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Jin Feibao nears Mt Aconcagua's summit

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Kunming resident Jin Feibao is attempting to summit each continent's highest peak and trek to both of the Earth's poles within a one-year period. Following his recent trip to Antarctica he is now in Argentina attempting to summit Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America at 6,962 meters (22,841 feet). GoKunming is reprinting transcripts of Jin Feibao's daily telephone reports to Kunming.

Thursday, March 29: Still at 5,400 meters

"Today, the wind has weakened, and the snowing has stopped, but the weather conditions are still unstable, so the base camp suggested to us that we not proceed up to Camp III, they said the weather might be better tomorrow.

Today we just climbed up for about 100 meters then came back down to stay in the same haven. My headache and my low fever have finally gone away, so my spirit is much higher than in the last two days.

One good thing about this haven is that, there is enough food stored here. Today, I even found a bag of biscuits that was made in Taiwan three years ago, which means some of the food has been stored here for at least that long.

In the afternoon, when the wind finally stopped, it suddenly became unusually quiet.

'It's so quiet!' I said. Alexia [Jin Feibao's tour guide] immediately whispered to me, 'Don't speak loudly, otherwise the Mountain God will be angry, then he will start to make the wind blow again.'

I followed his advice and shut my mouth immediately. From what he said, I could understand that without the help of the Mountain God, it would be impossible for anybody to climb to the summit. In fact, aside from the Mountain God, Mary also plays a very important role in the Aconcagua climbings. I remember when we reached the Base Camp, I saw a statue of the Holy Mary in the camp, both Alexia and Bobbie [another guide and Alexia's girlfriend] went there to pray. I also followed them and wished that Holy Mary could bring us good luck.

Now, I am praying that the weather will be good tomorrow, so we can go up to Camp III [6,000 meters high]."

Friday, March 30: The storm passes

"Today, the snow storm has finally passed. We saw the blue sky again, but there are still some clouds hanging around. The temperature is about 20˚C below zero.

We started early from Camp II [5,400 meters] and climbed up a long and very steep snow slope, successfully reaching Camp III [6,000 meters] in the afternoon. I feel very tired.

Now we are standing on the shoulder of Aconcagua. Looking down, we can see many other snowy peaks in the Andes mountain range, the view is truly magnificent. Looking around, the rocks here are strange in shape. Alexia said the rocks are sculpted into these strange shapes by the strong wind.

In 1998, a local travel service built several log cabins in Camp III, so we don't need to set up our tent. We can stay in a log cabin, which is really a kind of luxury in such a high and cold and windy place.

Mt. Aconcagua is the highest dead volcano in the world, so the rocks here are lava, on the way up, we saw some traces of the magma's movement. We also saw small crystals in several places, I'm guessing there might be a big crystal mine in this mountain. If I were a geologist, this mountain would be a paradise. Tomorrow, if the weather is not bad, we will go up to the 6500 m camp."

Saturday, March 31: So close...

"This morning, Bobbie stayed in the 6,000 meter camp. Alexia and I started at 5:00 am, climbed up for about four hours and reached 6,500 meters. At that time, we could not see the summit, it was covered in clouds and it looked like the snow storm would come back again soon.

So we didn't rest. We didn't eat anything. We pushed forward, but that section was real windy and the wind was coming from several directions, so we had to use our four legs [two legs plus two climbing poles] to hold tightly to the snow ground and trek very slowly. Alexia told me this place is called 'the wind gate', it is always windy here - even on good weather days.

We finally passed the windy section and started climbing up the last ridge which leads to the summit. At this point, the snow was about one meter deep, so we could not push forward fast. It was very cloudy and we could not see the summit. Visibility was very limited.

In the late afternoon, Alexia told me that we had to go back, because the weather was really bad and a snowstorm could come anytime. At that moment I took out my GPS to check, and found that we had already reached a place which was only 100 meters below the summit [6,962 meters]. But we still could not see the summit, and there was not enough time for us to continue going up. Otherwise, even if we could reach the summit, we could not come down.

We had no choice. We had to come down. On the way down I thought we could try the summit again the next day. At about 9:00 pm, we safely reached back to the 6,000-meter camp - extremely tired and extremely hungry because we had no time to eat all day.

Bobbie told us some bad news: the base camp informed her by radio that a snowstorm was coming. This snowstorm was not a small one, it was too dangerous to even stay in such a high camp let alone continue upward, so the base camp ordered us to head down the next day.

I talked to Alexia and Bobbie and tried to persuade them to stay in Camp III for two or three days to wait for better weather. I said I would pay extra money to them. But they said they had to obey the orders of the climbing management center, otherwise, they would lose their jobs as mountain guides. They had no choice but to go back down, it had nothing to do with money.

So, this is the fact I had to face: I had to give up climbing after reaching a spot only 100 meters short of the summit. What a pity!"

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