One Watertown native spent 11 days climbing Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain outside of Asia. We talk with her about her preparation, climbing experience and future climbing plans. We also find out more about a STD cluster in the city of Milwaukee and learn more about what’s included in President Trump’s opioid policy package.
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There are no mountains in Watertown, Wisconsin.
But Chelsey Berg grew up around them anyway, riding in the back of her grandfather’s truck to camping trips in the mountains, and taking summer vacations to California with her family.
“That was just instilled in my head since I was very, very little,” she says. “So when I came to Chile and all of a sudden I literally had the Andes mountains … I look at them every day as I’m walking down the road, it was like a dream come true.”
Berg, who moved to Santiago, Chile, from Milwaukee in 2012 after graduating from Marquette University, climbed to the top of Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua in January. At 22,842 feet, it’s one of the world’s Seven Summits, a group of the highest mountains in each continent.
At the top, she stopped to capture video for her blog, Finding North, the snow-covered peak surrounded by wispy white clouds.
“I’ve never felt so freaking happy,” she says behind the camera, heaving slightly (partially because of the altitude, and partially because she was crying, she says).
The summit was only possible because of an intense amount of prep work. She planned for months before the climb.
One of the most important aspects was the packing. That’s because the weather on Aconcagua is anything but predictable. Some days it’s beating sun. Other nights it’s 20 degrees below zero.
“We were at camp two, and it was sunny and we were having ramen at 5,000 meters,” she said. “And then half an hour later, we were in the middle of a snowstorm, couldn’t see anything more than 10,000 feet in front of us and it was freezing.”
In that kind of weather, you’ll want to be comfortable. But you also don’t want to overpack.
“The equipment that we had at camp was maybe 30 pounds. It’s a lot of weight,” Berg said. “Every pound counts, and you don’t want anything that you don’t need.”
Photo courtesy of Chelsey Berg from Finding North.
Aconcagua isn’t a “technical climb,” Berg said, meaning that you don’t need ropes or climbing gear to attempt it. But it’s still extremely challenging, with inclines, snow, and zigzagging from camp to camp.
Two people died during Berg’s 11-day climb. She said only 30 percent of people who attempt the climb make it to the summit.
“Your heart is beating very fast, your body is under a lot of stress, a lot of pressure,” she said. “You have to know what’s the kind of pace you can move on so that you’re taking your body, and you’re pushing your body, but not past the limit that you can’t come back from.”
Berg is an experienced climber. Still, getting to the top of her first of the Seven Summits felt like a whirlwind.
“I think that’s a crazy thing about the mountain, how it gives you the feeling of being so big and being so awesome,” she said. “But at the same time, Mother Nature and the world reminds you that you’re nothing … you realize how big the world is.”
Wisconsin Woman Summits The Tallest Mountain In Western Hemisphere
About 30% of people who set out to summit Mount Aconcagua in Argentina complete the climb to the top at 29,000 feet. Others have to turn around due to too extreme weather or altitude sickness. We talk with a Wisconsin native who grew up in Watertown, graduated from Marquette University, and after briefly living in Milwaukee a few years, moved herself to Santiago, Chile.
There she found herself surrounded by mountains, and with a few family members with mountaineering achievements, thought she ought to be up there. In January, she made it to the summit of Mount Aconcagua at approximately 29,000 feet. We talk to her about her experience and what it means to her.
You can find more information about how to make the climb yourself and about her travels here.
You can find more photos from her climb here.
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- Rob Ferrett Host
- Gretchen Brown Producer
- Natalie Guyette Producer
- J. Carlisle Larsen Producer
- Michael Gifford Guest
- Chelsey Berg Guest
- Dr. Chris Eberlein Guest
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