Ginger Gray conquers Mount Aconcagua

Training pays off for local mountain-climber

Written by

William Croyle

Mar. 15, 2012 

FORT WRIGHT — Ginger Gray left for Argentina last month to climb Mount Aconcagua, one of the world’s seven

summits and the highest mountain in North and South America at 23,000 feet.

A little more than halfway up, with evening temperatures dropping to 20 degrees below zero, Gray considered giving up, something eight of the 13 others who started in her group had done.

“It got so cold that I didn’t know if I could do it,” said Gray, 56. “But I talked about it with my tent mate, a woman from South Africa, and we both decided we’d trained too hard and spent too much money on the trip to not make it to the top.”

 “It got so cold that I didn’t know if I could do it,” said Gray, 56. “But I talked about it with my tent mate, a woman from South Africa, and we both decided we’d trained too hard and spent too much money on the trip to not make it to the top.”

It took them a total of about 10 days, but on Feb. 22, they finally reached their destination.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Gray said. “I did it!”

She spent 45 minutes there - long enough to take pictures - then took two days to get back to the bottom where temperatures were in the 80s.

“In the end all I had was a blister on my foot and chapped lips,” Gray said. “I guess the training paid off.”

Gray, the food services director for the Kenton County School District, has been climbing mountains since her son introduced her to indoor wall climbing 15 years ago.

She has twice climbed California's Mount Whitney, more than 14,000 feet, and also made it up 19,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa two years ago.

“Aconcagua made Kilimanjaro seem like an easy hike,” Gray said.

The biggest challenge was the night time cold. She slept in her tent with five layers of clothing on her upper body, four layers on her legs and three pairs of socks. Daytime temperatures were a little more bearable - about 30 degrees - but it was very windy.

She ate dehydrated food along her excursion and drank about two quarts of water a day. They had four guides to start, though were down to one in the end after three guides had to take those who couldn’t go any further back to the base. Gray said one of the hikers, a 28-year-old woman, could not handle the altitude and had to be air-lifted to the bottom.

“That’s when I realized how serious our climb was,” she said.

Gray was the only American in the group. Each of the other 13 hikers was from a different country. She said many of them seemed surprised there was an American in the group.

“Their impression of Americans was that we are all fat and lazy,” Gray said. “After I made it to the top, I told them they need to change their opinion.”

So what is next for Gray? She said she may be finished climbing ... but maybe not. She’s considering Denali (Mount McKinley), North America’s highest peak. Though it’s a few thousand feet shorter than Mount Aconcagua, Gray said it’s much more difficult to climb.

“I’m going to give it a month to think about if I want to do it,” Gray said. “It would require me carrying about 50 pounds on my back and, at times, pulling sleds. If I do it, I’ll have to train for about a year.”

 



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