips, bloody noses, first degree sun burns, general obstinance, laughing fits, toe jam, nostril sun burn, tongue sunburn, cured pork overdose, and a thousand other little things that did not stop them from the summit but would make the descent and following 17 mile walk out difficult.

The sorry looking group limped past fresh trekkers headed up the normal route, those guides of these clean and perfumed people did their best to try to keep the muddied and bloodied Mulas Locas away in fear of spreading vermin or a general revolt.

Mulas Locas got to their bus without event and with a greasy lomo in one hand and a half liter of cervesa the other, all soon fell into quiet chats, some pensive, some sleeping soundly on the ride back to the the Park Hyatt.

Mulas Locas stand on the summit of Aconcagua

The Mulas Locas marched out of camp in the early dark. Above them yet were small strings of headlamps pointed up mountain. Dawn broke for them two hours later at Piedra Blanca and they took off their lamps. At La Cueva they looked up at the rocky cumbre, on steep snow and rocks they slowly plodded up. Energy thinned from the Mulas as fast as the air did and yet the guides did not relent on the group pace. At the top of the rocky crag of the summit flopped 10 of our 12 expedition members and 3 of the original guides. There was hollering hugging many starred blankly. After an hour of taking pictures and trying to stall what really was only finding the long and difficult road home at the summit. Several cried hot tears that fogged their goggles. The team walked back down with slightly less cohesion and vim than before to the cave. I took stock of the teams water and most were out. I collected the hot water supplies in the remaining thermos’s and team had enough melted water to not have to turn on our stove to make it back to Colera. The victory march ended up a 1000m strung out formation opposite to our march up. They waited for an hour and played music and hugged and shook hands with each summiter who returned in that long string. The two that summited and had done Denali prior both said that this summit day was as hard or harder than their climb of that North American high point. The summiters had hollow eyes, exhausted slouches and many had bad sunburn and politely returned the gestures.

The Mulas Locas return to Basecamp

The weary Mulas temporarily split into two clusters heading down from Colera. Pedro who had many years experience as a porter would lead the ones with the strongest legs down the “portero direct”. Juan would lead the other group down the normal descent trail. I would split some time between the two to emotionally support the expedition worn climbers.

The portero direct group jogged and hopped down the scree right down the middle of the normal route. A few slipped on their butts and bounced back to their feet. A few were out of breath and leaned in on their sticks panting.

I joined the other group on the main trail a little while later. One climber was in her pain cave and walked right by me with a grunt dragging her boots. A few others were better off but no one loved wearing double boots in the sun and the heat.

At camp several Mulas asked for expedition chores and duties and I referred them to the drink menu and the neighboring Cantina tent, and it is there most spent the rest of the afternoon and evening.

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Outstanding trip! It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. All the guides were terrific. While personally, I have climbed a lot of technical peaks I found the guides handling of the broad range of experience levels to be excellent. The quality was so good, that I will be giving serious thought to climbing with your group in the Himalayas.

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