On the way down from AconcaguaThe idea of doing this trip started at Nido de Condores at 5,400 m on my way back from the summit of Aconcagua (6,962 m).
I stopped at Roxana's tent for a while to let her know her friends Vanina and Claudio were on their way down from the summit.
Roxana had filled up 2 big bottles with mango juice and she shared one of them with me, but I ended up drinking both bottles later, I was feeling extremely thirsty and dehydrated.
Roxana couldn't get to the top that morning 'cause she froze her fingers and toes, so she decided to stay at Berlin Hut (5,850 m) while Claudio and Vanina followed me up to the summit.
So we talked about our mountaineering adventures while waiting for Vanina and Claudio to come down. She knew about a few high mountains located at Mendoza's Front Range, with awesome views of Aconcagua's south face. It was Cordon del Plata range, with peaks towering above the 6,000 meters and 5,700 meters like El Plata and Vallecitos.
It sounded awesome to me. Being able to climb a couple of more peaks after Aconcagua before heading back to Ecuador.. it was something I hadn't planned for.. I couldn't wait to climb them!
So, Roxana invited me to come along with her to Cordon del Plata after our Aconcagua's climb. We met two days later in Mendoza and started organizing the stuff for the mini expedition, such as food, gear and transportation.
Planning for Cordon del PlataSaturday 14 – Monday 16
I spent the next 3 days in Mendoza, recovering from my nose and lips injuries (I frostbit them in Aconcagua), relaxing and hanging out in the city. I visited the Zoo, Parque San Martin, walked by its streets, had ice creams, good beer and the very tasty Argentinian steak... it was delicious!
I met with Roxana the night before our departure to Cordon Del Plata. We bought all the supplies and food for the trip and made the reservations for a van to take us up to Vallecitos.
Climbing VallecitosTuesday 17
Roxana (La Colo) picked me up at 7 am from the Hostel I was staying at. We rode on the van with other 3 tourists and their respective guides. They all were heading up to the Vallecitos area for a day trip.
After riding for 2 hours in the van, we got to a ski resort. We grabbed our backpacks and started hiking up towards the mountains, crossed highlands and rivers until we got to Piedra Grande (3,500 m/11,480 ft). We were so tired that we felt asleep as soon as we set our tent up. La Colo and I woke up around 8 pm. It was a clear starlit night.
We had a good relaxing night, we woke up at 8:30 am, packed our stuff and left camp two hours later after having breakfast. The weather was perfect until we got to El Salto (4,200 m/13,776 ft.).
We got up at 9:00 am. The day looked better than the prior ones, but just for a while 'cause it got windy again and clouds were rolling in pretty fast, dark clouds!
We made our way up to a nearby glacier, took some pictures and got back to the camping site at 8 pm, before it rained. La Colo visited some other Argentinian friends in the other tents, while I was taking sunset pictures.
The night at camp was calm, even though it snowed from time to time. It was a very cloudy night. Our plan was to push for Vallecitos or El Plata's summit by 3 am.
We woke up at 2:30 am. It was still cloudy and foggy outside. I couldn't even see one meter away. So we waited one more hour for the weather to clear up a bit. It was hard to know if those clouds were the starting of another approaching storm or nothing, 'cause it snowed a bit from time to time.
La Colo and I woke up two hours later. The weather was still the same. We didn't get out of our tent neither the other climbers in the nearby tents. We decided to continue sleeping until 6:00 am and to try for Vallecitos which is a lower peak than El Plata, but a bit more technical because of its last three-class scrambling section below the summit.
We woke up at 6:00 am. The weather was the same, cloudy and still snowing but we got up anyway. Nobody left camp that day, just both of us. Got ready with our climbing stuff and headed out the tent. I couldn't see a thing in front of me but I managed to hike up towards the ridge and saddle between Vallecitos and El Plata.
The morning was still foggy but it stopped snowing at least, the trail became a bit visible for a while and it cleared up pretty soon as soon as we gained altitude and left the cloudy valley below us. The mountains changed from gray to orange color. They looked like huge monsters to our sides.
As soon as we got to the saddle between Lomas Amarillas and El Plata the wind started to hit us pretty hard. We put our crampons on 30 minutes after reaching the saddle and climbed to the saddle between El Plata and Vallecitos. Once up there Vallecitos summit finally came into view far away in the distance.
The wind started hitting us even harder from the north as we climbed along the ridge which was completely covered by huge snow cornices that hid the deep cliffs in the other side of the mountain. We climbed up for about an hour and a half until we finally got to the base of the summit. Up there, we took our crampons off, left our backpacks on a narrow snow shelf, and continued scrambling up the almost vertical snow and ice mixed rocks that led us up to the top.
Roxana and I got to Vallecitos summit (5,700 m/ 18,696 ft.) at 12 pm, exactly 6 hours after leaving camp. I felt so happy up there; the view was amazing... the surrounding snowcapped mountains of Cordon del Plata, and even Aconcagua in the distance, I couldn't believe I stood on its summit a couple weeks ago!
The weather was about to change, so we hugged to each other, snapped a few pictures and boogied on down as soon as possible. In a matter of minutes we were back on the saddle and then in La Ollada. We continued hiking down towards our camp, and met with Mono on our way down, a very friendly Argentinian and his guide who congratulated us with a hug and a kiss.
We boiled some soup as soon as we got back to our tent and started packing our gear. The hike down through the valley seemed to be endless and long. We tried to get to the nearest refuge the fastest possible 'cause we already ran out of food and Roxana was feeling pretty tired. We dreamed with eating pizza or something yummy at the refuge.
We were still an hour away of the nearest refuge, tried to cross the same stream we crossed on our way up. The latest snowstorms turned its calm waters into a wild uncross able Swift River. We searched for a way to cross it up and down the valley with no results.
It was already 7:30 pm and the best we could do was to wait for the waters to calm down the next morning. So we looked for a flat spot and set up our tent. We were very tired and starving.. we still dreamed with the pizza... we craved for it.
We woke up at 8:00 am and left our site at 9:20 am. I was concerned the river could be still uncross able 'cause it kept raining during the whole night. We got to the crossing place and crossed it without any problems.
Roxana and I hiked down, passed Las Veguitas Camping Site and got to Refugio de Ski. We had breakfast there and continued hiking down for three more hours 'till we got picked up by a couple of pickup trucks on the way down the road. We were dropped off at Las Vegas where we had the best steak we had in years and waited until 5 pm for our bus back to Mendoza.
Roxana got off the bus 30 minutes before getting to Mendoza's downtown. I got to Mendoza at 8:00 pm that night, and got a shared room with an Argentinian and two Italians in Huellas Andinas hotel.
Last days of my tripIt was an amazing experience... the whole trip by bus from Quito, Ecuador.. thru the Pacific Coast. Peru, Chile. The Argentinian Andes, my climb up to Aconcagua and Vallecitos and the return to my country through Bolivia and Peru.. all of it was a completely different experience. I really enjoyed my solitude and at same time the company of those who shared their moments with me.
The following are the days and some of the main experiences I went thru during my return from Argentina to Ecuador. Can't wait to go back again!
Sunday 22: Puppets performance at Plaza Independencia de Mendoza.
Monday 23: Left Mendoza at 8:00 pm.
Tuesday 24: Arrived to Buenos Aires at 9:30 am. Visited Microcentro, Obelisco. Caminito, San Telmo. Left Bs. As. At 8:30 pm to Salta (21 hour-bus-ride).
Wednesday 25: Arrived to Salta 5:30 pm. Hung out for a day, couldn't find a place to shower.
Thursday 26: Arrived to La Quiaca at 7:00 am, sad to leave Argentina behind. Entered to Bolivia. Walked to Villazon (Bolivia) and bought a ticket on the Wara Wara train to Oruro (17 hour ride). Left Villazon at 4:00 pm.
Friday 27: Arrived to Oruro at 2:00 pm. Bus to La Paz. Arrived to La Paz at 5:00 pm.
Saturday 28: Overslept and missed bus to Arequipa. Crossed to Peruvian side. Bus broke down (4th time bus Flores Co. brakes down) after Titicaca. Got to Arequipa at 12:30 am.
Sunday 01: Day in Arequipa. Saw Misti, Pichu Pichu and Chachani in the distance. Bus to Lima at 5 pm. (17-hour-bus ride)
Monday 02: Arrived to Lima at 9:30 am. Bus to Tumbes at 3:30 pm.
Tuesday 03: Arrived to Tumbes. Crossed to Ecuadorian side. Got home at night.