Can this girl break a mountain running record?

Fernanda Maciel wants to break the female record for running up the highest mountain in America.
By Alison Mann

Aconcagua is the highest peak in America and a summit Fernanda Maciel has always been inspired by. The mountain runner has set her sights on scaling the 6,691m high mountain in Argentina in the fastest female time, at the end of January.

It's a challenge that'll see her climb above the 'death zone', assisted by the mountain guide that helped Karl Egloff make his record-breaking male ascent of the same mountain.

More: This guy is mapping the highest trail on earth

Fernanda is aiming for the fastest female ascent of Aconcagua

So, tell us what you're planning?
I will climb up and down Aconcagua, the highest mountain in America. I hope to get the quickest female ascent time. Many girls have tried before, world champions, mountain guides, and they couldn't do it.

You tried last year, what happened?
Last year my mistake was spending a lot of time training at high altitude, and it killed my body. I got sick and had a fever before the attempt, so when I tried, I was sick and had no energy to reach the summit. I stopped at 6000m. Normally I could have run at 6000m but that day I couldn't even walk. High altitude is very dangerous.

What's different this year?
I've spent one month in Brazil, sleeping in a simulation tent ,which simulates high altitude. I'm feeling stronger, faster and have more confidence and experience. It's a huge challenge. I've taken second place in the ultra trail world championships, but high mountain running is very different.

Other than the tent, how else have you been training?
I train to run in high mountains. I've been training for many years. I live in the Pyrenees, so have constant contact with the mountains. What is special this time, is not the physical training, I have that already, it's more training of the mind. How I can manage the risks and push my limits. I do a lot of meditation and keep my motivation high to train out of my comfort zone in a dangerous atmosphere.

She’s a professional mountain runner, so is used to altitude

Mountain runner Fernanda Maciel looks up to the peak of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, ahead of her attempt to claim the female ascent record
Fernanda looks over Aconcagua © Gustavo Cherro/Red Bull Content Pool

How will your equipment differ from your usual mountain runs?
My gear is quite different, my shoes are different to that of a mountaineer. To be a runner I need to be light, with light jacket and shoes. I don't wear boots or snowshoes. I take a small backpack, with a little warm water. The run isn't so technical so I will use crampons, but I don't need piolets as I know how to move.

You must need to eat up there, what do you take?
High altitude is difficult so I can't use gels or bars. When I pass a camp, I will drink soup and oats to have warm things. I carry hot water as tea. I cannot eat so much but I must drink a lot or there can be problems. Over 6000m they call it the death zone, I must drink a lot.

She will use special light gear during the ascent

Mountain runner Fernanda Maciel prepares to climb Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas
Preparation is key © Gustavo Cherro/Red Bull Content Pool

Will you have any support during the project?
Last year my coach came and could run for three hours with me. This yer, I will run with a guide who will try to run with me. He's a mountain guide and runner called Nicolás Miranda who helped Karl Egloff who has the male record. So I will meet Nicolás around 3,800m and he'll try to follow all the way. It's a good strategy for me as if something happens he can help, and it's also good to have someone with me who has lots of experience.

I would like to inspire people with this project

Mountain runner Fernanda Maciel planning the fastest female ascent of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas
Fernanda hopes to make the fastest female ascent © Gustavo Cherro/Red Bull Content Pool

Do you have a special aim during this run – other than reaching the top?
I would like to inspire people with this project. I'd like to highlight the problem of rubbish left on high mountains. People bring lots of stuff with them and when they don't reach the summit, and are tired, they just leave it behind on the mountain. If you are there, it's because you love the mountains first, reaching the summit is second. You should respect it. Many hikers leave items behind that helicopters cannot pick up and no one else can carry it back.

The attempt will happen at the end of January – and you can follow along with Fernanda's exploits on her Facebook page.

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