Daniela Sandoval tells in the first person how she achieved a new world record of speed climbing in the highest snow in America (6,960.8 meters above sea level). The Quiteña ran with the left foot swollen because of a sprain. “In the first summit attempt, during the reconnaissance (January 22), we could not reach the top.
The first part of the walk lasted six hours, we slept, then we tried to continue, but there was a quite varied weather. ‘Nico’ (Nicolás Miranda) had to open the route, we started to climb. The temperature was really extreme, we were less than 25 degrees. ‘Nico’ asked me if I was fine, but I was scared because the climb did not end, we keep going up … going up. At 6,500 meters, already in the gutter, there was a snowstorm. Nicolás said that we had to go down, it was risky to advance to the summit. It was hard the feeling of being so close to a goal and having to give up.
On the descent, while I was leaving the park I did not see a stone, I stepped on it badly and I had a second degree sprain on my left foot. My tears were gone, I could not walk well. Luckily I had two days of rest, with the knowledge of physiotherapy I agreed and I did not abandon the project. The second attempt (January 26), with inflamed foot, we had a good time, but I was quite nervous.
During the ascent, and arriving at Cholera, at about 5,900 meters, winds of 75 kilometers per hour began to be felt. I was scared, the snow was rising, it was painful, the snow bounced off your face and burned you, but I continued, walking was super difficult.
The wind was so strong that you had to hold it up so it would not bounce you. Fighting with that wind we arrived again at 6,500, it was the second time that we were forced to go down. We only had to get to the gutter, to the cave, we passed the crossing and we were at the top. But we had to go back.
While we were going down the big cart, a super strong descent, I sat down and I started to think. ‘Nico’ talked to me. – What do we do? – I feel good, Nicolás, I am still strong, mentally well, I know that in three days you must return to Ecuador; let me try again, just one more time, please.
We went down, I remember that Eliana and all the other guys from Aconcagua Visión received me, the company that helped us immensely in this project. ‘Nico’ told me to rest the next day, for a day after trying again the record.
The pressure was great, he had only one day of rest. For the second attempt of the world brand (January 30), I was going to start alone, ‘Nico’ would wait for me in Plaza de Mulas.
I was nervous, it was too much to think that it could be achieved. The key was a 9-hour walk, I thought about the teachings of the mountain. For the first time the Aconcagua was clear, I felt the strength and energy of the mountain, it is that magical moment that your eyes fill with tears. You feel that the snowed one smiles to you, I said to myself: Now yes!
I started at 01:00, this time the mountain received us completely different, the moon was incredibly large, almost full. I already had people who were encouraging me, everything changed, everything started perfect.
I started alone, the moon accompanied me all the way to Playa Ancha, an eternal road, where there are thousands of paths and the stones are loose. At 05:30 we started the attack on the summit. Everything began to flow, we arrived at Nido de Cóndores, we had the water frozen and in a tent where there were more people supporting me, a boy came out and filled us with hot water, he wanted to give me even the gloves. It was nice to feel that love, that complicity between climbers.
We stocked up, ate, put the crampons on the boots; the road was so different, there were no winds. I told ‘Nico’ that we were fine, better and better. Until we reached the 6,500 where we gave up twice, I felt nervous because from there I did not know what was coming.
We continued, I was excited. It started one of the most difficult moments, we reached 6,600, 6,700 meters … I began to get dizzy, I was short of breath, the steps were not as energetic as before, I was slow, lentito. I said: ‘Nico’, I think I have to sit down to rest, I breathed deeply, there the emotions began, remembering the people, your family, those who are close to you, those who did not believe in you. Sadness, joys.
I breathed deeply, my breathing was sonorous, I recovered the rhythm until I reached the top. It was one of the most beautiful moments, I did not understand what was happening, I just cried, the ‘Nico’ came and we gave each other a hug.
It was halfway through the record, after the summit we went down … In Plaza de Mulas they told me: Dani, that’s it, the record is yours! In the camp the cook gave me a fried egg. At the entrance to the park were Eliana, from Aconcagua Visión and the park rangers who saw me leave. We had the news, we had lowered two and a half hours the previous record. I had done 2h17m. (I)