Kelly Andersen wore a GoPro camera on his chest last Saturday during his last training hike before heading to South America to climb Aconcagua with his son and a friend.

Training for a climb up 22,814-foot Aconcagua

For several years I have longed to climb Aconcagua in South America. At 22,814 feet, it is the tallest peak in the Western Hemisphere, almost two miles higher than Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and half a mile higher than Denali, the highest in Alaska.

In the past, with one or more of my children, I have climbed Mount Shasta, Mount Whitney, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier and Mount Kilimanjaro.

On Jan. 29, my oldest son, Drew, my good friend Dave Folsom and I will fly to Argentina to spend three weeks climbing Aconcagua.

The training for this climb has been very rewarding, as it has allowed us to improve strength and physical conditioning by carrying heavy backpacks to some of the most beautiful places on Earth, right here in Southern Oregon.

We have hiked at Mount McLoughlin in heavy rain, trudged through snow on Wagner Butte and John’s Peak, and have seen wonderful winter forest beauty everywhere. I wonder how many people who live right here know the beautify that is out there, just minutes away?

Last Saturday, Jan. 21, I did my last big hike before we leave for Aconcagua. With a 50-pound pack and dressed in rain gear (it was raining heavily), I hiked right from my home on Griffin Creek Road, up Griffin Lane, and from there into winter forests that are as enchanting as they are beautiful. I was treated to vast views in every direction.

On an abandoned logging road, the forest turned especially lovely and dark, reminding me of the Robert Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which includes this beautiful stanza: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

At higher elevations, snow and ice covered the ground, in places just a skiff and in other places very deep.

On such hikes I wear a GoPro camera on my chest so I don’t have to remove gloves to take pictures. I also carry a GPS in my backpack to record the miles hiked and the elevation gained.

— Kelly Andersen lives in Medford.


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