Aconcagua Speed Run Expedition Begins

A few weeks back I posted a story about North Face athlete Diane Van Deren as she was preparing to head off to South America to take on Argentina’s Aconcagua, the highest mountain on the continent. But unlike most climbers making a bid on the mountain, Diane’s goal was to complete the initial climb as a warm-up, then make a speed attempt on the mountain, running to the summit for a second time.

The latest update on the expedition, posted to the Never Stop Exploring Blog, indicates that as of two days ago, the team was finished with their acclimatization process and would begin their actual assault on the summit yesterday, with an eye on reaching the top on Friday, provided the weather holds. They don’t expect to make any more dispatches until after they’ve returned to BC, which could be late on Friday night or Saturday morning.

After that, the second phase of the expedition will get underway, in which Diane, along with guide Willie Benegas, will move 20 miles down the road from base camp, and begin a long run back to BC, and all the way back up the mountain. They expect the journey to take roughly 95 hours to complete, and they’re doing it as part of a medical study, conducted by the Mayo Clinic, on how altitude effects performance. The Clinic is also posting updates on the expedition on their blog as well.

Most people would come off of Aconcagua, which stands 22,841 feet in height, and be exhausted. These ultra-fit athletes are using it as a warm-up for a bigger test. Crazy.

Kraig Becker

5 thoughts on “Aconcagua Speed Run Expedition Begins”

  1. and they're doing it as part of a medical study, conducted by the Mayo Clinic, on how altitude effects performance.

    More accurately, how altitude effects Diane Van Deren's performance.

    Not to be a wet noodle, but if the Mayo Clinic was doing a truly scientific study, they would have other participants, preferably a decent sample size, in order to obtain some sort of statistically significant findings.

    After reading the NY Times article on Diane's lobectomy, an argument could be made against this whole endeavor, especially if one considers the ethical issues. I hope this doesn't end up in disaster!

    But it should be interesting what their results say about Diane's physical attributes!

  2. Good point Wade. I'm not sure what they hoping to find in the study, as Diane is already a freak of nature when it comes to endurance athletes. They should have some "average" climbers as part of any study to really see how the altitude effects us.

    When I heard Diane on the radio a few weeks back they talked about her lobectomy and she says that it doesn't really effect her much when she's out running or competing. She did say that she loses track of time sometimes and has little sense of it passing. I doubt that it would be a major issue for her on this run.

  3. At a steady pace (not racing), from base camp to the summit, it has been done in 9 hours plus another 4.5 hours to get down. Not sure what the fastest time is. Apparently she is using a lower starting point so a comparison won't be possible. Wade is right that this won't do much for advancing altitude science. More like an interesting factoid.

  4. Yeah, probably just another way to get the North Face brand out there. It's an amazing run, but not sure what Mayo is getting out of in terms of data.

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