ACONCAGUA: A NOT SO SIMPLE DREAM

The life of an athlete is about constant challenges. Some you overcome, others you give up on, and many you don’t let go of until you succeed. In the beginning of this year, The North Face ultra-runner Fernanda Maciel attempted to ascend and descend Aconcagua (6,960m) in the fastest time possible, but did not make it. We asked her to write a short piece for us to get her thoughts on the adventure and what the whole experience meant for her.


Fernanda Maciel, May 2015:

My dream was simple: to run up and down Aconcagua as fast as possible. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas, standing tall at 6,960m (22.837 ft) and is one of the Seven Summits. During the past years, 2015 included, a number of ultra-running female athletes have tried the record of running up and down this peak in the shortest time possible but as of yet, success has remained elusive.

My experience was tough, -30ºC degrees, 50km/h of wind, running in wild and high places at night, alone and without oxygen. I spent 45 days training in high altitude for the attempt, running and exploring at around 5,000 to and 6,000 metres everyday, contemplating magical landscapes and feeling strong. But when the day came for me to make my attempt, I could not shake off the ill effects from the high altitude. I got sick with dehydration, fell into a fever and suffered from headaches, coughing and a cold.

By the end I had even begun to develop pulmonary oedema. I had started to run at 3am from the base of the mountain at 2,800m but had to yield at the 5,900m range. It was hard to accept especially as the week before I had been running well and felt confident about my body, the acclimitisation and my emotions. But, I cannot stop dreaming about my goal. I cannot give up. I’m coming back next January to try again.

Photo: Gustavo Cherro