Seven people from Cyprus left the island on Thursday and headed for Argentina, where they will try to climb to the top of Mount Aconcagua, which is part of the Andes and the highest peak in the Western and Southern Hemispheres.

At 7000 metres, the team will have to face oxygen levels of only 43 per cent that at sea level and temperatures of up to -30 degrees Celsius.

Led by expert mountain climber Alexis Economides, the team has trained hard in the past months to be able to attempt such a perilous endeavour.

“We are ready, we are looking forward to our adventure, we have for some time now,” Economides told the Cyprus Mail.

The owner of Limassol-based travel company ‘Peak World Adventure’, Economides is one of the leading experts on the island when it comes to mountaineering.

In past years, he led several teams to some of the highest and most spectacular peaks around the world, including Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Elbrus in Russia, as well as many peaks in the Himalayas.

“The team that will be attempting to climb to the summit of Mount Aconcagua is already quite experienced,” he said.

“In the past years, they have completed treks to the top of Kilimanjaro and Elbrus, but this time it will indeed be more difficult. Everything you do on Aconcagua is a struggle!”

According to Economides, altitude will be the most challenging adversary for the team. Episodes of hypoxia and cerebral oedema are sadly common during mountaineering expeditions, particularly for those who lack the appropriate training.

“The lack of oxygen plays a big part in places such as Aconcagua. Even if you just turn in your own sleeping bag you will end up out of breath, so training beforehand is crucial in order for your body to acclimatise to extreme conditions,” he said.

His travel company offers personalised training programmes to perspective mountaineers at an affiliated gym in Limassol, as well as trial treks on Troodos Mountain.

“Climb high but sleep low, that’s the key. Every time we will climb around 700 metres, we will then come down by roughly 200 metres to take a break or to sleep, so that the body will gradually get used to the altitude.”

Economides is hoping that the team will be able to complete the climb in around three weeks. They will also attempt to reach the top of lower peaks in the range before giving the big one a go.

“The final climb to the summit will involve roughly 16 hours of walking during the night, with head torches and crampons, so we will need to be in perfect condition, both mentally and physically.”

Economides said all team members that will attempt to climb Mount Aconcagua have already been part of at least one past expedition with him.

“You obviously need to have a good know-how before attempting such a challenge, but everyone in my team started with zero experience and gradually built it up.

“Some started by climbing mountains in the UK, or Mount Olympus in Greece or even mountains in Peru, which are considered of moderate difficulty.

“Being fit is a plus, but the most important thing is to find out how your body reacts to the altitude. That is why you need to have completed at least one or two treks before venturing on Aconcagua. The more experience, the better,” he said.

The cost of the entire expedition is just under €4,000 per person, excluding the cost of airfare and equipment, which some people prefer to rent on site.

“Bear in mind, the people who will attempt the trek are regular people, they are not professional climbers.

“One of them is a cancer survivor and she is just incredible. She didn’t think she would survive her illness but once she managed, she fulfilled her lifelong dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

“Since then, she has taken part in many other expeditions and she will attempt the hardest one for us so far. It’s just inspiring to see her,” Economides said.

“Everyone has their own reasons to do something like this and they are all good ones. The feeling one has after making it to the top of such a high mountain is something that can never be replicated.”