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Alpine Club succeeded in climbing Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, for the first time in 59 years
We can achieve big targets as we climb as a team!

Kengo Tsukamoto

On March 3, 2012, five members of the "Aconcagua Climbing Team 2012" (WASEDA Alpine Club) successfully reached the summit of the highest mountain in the Andes, South America, Mount Aconcagua. (6,962m a.s.l.) It was the first ascent of Aconcagua since the first successful Japanese climbing of the mountain by the then WASEDA Alpine Club in 1953. "As Aconcagua is a huge mountain, detailed plans and training are needed, and including climbing teams who try in a short period, only 30% can reach the summit, making it a touch challenge," says Kengo Tsukamoto, the captain of the Alpine Club.

Five members of the Aconcagua climbing team 2012 (4 Alpine Club members + 1 coach)

For the current members, this was their first overseas expedition. They started to prepare for the project about six months beforehand, and to minimize anticipated issues, held many review meetings. By the way, to be successful at climbing, planning accounts for about 80 or 90% of its importance. They must calculate in detail food, water and tools required for life on the mountain and plan a safe course. In making a plan, the Alpine Club has a tradition to use the PDCA cycle (Plan - Do -Check - Action) to avoid looking over "hiyarihatto" (potentially dangerous minor incidents.) Experienced old members also give instructions. "We are really grateful for the advice and financial support provided by Tomonsangakukai (Tomon Alpine Club.)"

The challenge to climb a 6,962m peak, much higher than the highest mountain in Japan, Mt. Fuji, which is 3,776m a.s.l., means struggling with altitude. Hypobaropathy (altitude sickness) cannot be overcome without sufficient training. "This time again, in addition to regular training, we had training to get accustomed to the altitude by staying in low oxygen rooms, and actually climbed the mountain after that. Adapting to altitude is equivalent somewhat to being a heavy drinker or not, and it depends on your physical constitution and the conditions on site. Up to the 6,600m point, five members retired, and this cannot be overcome as a matter of guts. I believe all the members did all they could do, and it was the proper judgment to make a safe descent."

On the peak, everyone hugged and praised a good job then. Even Kengo who is usually reasonable was strongly impressed, saying, "I had a mixed feeling of a sense of achievement and vexation that only some of us could make it, and I couldn't stop crying."

Kengo says that making judgments on a mountain is difficult. "Another hairbreadth and we would have had a serious accident. As the first year students with little experience don't know their limits, the elder members must judge if they can continue or not. When you continue walking with a 30kg load on your shoulders, you start to become unable to relax and enjoy the mountains. However, we don't complain because we have a sense of mission as elder members of the club. The thought that if you can't make it now, young students will feel uncertain gives you strength."

This year, he is in a position as the captain to lead the team. "In his keynote address, the former captain wrote, 'I am determined to commit myself to the Alpine Club physically and mentally, and now I can understand it well.'" His responsibility to have members under his charge is heavy. Kengo's keynote says, "Coward yet bold, with studious care and audacity." It shows his commitment that while he tries to keep in mind proper climbing without being overconfident, he fully prepares and always continues to take on challenges.

After graduation, days to work for a general trading company of his great wish are waiting. Taking advantage of his command of English improved thanks to a year of studying abroad and the power of proper judgment built up through climbing, he will surely work actively around the world.

Members of the Alpine Club and local guides who took on the challenge to climb Mt. Aconcagua

With Mathias, the 22-year-old local guide who took care of the climbers

Viento Blanco or "white thunder" that storms around the summit

(Offered By:WASEDA WEEKLY)

Kengo Tsukamoto

Born in Chiba Prefecture. Graduated from Chiba Prefectural Funabashi Senior High School. 4th year, School of Commerce. He became interested in the Alpine Club in an unexpected manner because he "loved outdoor fashion." His interests are watching movies. While he was studying abroad, he saw all the Kurosawa films, and learned about comedy films around the world in the class entitled, "Film Comedy Around the World." He will join a general trading company after graduating.