Up, up and away
Pemberton's Chastellaine leaves for Mount Aconcagua, Jan. 19
By Chris Woodall
RCMP Const. Cliff Chastellaine leaves Pemberton, Monday, to join teammates for a momentous scaling of the highest peak in the Americas, but not before a fund-raising dinner in his honour, tomorrow night (Jan. 17).
Willy G's is the place to be for a three-course dinner, starting at 7 p.m.
Proceeds from the $30 ticket price goes to the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada — the benefiting charity — and to fund the climb celebrating the 125th anniversary of the RCMP.
Chastellaine will talk about what the climb involves including the approach the team will take and the hardships they expect.
Joining Chastellaine are Gibsons RCMP detachment Const. Manny Pizarro, Cpl. Jacques Maillet at Regina, Sask., and Coast Independent News advertising sales staffer Richard Getzkow.
The goal is to scale the tallest peak in either North or South America, Mount Aconcagua, raising money in corporate or individual pledges for the charity.
At 22,841 feet, Aconcagua sits in Argentina, although the base camp lies on the border between Argentina and Chile.
The first stop will be Los Angeles and then Santiago, Chile.
"Everything should go okay. As well as the four climbers we'll have two support staff to help get us to the 14,000-foot level," Chastellaine says.
One of the photographers might end up going to the peak, too. "She'll go with us to 17,000 feet where we'll determine if she can go higher," Chastellaine says.
Mounting Aconcagua will be a relatively leisurely climb compared to other attempts to let the team get acclimatized to the different heights.
The team will spend three days each at the 14,000- and 17,000-foot camps before setting up a camp at 19,500 feet.
Then the urgency to go big or fold the tents for home sets in.
"Once we get to the 17,000-foot level, that's where the body doesn't repair itself" from the rigours of oxygen depletion, Chastellaine says.
That's why the team will get to the final camp, sleep over night and then break for the top the next day. Resting further won't help.
It will be "summer" in the southern hemisphere. Aconcagua will have snow, but maximum daylight.
"It's a good time of year to climb the mountain," the constable says. "We just hope El Niño doesn't throw anything our way."
The cautious approach to the peak is necessary, too, given the inexperience of some team members, including Chastellaine.
"I'm not a rock climber, although I've done a lot of mountain hiking and back country telemarking," Chastellaine says. Most of his training has been to boost his aerobic level.
Of the others, Getzkow and Pizarro have been to Aconcagua before, although only Pizarro made it to the pinnacle.
Individual tasks on the way up will be decided when they get there and adapted as conditions demand.
Equipment for the adventure has been donated by suppliers, but some items — such as an Arctic sleeping bag for Chastellaine — have meant out-of-pocket expenses.
"We can't pack too much clothing, so we're restricted to three different sets. We hope to be able to clean our clothes at the 14,000-foot base camp," but that's the last they'll see of soap and water until they return, he says.
At the peak, the team will plant two "guidons," or regimental flags, representing the RCMP and 'E' Division the Pemberton detachment belongs to.
Everything, including the flags, will be packed out.
"We want to leave the mountain the same way we found it," Chastellaine says, noting that even bodily wastes have to go.
"It doesn't go away and won't biodegrade."
Another fund-raising dinner will greet Chastellaine's return Feb. 18, featuring a silent auction, perhaps of the flag that made it to the peak.
"It's a perfect mountain to climb: a big challenge yet an attainable challenge," Chastellaine says.
For tickets to the Jan. 17 dinner, call Willy G's Café at 894-6411, or the Pemberton detachment RCMP (894-6634).