Argentine expedition to the Himalayas
Argentine Climbers Return to Conquer the Summit of Everest, This Time with an Additional Achievement
In the wake of last year’s expedition, the first 100% Argentine effort to reach the roof of the world, a group of Argentines returned once again to the Himalayas to plant the flag on the highest peak. This time Leo McLean, who had to drop out of last year’s expedition, achieved the conquest of the Seven Summits.
Nepal. Saturday, May 21, 2011. With only twelve months between the two events, the Argentine flag flew once again high atop the summit of Everest. After two months of hiking and ascents, the Argentine expedition, led by Damián Benegas, reached the summit of the highest mountain in the world, at 8,848 m. (29,029 ft.) In order to do so, the mountaineers had to endure adverse climatic conditions, with very low temperatures and winds of 160 km (99 mi.) per hour. They also had to go on without Willie Benegas, Damián’s twin brother, who was forced to leave the expedition due to an ocular ulcer. One of the most renowned mountain climbers in the world, Willie was attempting to reach the top of the world’s tallest peak for the eleventh time, but it was not to be.
Despite these setbacks, the group was finally able to reach their goal and celebrate, only after spending several anxious days in Camp 4 at an elevation of 7,900 m. (25,919 ft.), waiting for the right weather conditions for the final ascent. Damián Benegas recounted, “That pre-ascent was emotionally charged. The weather was ideal, radiant sun, perfect temperature, although it got down to 58 below zero inside our tents. While we waited for a window of good weather to make the long-awaited final ascent, we passed around the mate in order to feel more at home. Luckily, the group counted on great spirit and health.” He added, “Like last year, the weather was fierce, and we had to be patient and wait for the window in order to have at the summit.”
For his part on this trip, Leonardo McClean achieved his personal conquest of the last of the Seven Summits, a name given to the highest peaks of the seven continents and one of mountain climbing’s most prestigious accomplishments. McClean’s delight was double this year, since he could take his revenge and finally top Everest, leaving behind the bad taste of last year, when he had to abandon the expedition due to a kidney infection.
The other member of this year’s successful expedition is Matías Erroz, from Mendoza, Argentina. In July of last year he reached the top of Lhotse, at an elevation of 8,516 m. (27,940 ft.)—the fourth highest mountain in the world, and in a few days, he will undertake the ascent of Nuptse.
As for McLean, he commented with emotion, “We’re all OK. We’ve recuperated from the pains and sicknesses we had. After last year’s experience, I myself was a bit nervous. But now I’m just really enjoying the experience and the fact that I’ve reached the summit of Everest.”
Damián Benegas commented, “A strong bond developed between the members of the expedition, and this is key if you’re going to maintain good spirits and get along together. We were a kind of “mate community,” and this generated a camaraderie and a space where we could all be Argentine at each stop on the mountain. We shared snacks, mate and conversation. Now we’re heading for the Khumbu Horseshoe.”
The Next Feat
Far from being satisfied with the recent conquest of Everest, the team will now split up in order to attempt to reach the tops of two more peaks: Lhotse and Nuptse (at 7,861 m. - 25,791 ft.) Along with Everest, these two mountains comprise what is known as the “Khumbu Horseshoe,” a trio of giants whose summits, until now, have never been conquered by a single expedition of mountaineers.