While most people on here are enjoying summery, northern hemisphere things like music festivals, beach sessions, and beer gardens, I’m posting from inside this tent at 10,000 subfreezing feet. I’m camped in a valley just a few miles from the Chile/Argentina border - a border that was closed just a few days ago due to a major winter storm. Roads are all clear now, though, and I’m set to cross into Chile in the morning.
Oh! You can’t see it from this angle, but Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the western and southern hemispheres, looms just out of frame.
Jornet is widely considered the world’s fastest mountain runner and one of the most exciting endurance athletes today. Stephen Kurczydocuments one of his recent climbs:
At 6 A.M., he started running from the park entrance. He covered the first fourteen miles to base camp in three and a quarter hours. The next four and a half miles to the summit took five and a quarter hours, during which he climbed nearly nine thousand feet in elevation and the terrain changed from sandy and rocky to snow-covered and icy. The altitude made him disoriented, and wobbly legs and a loss of balance caused him to fall repeatedly, he later told me.
Above: Kílian Jornet on Aconcagua. Photograph by Stephen Kurczy
Inca child mummy reveals lost genetic history of South America
Back in 1985, hikers climbing Argentina’s Aconcagua mountain stumbled upon a ghastly surprise: the frozen corpse of a 7-year-old boy. It was apparent that he’d been there for a long time, so the hikers notified archaeologists, who carefully excavated the body. They determined that the Aconcagua boy, as he came to be known, was sacrificed as part of an Incan ritual 500 years ago and had been naturally mummified by the mountain’s cold, dry environment. Now, a new analysis of the Aconcagua boy’s mitochondrial DNA reveals that he belonged to a population of native South Americans that all but disappeared after the Spanish conquest of the New World.
The Aconcagua boy died as part of an Incan ritual of child sacrifice called capacocha. Children and adolescents were taken to the tops of high peaks and left to die of exposure or killed outright; the Aconcagua boy was likely executed with a blow to the head. Read more.