Standing 22,841 feet high, Aconcagua — the highest peak in the Americas — is a stern test for even the world's greatest mountaineers. That's why it's even more incredible that mountain runner Fernanda Maciel just ensured that her name would be part of the mountain's legend by becoming the first-ever woman to scale and descend the Argentinian peak in less than 24 hours.
Yes, you read that right — the Brazilian achieved the near impossible by running the 28 miles from the entrance of Aconcagua Provincial Park to the peak of the mountain and back in under 24 hours — an incredible time of 22 hours, 52 minutes, to be exact.
Combatting snow, ice and incredibly steep gradients on the route, not to mention the oxygen-starved air and risk of altitude sickness, Maciel acheived the amazing record on her third attempt at the feat.
To claim the record, Maciel encountered an altitude change of well over two miles as she ascended to the peak and ran back down again.
Poor weather conditions and illness had already thwarted two previous attempts by the runner, and the challenges of Aconcagua almost forced Maciel to give up on her quest for a third time. The effects of the altitude and cold hit her hard during the night, but she toughed it out and found renewed strength to continue.
Running at high altitude without oxygen, with snow, ice and wind up to 43 mph is very dangerous.
"It felt like I was drunk," Maciel said. "I lost a lot of energy from the cold in the dawn and spent a few hours running in a zigzag, very slowly. Only when the sun came out did I get better. I returned to my pace and the bad feeling wasn't there any more."
"I always look to perform super-difficult projects, almost impossible for me!" Maciel continued. "And this was the Aconcagua. Running at high altitude without oxygen, with snow, ice and wind up to 43 mph is very dangerous. So, I feel fulfilled and happy to be able to do it.
"We weren't born to fail, we can do much more than we imagine," she said, before getting some much-needed sleep.