In January 2005 I spent with my friend Hermann 5 weeks in Argentina. Our aim was to climb Cerro Bonete and Monte Pissis. For this purpose we had rented a 4x4 in San Juan. First we climbed several summits around Laguna Brava.
10.02.2005, Base Camp Cerro Bonete
After we had climbed Cerro Baboso we went down the valley of the Río Veladero towards Laguna Brava and found a reasonably well drivable valley at the southwest edge of Cerro Bonete.
At the beginning it was passably well drivable, but suddenly we got stuck in deep sand. We dug the wheel up, put flat stones under it and came clear again - we were lucky. We changed the direction, we described a curve and drove further to the south. We went around the ridge in front of us and found suddenly again tracks. Here in this wide terrain one finds almost everywhere tracks, but the terrain here seemed so difficult and remote that these tracks only could lead to the base camp of Cerro Bonete.
The higher we came the worse drivable was the terrain. There were slabs with the size of a palm at the surface, under them soft sand. After all we reached an altitude of almost 5.000m. We thought about what we should do, because the distance to the base of the mountain was difficult to estimate.
Actually there wasn’t any question for me what we should do: of course I wanted to climb the mountain. Hermann was unsure, whether it wouldn’t be too far and proposed to toss. He took a closing lid of a bottle in one hand. The drawing lots should decide it. I was in luck and made the right choice. The drawing lots had decided that we should climb tomorrow.
However, the success depended on if we would manage it to find a place with snow or water tomorrow. There wasn’t a single drop of water at the present position available; a huge stone desert surrounded us. Not even Vicuñas had a heart to come here.
We didn’t suffer from headaches at all and felt very well so far. The weather was like during the past few days: in the east and behind Cerro Bonete heap clouds had formed, otherwise only blue sky. Only the wind was a bit stronger than yesterday, but it was still bearable.
Since we had left Jagüé, the only people we had met so far was a group of quad and motocross drivers, which passed the Refugio del Peñon in the morning and in the evening last Saturday. Furthermore we still came across 3 construction workers, who renewed the road close to the Refugio Laguna Brava. Otherwise we had met not a soul. I enjoyed it very much to be on the way in such a lonely region, however, I was aware of the risks as well.
11.02.2005, High Camp Cerro Bonete
We began the day without hectic pace and left for the high camp about half past nine. It went over even slopes of scree always to the north towards the mountain. We went slowly; the rucksack weighted at least 25 kg.
A few cirrus clouds covered the sky. Mornings came slight west wind up; it was quite acceptable. At noon the first heap clouds appeared in the east, but they didn’t interfere with us not in the least.
At 5.445 m we turned eastwards up to a ridge. At the top we could already see the ascending route for tomorrow. We found a small snowfield at the foot of Cerro Bonete. Somewhat below of it we pitched our camp (13:45, 5.641 m).
I had taken two and a half litres of water along with me from the base camp. 1 litre I had already drunken during the ascent and the remaining was gone soon as well. Slight headache arose. So I spent the remaining afternoon with melting of ice, drinking, melting of ice etc.
12.02.2005, High Camp Cerro Bonete - Cerro Bonete, 6.759 m - Base Camp
With –2°C in the tent it was a bit colder as usual, but no problem with the warm sleeping bag. The outside temperature was at –5°C and dropped to –8°C during the ascent.
We started the climb at 5:15, always northeastwards over several ridges. At the red ridge, which one could recognize already from far below, we reached a dell with grey scree. Further up we saw 4 small snowfields. We headed for the nearest. The terrain became steeper and the ascent got more exhausting in the thin air.
Close to the snowfield, already at 6.387 m, we had a short break (10:20). The temperature ranged around the freezing point, but the wind made it in places unbearable.
Half an hour later we had reached the summit plateau (6.584 m). In front of us were 3 summits, which were a good distance away from us. The northeastern was the highest of all, but also the farthest.
However, between that and us was an obstruction, a somewhat lower pre-summit. We should have evaded that either in the south or in the north. Both were out of the question. Via the north face it was a great deal too far, and at the south face was a steep glacier with lots of crevasses. But we didn’t carry any glacier equipment with us. Therefore we hadn’t any choice but to cross that pre-summit. Hermann meant he is content with the pre-summit; he hadn’t enough power for the main-summit. But I wanted to reach the highest point in any case.
Meanwhile it was rather late and the previous ascent had already cost a lot of power. I hurried and climbed a bit faster than Hermann to the pre-summit (12:25, 6.705 m). Thereby I rather went fore broke and had to rest for 5 minutes at the summit.
Then I had to descend to 6.688 m before I could tackle the main summit, which I reached at 13:15. The GPS device displayed an altitude of 6.764 with a deviation of 7 m.
I enjoyed the wonderful view to the Corona del Inca and the Gran Cráter as well as Monte Pissis and the 6000m summits of the Puna de Atacama that were visible in the background. I stayed only 5 minutes at the summit, took some photos and descended after that again.
I had to climb the pre-summit again, where Hermann waited for me already. We had another break of 10 minutes, and then we descended (13:30).
20 minutes past four we reached the tents. Actually I intended to stay at the high camp, because I was rather exhausted. But since yesterday evening the gas cartridge of my camping stove was empty, because I had had to melt so much ice. I hadn’t taken replacement along with me and also Hermann’s camping stove was almost finished. There was almost no drinking water available and I had to melt a plethora of ice. Therefore I packed up my equipment and descended to the base camp. Hermann felt too tired to dismantle everything, then to went down and finally to rebuild all.
After 1-½ hours I arrived at the car already. The next day we continued to climb Monte Pissis.
The entire report and more information as well as pictures you will find at http://members.aol.com/UweKraus5/site36_e.htm