A mountain to climb

By By Adam Bowman

By Adam Bowman

While most U students will be studying for finals, on Dec. 10, junior Nate Smith will attempt a solo alpine-style ascent of the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.

At 22,840 feet, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina is the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The peak’s usual summertime temperature is 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make it to the top, it usually takes a team of mules to haul gear and climbers have to move slowly up the mountain, routinely making high-altitude camps during the day and returning to lower-altitude camps at night to acclimatize to the extreme altitude.

But Smith, a health promotion and education major, will carry his own gear and make and break camp everyday, moving continuously forward in his quest to become one of the youngest climbers to make a solo ascent of Mount Aconcagua.

Sponsored by Backcountry.com, Smith plans to begin his climb at the town of Puente De Inca, which is about 9,500 feet above sea level. From there, he will pack up his gear at 14 miles to the first base camp, which is about 14,500 feet up.

Smith expects to make it to the summit within four to five days, allowing himself one to two weather days for unforeseen problems.

Inspired by the climber Conrad Anchor, Smith said he plans on “packing out not only my garbage, but one to two bags of trash that had been left on the mountain…It’s a way to give back to the mountain on a solo climb.”

Smith said there is a lot of trash on the mountain, which has seen 4,500 to 7,000 climbers a year for the past four years.

For training, Smith climbs local peaks carrying extra water for weight and completes cardio exercises and resistance training, as well as core strengthening.

Michael Buchanan, a senior in geology, is one of Smith’s training buddies and a fellow Mt. Shasta guide. “We climb,” Buchanan said about how they train.

Buchanan said he is confident in Smith’s chances of completing the climb. “Bad weather is the big factor that can shut him down,” he said. “He’s fit and able. Mount Aconcagua is well within his abilities.”

The only other barrier Buchanan said he could think of was altitude sickness, or sickness from traveling to a foreign country. “He should have a good window of opportunity,” he said.

Claire Powell, Smith’s girlfriend, has been training and learning about mountaineering from him. The couple climbed Mount Timpanogos together in a day after a recent snowfall.

“I’m a little worried for him, but he’s knowledgeable and experienced,” the junior in communication disorders said. “He’ll be OK.”

“For the last year, through the Outdoor Recreation Program (ORP), or guiding, I lost focus on personal outdoor goals,” Smith said. “I needed a trip to focus on myself, (to) do a lot of thinking.”

Smith said he is very thankful to his friends, girlfriend, the ORP and Backcountry.com for allowing him to be a full-time student and still pursue his passion for climbing.

Photo Courtesy Michael Buchanan

U student Nate Smith climbs Mount Rainier in Washington. Smith will attempt a solo alpine-style climb of the 22,840-foot Mount Aconcagua on Dec. 10.