May 22, 2022 5:23 am

Summit Aconcagua. Olympic challenge: when chasing the top of America multiplies a powerful message

“Most tell you, ‘You’re crazy.’ So that? What need? Former basketball player Fabricio Oberto was found to have a heart condition while playing for the San Antonio Spurs. With a Olympic gold in Athens 2004 and an NBA champion ring, his surroundings reminded him that he had already reached the top. “Of the strongest things that I have experienced, without a doubt; one of the hardest things, too ”, defines the adventure the Cordovan born in Las Varillas. There must be few physical and mental experiences more challenging than facing Aconcagua, the highest peak in America, where the sky touches with the hands 6962 meters above sea level. Sections that can range from 3 to 7 hours of walking with cold, wind, lack of oxygen and the full assurance that exhaustion will lurk from one moment to the next …

To launch into such an adventure is also to answer the question of why risk an unquantifiable challenge and without numerical reward: in the ascent of Aconcagua There are no three points, a goal, a double or a triple, much less a try or a set. The objective, of course, is to get as high as possible and the prize is the trip back home to review what has been lived and value it forever. It is the experience that gives meaning to the expectations placed when accepting the challenge. Summit Aconcagua takes into account all of the above, but with the added value of charity action and the exercise of health and climate awareness.

“In these times in which the health of societies is so fragile, it is important to emphasize that no one can do the job that corresponds to us. Deep down, acting responsibly is the most noble and supportive act that can be done ”, consign from your page Summit Aconcagua, which brings together passionate athletes and lovers of outdoor activities that promote the practice of sport as a tool for self-improvement. Its objective is to spread the habit of physical activity among youth, promote care for the environment, raise awareness about the consequences of climate change and stimulate solidarity.

Few physical and mental experiences can be more challenging than facing AconcaguaMarcelo Aguilar placeholder image

The first Summit Aconcagua experience was in 2018 and, after the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be repeated from next January 20 with high-performance athletes and the so-called “Olympic Challenge”.

On that first occasion, people who had overcome some adversity in their life or in sport were summoned for the journey. And there they intersected stories of struggle and resilience so that empathy and solidarity would emerge that ended up strengthening the group spirit that is needed to undertake an extreme resistance test such as the ascent to Aconcagua. Oberto embarked on that human group.

Pablo Giesenow, a lawyer from Cordoba who was amputated in both legs after a car accident also participated in this excursion to the height; Ezequiel Baraja, a former convict who reinvented himself in prison playing for the Espartanos rugby team; Elisa Sampietro de Forti, an 83-year-old woman who escaped from World War II and began running at 70 to fill the void left by the death of her husband; Álvaro Casillas, a former Spanish bullfighter who suffered two serious injuries due to a goring and managed to recover to become a marathoner; Peter Czanyo, who overcame lung cancer after a very sedentary life and today is an activist in the fight against smoking, and Silvio Velo, captain of Los Murcielagos, the Argentine soccer team for the blind.

“At that time the idea was to give the message of overcoming and that from sport and healthy life it is possible. And on that occasion only Julián Weich and Baraja reached the summit, ”Augusto Rodríguez Larreta recalls in dialogue with LA NACION, who climbed Aconcagua two decades ago and in 2018 took this initiative on his shoulder.

Baraja took a real turn in his life. In May 2009, he was arrested and sentenced to six years and eight months in prison for qualified robbery and was held in the 48th Penitentiary Unit of San Martín. Despite being in a very difficult environment, he found a new direction through sport after joining the Los Espartanos rugby team. In his early training sessions, he learned the basic rules and found a place on the team. Soon after, he began working as a librarian in jail and between books he found impetus to finish high school. Once released, he worked as a postman and at the same time in a restaurant. He is currently a physical trainer, sports coordinator of the Espartanos Foundation and works in the Ministry of Human Development and Buenos Aires Habitat in the Buenos Aires Presente program, which assists homeless people.

Ezequiel Baraja trains hard and is excited about the new expedition to Aconcagua
Ezequiel Baraja trains hard and is excited about the new expedition to Aconcagua Hernan Zenteno – La Nacion / Hernan Zenteno

“I was not in jail because someone took me, it was by my own decision. What I did wrong I had to pay for and I am proud to have paid for it. I am totally sorry for the damage that I could have caused to someone. In prison I had the conviction that I wanted to change and that conviction led me one day to climb Aconcagua ”, ponder.

That rise was the best metaphor of his life: from seclusion to the top of America. “What that experience left me was understanding that we have no limits, that beyond physical exhaustion, the head is what keeps you on your feet and keeps you going. Sometimes we set our own limits and when I reached the top I realized that I had no roof “, he adds without hiding his enthusiasm to participate again in the 2022 edition.

The first adventure left the desire to redouble the bet. “We said to ourselves ‘we are going to do another ascent but also with Olympic athletes.’ And we put together a totally supportive movement: everything we collect will be for that purpose, ”says Rodríguez Larreta. David Nalbandian, Paula Pareto, Cecilia Carranza Saroli, Walter Pérez, Pablo Chacón, Ayelén Stepnik, Federico Molinari, Baraja, Gustavo Zerbino, Cata Bonadeo and Tommy will participate in the second edition of the Aconcagua Summit, which will require between 12 and 14 days of ascent. Heinrich. They will go as support team Gabriela Castillo (physical trainer), Alejandra Hintze (sports doctor and specialist in emergentology), Ulises Corvalán (main mountain guide) and Santiago Arce (pulmonologist doctor).

Although from the Instagram account You will be able to see images of the experience, the main course will arrive with the documentary and the book, which will be published by the journalist Inés Capdevila, with photos by Heinrich.

Paula Pareto knows of glory, but also of overcoming enormous difficulties. In 2011, before the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, an injury almost ended her career as a judoka. After intense rehabilitation and good training, she was able to reach the London 2012 Games and then win the gold in Rio de Janeiro 2016. Already definitively withdrawn from her discipline after her participation in the Tokyo Games, the recent winner of the Olympia de Plata will repeat the ascent in 2022 with the incalculable value of already knowing what he will face, but with the uncertainty, of course, about how the mountain will treat her this time. “Now I know what it means to be in full contact with nature beyond climbing and what it means to climb a mountain with the characteristics of Aconcagua. This has a medical part and a physiological part, and sometimes it gives you the head but it does not give you the physique or the heartbeat ”, he analyzes.

It is that throughout history, very few people have managed to reach the Aconcagua peak. And that is very clear to the gymnast Molinari, who will also be part of the game: “I have no performance goals, more than anything it is to do the experience and get as far as I can, and hopefully some of the expedition can reach the summit to meet the group’s objective ”.

Without making a specific preparation for the altitude, Molinari seeks to arrive at the best possible adventure
Without making a specific preparation for the altitude, Molinari seeks to arrive at the best possible adventureCourtesy Federico Molinari

He says that he did not do a specific preparation for altitude, but he remains active doing aerobic work to get as well as possible. He was particularly recommended to strengthen his legs more. That’s why he made a bicycle and ran in the sand. “There is not much else to do because, in itself, the success of the ascent has a little to do with the genetics and the ability that one may have to adapt to the altitude. You have the sporting and mental part, that’s why we trust a little more in that. It is uncertain because we do not have how to measure whether or not we are ready to do it, but we did all the physical and medical studies and they worked well ”, says the man from Rosario who participated in the 2012 London Olympics.

Carranza Saroli knows about ascent, but in the water, because of his discipline: the regatta. In 2011 she was the Pan-American champion, in 2014 the world champion and in 2016 the Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro with Santiago Lange. But he is completely unaware of what he is going to find on Aconcagua. “As in the water, nature rules and the mountain will impose its rules. And what I like the most about that is that it is a unique process of overcoming yourself, your limitations, your thinking, your head ”, he reflects before LA NACION.

The sailor Carranza Saroli is excited about her first experience of climbing Aconcagua
The sailor Carranza Saroli is excited about her first experience of climbing AconcaguaAlejandro Guyot

Beyond the personal challenge, solidarity action was decisive in making the decision to participate. “It is a beautiful project, which I was enthusiastic about from the first day, especially for the charitable purpose it has and for what it means to share this experience with the group that is going to go. And also individually because it is you with the mountain. It is an experience that I did not live before and I really want to live ”, he says.

Summit Aconcagua also seeks to raise awareness about the importance of responsibility in individual and collective care in times of Covid-19 and about the consequences of climate change. It calls, according to its manifesto, to understand and accept that human beings are part of the problem and that it is up to everyone to find the solution. Because no one is exempt from danger, not even the highest mountain on the continent, since its white mantle loses meters every year due to global warming.

“Always making the relationship with nature visible makes people who do not have it begin to relate to it and realize that we have to take care of it,” suggests the Rosario sailor.

In parallel, this initiative seeks to raise funds for Baccigalupo Foundation, who works in the psychomotor development of children with intellectual disabilities, and for two community kitchens -one in Moreno and another in Carlos Casares- that were financially supported by the late athlete Brian Toledo. In this sense, the Fortabat Foundation will be, beyond the contribution of the different sponsors, the one that will donate 10 pesos for each meter that each of the participants of the expedition ascends.

“Knowing that each meter that one climbs means a penny or a plate of food is incredible because you feel that you are doing it for other people, beyond the personal challenge that is super important,” says Cata Bonadeo, journalist and runner who is part of the organizing group and will undertake the ascent together with the Olympic athletes. Her friend Pareto agrees, who is motivated by the desire to help: “The main motivation is the cause totally in solidarity. I was never a big fan of camping and nature, but I was a fan of helping ”.

Multiple reasons and many other life stories feed the spirit of group and improvement in this new challenge that is beginning. Up there, on top of America, the Aconcagua peak awaits you. The mere act of trying is already delivering a powerful message.

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.