Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Planning an Aconcagua Expedition

I had been planning for my Aconcagua expedition since the start of this year. However, I was very undecided about the climb, paid a deposit, still indecisive, and only committed a few months prior to the trip when we had to pay the balance. And that began a series of last minute scrambles to get myself trained and organized. Oops. Friends had asked about various aspects of my expedition, so I am jotting down my logistics and planning thoughts for future reference.

(To be updated along the way)


My climbing portion (as it is now being planned) comprises 2 segments: (1) an acclimatization climb to Mt Plata (~6,000m), and (2) the actual Aconcagua climb (6,900m).

Acclimatization Climb

Many climbers do an acclimatization climb prior to attempting Aconcagua. If you have some days ahead to spare, consider signing up for one. There are many easy trekking peaks in the valley near Aconcagua ranging from 4,000+m to 6,000m. Popular acclimatization climbs include Cerro (Mt) Vallecitos (5,538m) and Cerro Plata (6,000m).

I chose to do my acclimatization climb on Cerro Plata with a company called Andes Vertical.

They gave me a low quote of USD800 (+ USD100 for transport) for a private climb, whereas Patagonicas and 7Summits quoted me around USD1500 - 2000+ for a single pax. I am not sure why there is a such a huge discrepancy, and I will find out after my trip. *gasp*

Aconcagua Expedition

The company I am going with for my main Aconcagua is Patagonicas, and we are climbing via the ameghino-valley-upper-guanacos-traverse route. Patagonicas is a Colorado-based climbing company and also operates out of Chile.

I paid USD3,700. They usually have offers for the next season from Feb/ Mar onwards - I signed up very early this year. The non-early-bird rate is currently USD3,900 but I expect this to increase next year because the climbing permit fees for foreigners have just increased substantially. The peak season permits used to be USD500, but was just upped to USD700.

Patagonicas seemed very experienced & professional over the emails, logistics, admin instructions etc. I have also spoken to them over the phone. The lady, Bonnie, manning the office in Colorado was very experienced and organized, and could recognize my name just from the email exchanges when I called her! She was very friendly and helpful. They were not hard-selling. I was indecisive of my trip, so they told me not to rush, and that the mountain would always be there. Then I wanted to switch my dates, and Bonnie highlighted that I would be the only female in my new choice, and advised me to reconsider. I felt like they were thinking of issues from the client's angle, rather than just wanting me to haphazardly commit and pay up. Do email them to ask for quotations.

I know some friends who went with a local company called Grajales a few years ago. It was much cheaper, below USD3,000. But I had problems getting email replies from them, typically a few days after my email. That made it very difficult for me to seek clarifications and advice.

Getting There

See a world map. To get to Aconcagua and the Andes region, you will need to get to Mendoza in Argentina. Mendoza is closer to Santiago, Chile than to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

From SGP to Buenos Aires: Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airways, British Airways/ Qantas - these are on OneWorld. Some people chose to fly in via Santiago instead of Buenos Aires.

For Star Alliance routes - the shortest is to go thru South Africa, next is to route thru Auckland/ Australia. A long way is to route thru Europe and, even longer via USA (East Coast).

I deliberately did want to fly through USA because it would be (1) much longer, and (2) usu via East Coast, and those airports are known to close in heavy snow storms (Dallas, Chicago, NYC) in Dec/ Jan periods, and (3) SGP to east coast requires an extra transit stop in between.

From Mar 2011, SQ flies direct to Sao Paolo (Brazil). If they had it this year, I would have taken it! I do not want to risk lost bags, delayed & cancelled flights etc. Now I have one sector on South Africa Airways, whose reviews are only 1-star. :(

I am taking a 13h overnight coach from Buenos - Mendoza and saving on one night's lodging. An one-way ticket on a first-class coach costs about SGD180, with a fully-inclined seat and served meals. An one-way domestic flight ticket would cost USD180.

But if you're flying all the way, do not break up your international ticket. An international ticket gets a higher baggage allowance than a separate domestic ticket. And travelling with big duffels & backpack & expensive gear, I would not want to keep transferring my luggage multiple times. So I prefer flying from Changi instead of going to KLIA for a cheaper ticket on Malaysia Airlines. It will be very tiring to move those bags & risk them getting lost in airport transits.


Hostels in Argentina are very cheap, so do not worry abt where to stay. Will be able to give you more feedback after my trip.

There are several decent hotels and hostels in Mendoza. For the couple of days that I was alone, I stayed at the Monkey Hostel, half a block from the Hyatt Mendoza (5-star) (where my expedition would be staying). These are next to the Plaza Independencia (the main square). Nearby, there is Hotel Internacional (4-star), Hotel Mendoza and various others. My guide stays at the Hotel Windsor (1-2 star) for a month when he is in Mendoza. Another decent hostel is the Mendoza Hostel. All within walking distance to Carrefour and tourist services.


1. If arriving from Buenos Aires airport, change your USD to Argentinian peso at the bank outlet right outside the Arrival hall (after clearing immigration). The money changers' rates on the inside are much worse.

2. Carrefour in Mendoza is very very well-stocked, and cheap. There is no to bring all the toiletries and munchies for the climb from Singapore. J&J baby wet wipes come in more variety than in Watsons! Not to mention a whole variety of other toiletries & personal hygiene items.

3. Tang orange powder mix comes in satchets for Ar 0.95 each (S$0.30). Very handy for the climb.

4. The weather in Mendoza is very very hot and dry. Drink lots and lots of water to adjust.

5. Summer days are very long, still bright at 8pm. Shops close from 2-5pm for siesta, and re-open at 5-8pm. Dinner starts after 8pm and lasts til 1am.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Swim Drop Swim Drop

Tonight was a night of 100ms. We had a new routine of having a short drink break between every sets, and everyone scrambled out of the pool and jumped back in.

8x 100m, 8x 100m, 8x 100m, 6x 100m.

Did not bother with timing the sets. My legs refused to kick, I was getting dropped at every 100m and had to merge. I probably could count the number of times I touched both walls end-to-end!


We went for dinner after class, probably the last time I would see everyone before we all go off for our overseas races, and my climb. There was a slight tinge of sadness in me.

Anyhow, I went to collect my wetsuit on the way home. I bought Winnie's 2nd-hand Orca Sonar wetsuit that she had initially sold to J who used it recently at Clearwaters 70.3. So it is considered 3rd-hand, but still ok. I had thought of buying the Blue Seventy Helix that was on clearance sale now, but the neckline was too high. The last time I tried it on, I could not breathe, the neck was choking. :( So no go with that. The Sonar is a mid-range wetsuit, decent, seasoned (after multiple swims by the girls) and fitted me well. Next would be to try it out in the pool.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Killer Stairs in Dripping Sweat

The aim was to get to BT for some real stairs early in the morning. The final execution was the stairwell at TB. I decided to run my errands and shopping before going for training so that I could have a long uninterrupted and unhurried session in the trail. Alas, by the time I was done, the skies were in overcast. So I decided to execute the backup plan - HDB flats.

Whereas the skies were gloomy in the north-west, it was bright sunshine in the south-central. It was absolutely warm and humid in the stairwell, and I was soon dripping buckets. It certainly made a huge performance difference between training in the afternoon and evening, even if both were indoors. Or maybe it was the result of my run yesterday, but I actually felt my quads threatening to cramp.

Pack: 22kg
Ankle weights: 5kg

10 sets - and cmi towards the end
9:19min, 8:54, 9:13, 9:57, 9:53, 10:25, 10:35, 10:49, 11:50, 11:33

This is my slowest set of training, ever.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mid-day Tranquility in the Trails

Ok I confess, I was running in the trails at 11am simply because the bed was more enticing in the morning. So there I was, braving the mid-day sun and trying to get a decent jogging lane amidst all the people going for walks in MR. Surprisingly, the weather turned cool shortly, with the sun shielded by some gloomy clouds. Past noon, the crowd thinned and I was enjoying having the trail all to myself, the peace & tranquility.

I managed to complete 2 loops, each about 1:13h. This was my first and last LSD before the full marathon next weekend. It was not long, but certainly very slow. Kinda suicidal to attempt 42km next Sunday. Hmmm....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Slow Run & Stretching

A short 5km run around HarbourFront and club, followed by a nice deep stretch on my trigger ball. Left knee was a wee bit locked, but after a good rub at a traffic junction, all was well. Whew. I was getting a little paranoid, fearing a recurrence of the previous right knee injury.

I have gotten a last minute bib for the full marathon and am still wondering if I should participate. My legs are not conditioned for a 42km and my last training was, well, yesterday. Oh well, maybe I will just go along for a trot and earn myself a dim sum treat. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bad Horribly Stiff Neck

Saturday - I woke up on Saturday morning with a stiff neck. I could not rotate my head and could barely turn it. Driving was a chore because I had to turn to check blindspots. I went for a much needed massage (eversince the pain of sitting through the Powerman 10h bus ride), but my neck was still bad. Sigh, no training.

Sunday - My neck was still horrid. Range of motion: right turn, look down. Another wasted day of no training. I went to see Frankie, and had a painful session. The tension was much worse than I thought. I never had a stiff neck so, .... stiff. Perhaps it was the accumulation of (1) nodding off in a weird position on the Powerman coach ride, (2) weeks of training with a heavy backpack, (3) aero-position cycling, (4) over-zealous swimming, (5) doing up a deck of powerpoint slides via the tiny touchpad on my laptop, and generally heatiness and lack of sleep.

Monday - Range of motion increased a tiny wee bit: right turn, look down, semi left turn. If I supported my neck spinal bone, I could lift my head and do a full left turn. In certain positions at my office desk, there would be a sharp pull when I moved my arm. Sheesh. The medicated plaster was permanently going on my neck.

Tuesday - Unaided turning left, and semi-upwards. Still not complete range of motion, but I getting there. Neck and shoulder felt less tensed up, and the level of pain was less acute. Today, it felt like a typical pillow-stiff-neck day.

..... wonder what the next few days will be like?

Trotters Tottling on Slopes

I skipped stairs training today because my neck was still not fully rotational. Sigh. I joined the MF guys for their training run at Telok Blangah Hills. This was my first run since the Powerman race. My running mileage has really plummetted in the past months!

I managed to heave my heavy trotters up the slopes, 8 times, slowly. Amongst our runners, I must be the tow-truck.... slowly chugging along. It drizzled for a while on my 5th loop, then stopped and I could continue my run.

6:44min, 6:32, 6:33, 6:37, 7:04 (drizzled), 6:52, 6:52, 6:55

Legs felt heavier, knees unused to the pounding and slopes, and all that for 54min of sweat. Hmmm....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Poor Water Feel

For whatever reason, I was extremely tired in the first hour of swim class tonight. Maybe it was the milo that I drank just 15min before class. I felt like my heart rate was going up and my breathing was not smooth. So I was swimming with a lot of exertion, but not moving very much. In other words, inefficient swimming.

So I stopped and commented to Coach. He said "Your feel of water is very poor.". Uh... ok, I guess different people have different 'feel and sense'. Like how some people can never take to a bicycle or find their footing in a trail. My nemesis is the water. He told me to do more sculling drills in the water. Then he observed me and commented that my pulling was clumsy. So I tried to focus on that, and the last few sets felt slightly better.

8x 50m @ 1:30min - 1:04, 1:09, 1:06, 1:09, 1:08, 1:13, 1:11, 1:11

8x 200m @ 5:30min - 4:55, 4:59, 5:11, 5:12, 5:07, .... (skipped 1 set, merged 1 set, and the last one was 150m)

Leisure 2x 100m - 2:33, 2:38

8x 50m @ 1:30min - 1:12, 1:12, 1:12, 1:12, 1:14, 1:11, 1:15, 1:10 (where I focused on my pulls. At least I was consistent.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birthday Stairs

It was meant to be a birthday ride this morning, but I refused to wake up. So Alber went ahead with the guys, and I headed off later to BT for some nature-stairs. I wanted to try out my new plastic boots (yoohooo!) but figured they were too bulky for a time-constrained training session.

There were so many people at BT today, the car park was entirely full. There were groups of public strolling around, and groups of students on training. I bumped into KK, who was there with SL and some others for a hike. Then I bumped into Jas and Yihui, who was there with her students. I was training with two trekking poles, and some of the students referred to me as the 'mountain skier'. Haha.

We had a lunch appointment with friends and I had only 2h to complete my training. Barely sufficient, but I had to make do. So I decided to focus more on the tougher Rengas trail.

Summit x1: 3:21min
Rengas x4: 6:13, 6:14, 6:38, 6:58
Jungle Fall: 6:35, 6:16, 5:48

Either I was getting desperate for time at the end, or I finished too much water (and lightened the load), or both.... but I made it down to my car in time.

Good sweatout.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Powerman Malaysia 2010

Friday/ Saturday

The annual bus journey to Powerman race in Lumut, Perak began on Friday night. I missed the race last year, but otherwise, this would be my 3rd race there. We had a long and tedious routine of loading our beloved bicycles onto the coach buses and clearing immigration before we were finally on our way. It was close to midnight. We had the usual pit stop at Yong Peng, and I really wondered why the food there remained in the functional state after so many years and customer flows. Sigh.

We arrived at the Orient Star Hotel in Lumut around 8am. Sleepy and groggy, we unloaded our bicycles, collected the room keys and headed for breakfast. Then Melody came by for our race briefing and distribution of race packs. Next on the agenda was a sumptous lunch, a 8/9-course Chinese seafood lunch that was oh-so-filling. We stopped by the race site and Giant supermarket for some last minute shopping before returning to the hotel.


Race morning, we checked out of the hotel at 6:15am and had a leisurely 8km ride to the race site. There was a light drizzle. Along the way, I spotted 2 packets of Gu gels on the road. I thought it could be Alber's because few people used Gu gels. So I headed back a little to retrieve them. True enough, they were his fallen ones!

I arrived at the race transition area with only about 5-10 min to set up my bicycle and gear. And then a mad dash to the washroom before making it to the start line, just in time for flag-off. Whew.

The first 11km run was ok. If past races were track records, then I would cramp on the second run and had to walk. So my strategy was simply to push a little harder when I still felt ok. I finished the run in about 59min.

The weather remained cool throughout. I went a little faster than usual on my first loop. The bridges and rolling slopes were not as steep as the ones in Langkawi. Or maybe it was my first loop and I was still fresh. The route was very straightforward, but mostly in bumpy conditions. It was difficult to overtake because the smoothest part of the road surface was within the roadside divider. I finished the first bike lap in 1:02h. The fatigue started to set in on the second loop, and my speed dropped a little. Oh well. The sun was starting to peek out now, argh, the run leg would be really hot. I made it back to the transition area and took my time to apply my 'Zheng Gu Jiu' - the Chinese medicinal muscle oil. Freddy used it on me during the recent TNF race and it worked like a charm to alleviate cramps. So I bought a small bottle for trial today. It was awesome, the menthol sensation beat all other muscle creams and sprays that I had ever tried (and I had tried a LOT).

I still had a little quad and hamstring cramp in the first 1km, but after soothing on more medicinal oil, I was ok and able to jog. In previous years, I would have limped the entire 5km! I managed to jog through the 10km, while polishing off two bananas. The sun was in full glory now and it was extremely hot. Luckily it was only 10km.

I made it back within the 5h cut-off mark. Not sure if my timing was any better than previous years, but well, it was always nice to complete a race. :)

Lap 1 run: 31min
Lap 2 run: 28min
Run 1: 59min
T1: 7min

Lap 1 bike: 1:02h
Lap 2 bike: 1:13h
Bike: 2:15h
T2: 7min

Lap 1 run: 36min
Lap 2 run: 37min
Run 2: 73min

Total: 4:42h

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stairs 'Eat Snake'

I left the office late and only started my stairs training around 715pm. Argh... it will be a long night. Mind still preoccupied with work projects, I started climbing the stairs. Surprisingly, I was very consistent tonight, no outlier timings. But I got really bored (I was alone) and bailed out by the 8th set (instead of 10).

Pack: 22kg
Ankle weights
9:36min, 9:39, 9:46, 9:51, 9:47, 9:31, 9:29, 9:45

Total: 1:17h


Monday, November 8, 2010

Swim Swam Swum

Swam and swam and swam tonight. Lost count of the laps. I was extremely late for class, stuck in the office til 7pm. When I got to the pool, they had already completed 7x 100m. Oops. So I jumped in and joined the 7x 200m. Alas, the swim bottom that I had was too loose and would not last the class. I could barely kick my legs! No choice, dashed out of the pool for a change. Luckily I usually had two sets of gear with me.

Back to the 200m 'sprints'. The guy that was leading our lane was going so fast. It was suppose to be 5:30min, but we did an average of 4:45ish min per set! Blooober.

7x 200m @ 5:30 - 4:47, skipped, 4:40, 4:43, 4:49, 4:50, 4:58,

7x 100m @ 2:45 - 2:22, 2:24, 2:33, 2:25, 2:30, 2:35, 2:32

Leisure 50m - 1:22, 1:17

Sprint 4x 50m - 1:11, 1:17, 1:10, 1:13
Hardly sprints.

Arms were dying. I noticed that my pulls were all awry once I tried to swim faster to catch up with the front swimmer. That made my pulls very inefficient, when I could glide much better at a slower pace. Hmmm, would have to pay attention to that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Riding Mandai Loops

The plan was to wake up at 4am, cycle to Casuarina and meet the guys for a long long ride. We (or rather I) had not completed any long rides more than 100km since I could not recall when... The meeting time was 545am, but Alber wanted to cycle there. I, of course, preferred to snooze a bit longer and drive there. The alarm went off, snoozed, and off again, several times. By 5am, however, it started pouring heavily. So we went back to bed. Apparently the downpour hit many parts of the island and subsided in 1-2 hours.

It was a nice weather to snuggle under the blankets. By the time we started our ride, it was 130pm. Oops. We headed to Mandai. The sun was hidden by the overcast, and there was a lot of tailwind throughout the ride! Despite that, I was extremely thirsty, and finished 1.5 bottles of water by my 2nd loop. Wow, a record. We stopped for a refuel at the Shell station toilet, and headed out for the 3rd loop. I kept getting dropped on the climbs, even though I tried to give chase. :( But overall, legs felt quite fresh and could definitely have gone for another loop.

We arrived home just before it started drizzling and raining. Whew. Total: 98km, comprising 3x 26km at Mandai, and about 18km to/fro home. Hungry....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Short Run

Lazed around the whole day and deferred our run until the evening. From joining the MF Safra guys in the morning (but could not wake up), to mid-morning run (but too hot), to finally getting our butts out of the house around 6pm. That meant that plans for a long run also went up in smoke.

We managed a short 10km run around the estate. The weather was extremely hot today, but the clouds decided to dump the pent-up rain just as we were finishing our run. Argh...

Friday, November 5, 2010

BT Trail Steps

It was a public holiday today but my grand plans of getting to BT early was futile. I only got there at 11plus and the place was very crowded. I attempted my stairs weight - 22kg + 5kg ankles. Not too bad, could still walk.

The height of the steps in BT were higher than the HDB flats. Having ankle weights meant that each step was a conscientious effort to lift up one's quads to lift up the foot - instead of lifting the calf to raise the foot. All the abductors and quads and hamstring muscles were engaged.

I saw many aunties walking and having nice trekking poles on hand. However, it was amusing that they used the poles like how they would an umbrella, instead of the right height or right way. The poles were mostly too short, not extended to their desired height. That then affected the way the aunties could leverage on the poles to take their body weight while walking. Some had the poles behind them while going down the steps (instead of in front). Some poles were too low and did not offer any support at all. Almost everyone used the poles with the rubber stopper attached at the ends (instead of the poles' metal tips). I wondered if they were protecting the poles or their legs.

I was in a rush, and only had time to do 2x, 3x, and 3x sets. But I guess BT was not a training ground for speed, but more for technique and being familiar with one's gear in the natural setting.

Stroll up to Summit Path - abt 20min
Summit 2x - 3:42min, 4:++
Rengas 3x - 6:59min, 7:53, 8:13
Jungle Fall 3x - 7:08, 6:56, 6:30
Stroll back out to visitor centre - abt 20min

Each descent took just slightly shorter than the ascent. I left around 2pm.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Running for Pleasure Run

I love this phase - what I call the "run for running pleasure" phase. No race to stress myself over, run when I wish to, for whatever distance I felt ready for. :)

I did a solo run around Canterbury (yes, it is now my favourite recovery route), and continued on to Morse Road, up MF, down Kg Bahru and back to club. I think it was about 13km.

A nice trot on a cool evening, all by myself, the solitude. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Speed Training with Weights?

The idea was to go faster on the stairs, but I suppose I did not drop the pack weight enough to go fast. Speed training with a pack and ankle weights seemed like an oxymoron. I had my pack at 22kg, with the ankle weights strapped on. I managed to go faster for the first 4 sets, and then sort of crashed out the remaining 6 sets.

8:49, 8:59, 9:13, 9:20, 10:04, 9:47, 10:16, 10:06, 11:22 (!! crashed), 9:49

Monday, November 1, 2010

Swimming Longer Laps

I think Coach is increasing the laps and mileage and cutting down on the drills. But the speed for the sets has decreased too.

6x 100 -
2:13, 2:24, 2:22, 2:19, 2:22, 2:27

4x 200 -
4:48, 4:50, 4:52, 4:57

6x 50-
1:03, 1:07, 1:06, 1:07, 1:04, 1:06

5x 100 -
2:23, 2:26, 2:24, 2:24, 2:28

2x 200 -
5:07, 5:18

Total mileage: 2.6 km