VacationsACONCAGUA, My 2009 Trip.
Sunset as seen from the bus in Peru.
After guiding in Ecuador non stopping the whole season, I wanted to take my well-deserved vacations, so I planned a trip to Aconcagua solo, in alpine-style carrying everything with me and unsupported even by mules
. My plan was to take a bus from Quito, to cross the borders between Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina and to climb Aconcagua. Then to come back to Ecuador through the Andean highlands, by bus and train through Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
It took me 7 days to get to Mendoza-Argentina, and 9 days to get back to Quito-Ecuador. Sixteen long days on the road, visiting and discovering new places, meeting great people and sharing with them my dreams, illusions and joy. My Aconcagua Expedition lasted 13 days. I also spent 4 extra days in a Mini Expedition to Cordon Del Plata Range.
I'd like to share the highlights of my trip, which were taken out of my jounal. Unforgettable moments and experiences I lived on my way to Aconcagua, during the Expedition, and on my way back home.
From Ecuador to Peru.Tuesday 27
Left Quito at 5:30 pm in a bus coming from Bogotá, Colombia. The whole bus was completely full of Colombian refugees, most of them running away from la guerrilla. I was so excited, I've waited for this moment for so long, and there I was, on my way to Argentina, on my way to Aconcagua.. the highest peak in the American continent!
I made friends as soon as I got in the bus. I traveled with Stalin, a theology student from Loja, who was on his way to Bolivia for studies, and with Erik, a mountain guide from Peru who was guiding in Ecuador and a good friend of mine.
The Peruvian CoastWednesday 28.
We all got to the Peruvian-Ecuadorian border in the morning hours and went through customs and immigrations procedures with no problems. Then we all, Colombians, Peruvians and Ecuadorians continued on the bus by the Panamericana Sur to the Peruvian capital city. The bus stopped at night for dinner at a junction between Chiclayo and the road that comes from Cajamarca. This was my second night spent in the same bus and on the same highway that crosses the endless Peruvian desert to Lima.
Pacific Coast from the bus.
The night in the bus was so quiet and relaxing, but just for a while 'till the bus driver thought that playing reggeaton music (Which I hate it!) at night will prevent him for falling asleep and will put passengers to sleep. We all asked him to lower the music down a little but he kept it loud.
So we had to do some justice.... I wrapped a candy in toilette paper and stuck it inside the speakers. It was an awesome relief, like the one I used to feel when I shook my dad's body when he started to snore while sleeping. No more noise for the rest of the ride, and we all had a pleasant night.
Lima, Peru.Thursday 29.
Got to Lima at 9:00 am. Erik walked with me two blocks to Tepsa bus Company. I bought a ticket to Tacna, a town located 30 minutes north of the Peruvian-Chilean border. Erik stayed in Lima visiting friends while I went to Miraflores and Larco Mar, visited the boulevard located at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. I got in a comfortable bus to Tacna at 2:30 pm and got the first impression of how Argentinean people are.
Miraflores Area. Lima, Peru.
I met Matias, a talkative and very friendly guy from Cordoba. We sat on the same row's seats and talked about his long trip through Bolivia and Peru. We ended up being good friends. I kept myself staring out the window to the small square shape plywood houses and to the huge blue ocean. It was my second night in the bus through the desert and the third one since I left my country.
Arica, Chile.Friday 30.
Matias and I got to Tacna at 11:30 am. I was there 2 years ago so I knew how to cross to the Chilean side without being rip-off by the taxi drivers from Tacna.
We took a taxi and rode in it to Chile. We arrived to Arica one hour later after going through customs. Arica is a beautiful small city with nice clean beaches and with a great overview point called El Morro. From up there is possible to see the whole city, the ocean and the Atacama desert to the south.
Sunset from El Morro. Arica, Chile.
So, after buying the bus tickets for our next destinations, Matias and I walked downtown, bought a couple of pizzas and sodas and walked to playa El Laucho where we relaxed and waited for our departure time.
Arica as seen from El Morro.
We hiked up to El Morro and had great views of the city and ocean.. a beautiful sunset. We stayed up there for a while. I remembered the first time I visited this place, two years ago after climbing Huayna Potosi in Bolivia. Nothing better than taking a relaxing break in the beach after climbing in the Andes.
By night, Matias took a bus to Salta, Argentina and I took another bus to Calama, Chile. We kissed good bye at the bus terminal, (the Argentinian way of saying hi or bye) and we both continued in different ways.
Three days through the desert. Chile.Saturday 31.
As soon as I got to Calama at 9:00 am, I took another bus to Santiago de Chile. Passed by Antofagasta and continued on by the desert.
The bus was an oven, extremely hot inside! It felt worst outside of it for sure. Sunrise was at 6:15 am and sunset at 9:00 pm, so I had 15 hours of sun a day, plus the same desert view at both sides of the road. I didn't see other thing but sand during the last 24 hours.
Santiago de Chile.Sunday 01.
I arrived to Santiago de Chile at 10 am. One of the most beautiful South American capital cities I've seen so far. I felt so happy of being there. First of all, I exchanged dollars for pesos, and bought a bus ticket to Mendoza, Argentina. I always tried to take night buses, in order to avoid sleeping in hotels and save some money.
Palacio de La Moneda. Santiago de Chile.
Then I took the subway (Metro) to Palacio de la Moneda, walked by Bernardo O'Higgins street, visited the old town, Miraflores and hiked up to Parque Metropolitano entrance where I took a bus up to a swimming pool resort. Once there I took the longest shower ever. I thought it was fair to take a long shower after 5 smelly days in a bus. Swam and relaxed for a couple of hours and then continued hiking up to El Santuario de La Virgen. The city of Santiago looked huge from up there.
Santiago de Chile as seen from Santuario de La Virgen.
Got back to the bus terminal same way I went up to the park. It was 10:30 pm. I met Claudia (ARG) in the bus. We went through immigrations, crossed to the Argentinian side, shared some water and snacks and talked a lot about her country and Aconcagua for a while.
Mendoza, Argentina.Monday 02.
Finally I got to Terminal del Sol, Mendoza's main bus station at 4:30 am. It took me 7 days to get from Ecuador to Argentina by bus!. Left my huge backpack at “guarda equipajes” office (luggage storage office) and walked downtown. I found a place where to stay at, had breakfast and got Aconcagua's climbing permits.
Plaza Independencia. Mendoza, Argentina.
After paying the 1,000 pesos (USD. 350,00), filling out some forms and exchanging some money, I went back to the terminal and got my backpack. I also bought my ticket to Puente Del Inca for the next day.
Parque San Martin. Mendoza.
By night, I bought all the supplies for the Expedition and hung out in Plaza Independencia (Mendoza's main square) until very late watching the puppets performance.
Puente del Inca. (day 1)Tuesday 03.
Shoot! I overslept and I was supposed to take the bus to Puente del Inca at 10:30 am and it was already 10:15 am.
I missed the bus, went back to the bus station and bought another bus ticket for 3:30 pm to Puente del Inca. Anyway, it ended up being better for me 'cause that way I could leave from Mendoza having my last good lunch.
Puente del Inca Natural Monument.
I took the bus to Puente del Inca in the afternoon, I couldn't stop thinking about Aconcagua all the way to my final destination. I got off the bus at 7:30 pm at Puente del Inca (2,750 m/9,020 ft)... and for first time in the whole trip I felt alone and lost. I stood at the edge of the highway, with no clue where to go to. I stood there with my huge backpack on the ground in the middle of nowhere for a few minutes.
Puente del Inca.
Then I decided, the first thing to do was to look for a place where to camp at. I found a camping site, set up my tent there and started looking for the mules soon after. It was late, and all the mules where already taken. So that meant I would have to carry all of my gear up to Aconcagua's base camp by myself. I thought I can do it!.. even though many people there at the nearby lodges told me it was impossible and extremely hard to do it by myself alone.
I couldn’t find any mules that night... I went to the store, bought some alfajores “cookies” and hung out with the porters and villagers outside the store. I really needed to talk to somebody, so I hung out there with them for a while, drinking some "mate" and finding out about the route up to base camp.
It was already 9:30 pm and all of the sudden I heard a foreign accent on my way back to my tent... it was Edgar, a climber from Guatemala I guided a couple times in Ecuador. It's a small world!. We were so happy of seeing each other after so long and in Aconcagua. He told me, he just came back from the summit and gave me information about my Ecuadorian friends who were evacuated from Pared Sur's summit two days ago. He talked about the last seven fatal accidents on the last two months in Aconcagua. We talked for about 1 hour that night.
Confluencia (day 2)Wednesday 04.
Woke up at 7:30 am, it was my first night alone in the tent at Puente del Inca.. a relaxing night. Edgar and I had breakfast together. I got a ride on an old Ford pickup truck driven by Javier, a very friendly Argentinian and the organizer of a mule’s provider company. I left Puente Del Inca at 11:15 am.
My tent at Confluencia.
Once on the road and on the way up to Horcones, the Park Rangers Station, Javier asked me to take a look to my right side, my eyes couldn't believe it.. even though it was still far away, Aconcagua's South face looked huge from down there. I had waited for years to see Aconcagua, and there I was.. right below America's highest mountain.. I felt very excited and happy, ready for my new adventure once again!
Confluencia Camp Site. Can you spot my tent?.. it's the tinny one in the center of the picture :)
There, at Horcones Rangers Station (2,800 m/9,184 ft), I found out about my three Ecuadorian friends, Joshua, Carla and Topo, (their ages ranging from 21 to 28 years old) who climbed first by the Normal route and then by La Pared Sur. Carla got HAPE just a few meters below the summit (Filo del Guanaco), she had to be pulled up by her climbing partners, but they made it!, an admirable rescue at such altitude.
I started hiking up as soon as I registered myself at the rangers office. It took me exactly 2 hours to get from Horcones to Confluencia Camp Site (3,400 m/11,152 ft). I checked myself in again at the rangers office. Once I set my tent up, I filled my water bottles up and started cooking right away a mixture of rice with vegetables... it tasted awful!, but I fixed it a bit by adding a can of tuna fish in it.
After taking an hour nap in the afternoon I went out for a walk near the camping site. At night, I boiled more water for dinner and breakfast for the next day. The weather was incredibly perfect. I hoped it will remain like that for the following days.
Plaza de Mulas, Base Camp. (day 3)Thursday 05.
I didn't have a good night. I kept having nightmares all night long and I was waking up constantly. Woke up at 7:30 am and started boiling water for my extremely light breakfast, oats and water.
I stowed my stuff in my backpack soon after. By the time I left camp it was already 10:00 am. Many teams had left camp before me, but I didn't have any rush. I started my hike up to Base Camp, crossed the river bridge at Quebrada Almacenes and continued hiking up through Quebrada de Horcones and then up to Playa Ancha. I got to Piedra Ibanez 3 hours later passing all of the teams on the way up. This was break time for me, I sat for a while besides a mule carcass and drank and ate a bit to recover energy.
I continued on with the hike, this time uphill. I saw a bunch of mules coming up from Confluencia, one of them almost hit me from behind. But one of the mule drivers knew my name and alerted me of it. The terrain gained a bit of altitude and became steeper, but I still kept a constant pace and rhythm up to Base Camp.
Plaza De Mulas, Base Camp.
I arrived to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4,300 m/14,104 ft) at 4:00 pm, after six exhausting hours of hiking with my heavy backpack. I checked myself in at the Ranger Station and looked for a spot for my tent. I hadn't hired any mules through an agency so I had to look for a mountaineering service provider to rent me a spot for my tent and restroom facilities. I found one with a nice pub and living room... and also with a roofless toilette, with an incredible view of the surroundings.
My tent at Base Camp.
At night, while walking by the camp I met with Fausto, a mountain guide from Ecuador who was guiding a group of Chileans. We talked and walked around for a while. I planned to carry my loads up to the next camp site the following day and to return to Plaza de Mulas in the afternoon. Fausto had the same plans as me, so we agreed to meet next morning.
I went to the doctor's office for regular medical control; he said I was doing great even though I just got to such altitude. I met with Xiomara on the way out from the doctor's office; I guided her and other members of the K'Ashem team from Guatemala in Ecuador a year ago.
Xiomara, Roberto, Douglas and his wife invited me to have dinner with them that night. They were very kind and even gave me some spare food they had in their kitchen tent. They told me Edgar's real story, what it really happened... he got AMS and had to be evacuated to Puente del Inca... what a liar!, (lol)!.. but .. he's still a very good friend of mine :-)
Their plan was to camp in Plaza Canada (4,800 m/15,744 ft.) the following day. So far everything was going great, despite the weather forecast.. bad weather for the next three days.
Plaza de Mulas - Nido de Condores - Plaza de Mulas. (day 4)Friday 06.
Woke up at 8:30 am, boiled water and had breakfast (hot chocolate, oats and cereal). I loaded my backpack with food, warm clothing, crampons, a small water bottle and the MSR pot. I left my tent at 11:00 am and climbed up followed by Fausto and his 4 Chilean clients. Got to Nido de Condores Camp at 2:20 pm and left my stuff with three guys from Ukraine who were camping there.
On my way to Nido de Condores.
I headed back down to Plaza Canada and joined my friends from Guatemala. I helped them setting up their tents and hung out with them for a short while... then I continued on my way down to Plaza de Mulas. Once at my tent I changed my sweaty clothes and hiked to “Refugio Plaza de Mulas” and made a quick call to my family in Ecuador.
The weather forecast didn't look promising for Saturday and Sunday, so I didn't know if I should remain in Plaza de Mulas until the weather gets better or to move up to Nido the Condores the following day.
Nido de Condores. (day 5).Saturday 07.
I spent a cold night at Plaza de Mulas, with a temperature of 5 C (41 F) inside the tent. I didn't know by then that was the warmest night I would have in the mountain for the next days.
I stowed my tent, sleeping bag and the rest of my personal stuff in my backpack and headed up to Nido de Condores. It was 11:00 am and it turned windy on the way up. I saw somebody being lowered on my way up. So far, I had seen 7 climbers being evacuated on the helicopter, and it was just during that day. I would say an average of 5 to 7 climbers were evacuated from the mountain daily.
Nido de Condores and Aconcagua
I got to Nido de Condores (5,300 m/17,384 ft.) at 3:00 pm and met with the Guatemalans who were just arriving from Plaza Canada. I hiked a bit higher and placed my tent inside a small trench made out of stones.
A girl came to me while I was setting up my tent and asked me if I had some information about the weather and about the direction of the wind. I raised my head up and looked at her; I had seen that face before... It was Vanina (ARG), a girl I ice climbed with months ago in Cayambe, Ecuador. It really was a nice surprise!.. She came along with 2 more friends and set their tent up a few meters away from mine.
Fausto had his tents set up at the base of the huge platform, so I gave him a quick visit that afternoon. I melted some snow before the night arrived, had dinner and got inside my tent.
Berlin. (day 6).Sunday 08.
I spent the first cold night in my tent. It was – 16 C (3 F) inside my tent and – 40 C (- 40 F) outside of it. I packed all my stuff up in my backpack and headed to the next Camp site at 11:40 am. It was weird to leave my friends down in Nido de Condores, but they were planning to remain a couple of extra nights in Nido de Condores in order to get acclimatize.
I got to Berlin Camp site (5,850 m/19,188 ft.) at 1:20 pm. Set my tent up there.. as soon as I finished organizing my stuff in the tent I saw Vanina, Roxana (La Colo) and Claudio who came to visit me.. it was nice to see them again. They brought a small grocery bag with them and left it with me. They were planning to sleep in Berlin the next day. Then Fausto came and visited me too. The summit looked pretty close from up there but it really was far away. I could see Nido de Condores from the shelf I was camping at.
Friends from Argentina
We all have a few pictures taken together and then they headed back down to their tents. I felt alone again, but I still enjoyed of my solitude at that altitude. I grabbed my trekking poles, climbed up to Piedras Blancas (6,000 m/19,680 ft.) and checked out the route that I'd be climbing on the following day. Yes!, my plan was to push for the summit that very same night!
Then I headed back down to my tent and started melting snow for the night. It took me forever!, but I managed to melt three small bottles of water which I put them between my legs inside my sleeping bag in order to keep them drinkable. I opened a tuna fish can and ate it with a piece of bread. I could see a very bad storm hitting the peaks to the north and it was approaching towards Aconcagua pretty fast.
The weather changed in minutes that night. By 8:50 pm the wind increased significantly and I wonder if I should go back to Nido de Condores instead of being up there. But I could see a full moon shining in the darkness and it made me think that it'll ok, that it'll be just a small storm approaching towards my camp. The weather got worse and I hoped the wind stop blowing that hard. I wouldn't like to spend another night in Berlin because I didn't have enough food and gas left for an extra day up there.
Well, soon after I got in my tent, I had my worst night in the mountain ever and at 5,850 m. The huge snowstorm approached from the north, bringing tons of snow and strong winds. My tent was set up just a few meters away of the edge of the ledge, and I was afraid my tent could fly away through the air, like a kite and with me in it. Actually, the wind lifted my tent up at least 6 times during that night, so I tried to curl myself up in my sleeping bag in order to put more weight just in one side of my tent. I slept only 30 minutes that night.
Nido de Condores (day 7).Monday 09.
I made it!, it was 8:00 am and I was completely covered by the snow that came inside the tent through the window's mesh. I packed my backpack during the night, so I was ready to get out of my tent and to go back down to Nido de Condores. Another storm was approaching fast, so I stowed my tent in record time, 5 minutes and headed down back to Nido de Condores right away.
Snowstorm at Camp 1.
As soon as I arrived back to Nido de Condores, my friends gave me a mug of tea and cookies. I set up my tent at the very same place I set it up before. Everybody up there knew about the forecast for the next days, so most of teams headed back down to Plaza de Mulas Base camp later on, including Fausto's team.
Nido de Condores.
I spent the rest of the day inside my tent. I could hear my friends from Guatemala arriving to Nido de Condores and setting up their tents in the middle of the heavy snowstorm.
I had already run out of food, I just had 5 small bags of instant soup and 2 Mojo's bars, but luckily Vanina shared with me a couple of chocolate bars which I ate them right away. Fausto also left me his spare food for an extra day before heading back to Base camp. The weather was really bad the whole day, very windy with lots of snow.
Nido de Condores. (day 8).Tuesday 10.
It was very windy during the night, I thought it was snowing but it was just the sand being picked up by the wind and tossed on my tent's flyer.
K'ashem Guys and me. From left to right: Roberto, Xiomara, Saby, Douglas and me
I got up at 8:20 am and for a moment I thought about pushing for the summit that morning, but the weather wasn't good enough, so I changed my mind.
I visited my Guatemalan friends who didn't have a good night either. They were thinking to quit on their Expedition right away but they couldn't because they still had their gear and spare food in a duffel bag up in Refugio Berlin (5,850 m/19,188 ft.).
I already had run out of food, so I didn't have breakfast, lunch and dinner the day before. Vanina, La Colo and Claudio had food for one more day.
Douglas (Guatemala) asked me if I could climb up to Berlin and get their stuff down for them. I thought doing that'll be like climbing up to Cayambe's top twice. So, I emptied my big backpack and climbed once again from Nido de Condores to Berlin. As soon as I got there I opened their huge heavy duffel bag and put some of its contents inside my backpack. There were 7 mid-size Coca Cola bottles in it. I was very thirsty but I couldn't drink a drop from them 'cause they were frozen. I started heading down back to Nido de Condores with my backpack on my shoulders and hauling down the duffel bag behind me.
The duffel bag was really heavy and in that moment I wished I was in my tent starving to death instead of hauling down that load from such altitude. But soon, after two hours of hauling it I arrived to Nido de Condores. I left all of the food bags in my tent and delivered the rest of the gear to my friends. They were very grateful for getting their gear back.
Xiomara, Roberto, Douglas and his wife headed down to Base Camp, and I remained there, with Vanina, La Colo and Claudio. We had plenty of food now for the next 15 days. I remember having a great dinner in Nido de Condores with them. We had so much food that we shared it with the other teams around us.
I saw Fausto (ECU) and his team coming up again to Nido De Condores and setting their tents up for second time. We talked about trying to climb up to the summit by midnight if the weather gets better, so we all went early to bed that night. It was still windy and I tried to keep myself warm inside my sleeping bag. I kept looking outside my tent and checking at the weather so I couldn't sleep much that night.
Aconcagua Summit. (day 9).Wednesday 11.
We all woke up at 2:50 am and started getting ready for the climb right away. It was a bit windy out there, with a beautiful full moon shining bright above us. So we started our climb at 3:45 am.
Aconcagua Summit (6,962 m/22,835 ft)
It took us exactly 2 hours to climb up to Berlin hut. La Colo couldn't feel her fingers and toes anymore because of the cold night. I gave her a couple of hand and toe warmers and we left her inside the small hut. I kept climbing up while Vanina and Claudio followed my steps. We never used our headlamps; the moonlight kept showing us the route up all the way 'till dawn.
With my friend Vanina (ARG)
As soon as I got to Piedras Blancas I put my crampons on. I realized Vanina and Claudio needed help with their crampons, so I went ahead and gave them a hand with them. I knew in that moment I'll stick to them for the rest of the climb so I slowed my pace down a little.
We arrived to Refugio Independencia (6,400 m/20,992 ft) an hour later. The cold wind increased up there a lot. We climbed by a small steep snowfield until we got to Paso Del Viento, it got very windy up there! Twenty more minutes and we got to La Travesia (the traverse), and an hour later we got to La entrada de La Canaleta (the couloir entrance).
My throat was extremely dry because of the dryness of the air. I had brought a small Coca Cola bottle with me, that was all the water I had for the climb and I had already shared it with Vanina and Claudio, so I waited for them at the shade of a huge rock that marks the beginning of the last section to the summit.
GT at the summit!
They caught up with me 30 minutes later and we all drank out of their Nalgene bottles, rested for a while and continued climbing up by La Canaleta.
We were very dehydrated, and climbing at that altitude with no much water was kind of hard for us, but mostly for Vanina and Claudio. They kept following my steps up to the summit, always trying to keep the same rhythm. Their progress was slow, but they never gave up... four steps, breath deep, four steps, breath deep. By doing this I made sure they could reach the summit patiently. They were using all of their energy left in their bodies, and I wanted them to save some for the descent.
Finally, two hours later I put my feet on America's highest point, the summit of Aconcagua (6,962 m/22,835 ft.), followed closely by Vanina. It was 3:45 pm, so it took us exactly 12 hours to summit. We hug to each other, took many pictures of ourselves with the summit cross and the surroundings and waited for Claudio who joined us up 20 minutes later.
It was one of my best moments in life. I remembered looking at an Aconcagua's summit picture long time ago... I dreamed with that moment for so long, and there I was, standing beside that cross with Aconcagua's South Face down below. With tears in my eyes I thought about how hard it was to get this Expedition done, the financial support, the hard work while guiding in my mountains, all of the struggle I went through to accomplish this, but mostly about the people that were with me during all this time in their thoughts as my family and good friends that wished me the best in the Expedition. I remembered people I dreamed to climb with time ago, they weren't there... physically.. but in some way they were up with me in my thoughts. It was an amazing and special moment!
I hugged GT, my loyal doggie partner, set it up on the cross and had a few pictures taken with him. We stayed at the summit for about 40 minutes, and then started heading down. We met Lucas (Poland) on our way down. He summited but he didn't have enough strength and balance to get himself down. We were just a few meters below the summit... I thought a rescue at this altitude would be pretty tough.
Vanina called by radio to the park rangers and asked for somebody to come and get him down. Actually I don't remember what they told her but we had to lower him down by ourselves. Lucas climbed a bit down by the couloir but suddenly slipped down about 50 meters. We all thought he died.. I ran after him and caught him. Luckily he wasn't hurt.
Once at the couloir entrance we met with three Argentinian guys and with Mike (NZ). Mike started feeling bad too, he couldn't think straight. So we lowered them down little by little to Berlin Camp (5,850 m) where the doctor was waiting for them. We knew later, Mike had HACE and Lucas had both HACE and HAPE. They weren't taken to a lower elevation that day.
I left the rest of the team near Piedras Blancas and headed straight down to Nido de Condores where La Colo welcomed me with a hug and a huge bottle of orange juice. She invited me to climb another mountain in the nearby range after the Expedition, so we started planning our next climb while we waited for Vanina and Claudio to come.
Very happy of our accomplishment, we all had the most relaxing night in the tents. The night was still windy but after such a long day we didn't really care about how the weather conditions were outside. We reached the summit, we were safe.. and that was all that mattered in that moment.
Confluencia. (day 10).Thursday 12.
We all woke up at 11:00 am and started heading down to Base Camp. I went ahead and met with Lucas. He was feeling better and even invited me for a beer at the base camp's hotel. I got to base camp, picked my belongings up from the agency and waited for my friends to come.
Vanina, La Colo and Claudio were very kind with me and let me load my plastic mountaineering boots on one of their mules. We all hiked down to Confluencia together. I met with Hernan (ECU) on my way down from BC. He was guiding an Ecuadorian, but they couldn't reach the summit. He congratulated me and we wished good luck to each other.
Hernan Bonilla (ECU) and I.
The river I crossed on my way up to BC in the beginning of the Expedition got wider and it made our hike down to Confluencia a new adventure, but we managed to cross it anyway. I got to Confluencia at 9:00 pm just before sunset. My friends got to the camp 30 minutes later. We had pizza, sandwiches and beer that night, we deserved it!
Back in Mendoza.Friday 13.
Next morning, we kissed good bye each other and I started hiking towards the highway in order to take the bus to Mendoza. I got out to the highway just in time to catch the morning bus at 11:45 am. I fell asleep during the whole ride. The bus arrived to Mendoza's main bus station at 4:00 pm.
Argentina - Bolivia border.
As soon as I got to Mendoza I went to my hotel room which I shared it with two friendly Italians and for first time I could see my face in a mirror... my lips, face and nose were completely black and bloody. The coldness of the mountain burned my skin and it hurt so bad!. I went to the doctor and prescribed me a very good cream against burns.
Train from Villazon to Oruro, Bolivia.
I spent the next three days in Mendoza, visiting the city, parks, museums and zoo.. and hanging out with La Colo who was spending her last vacation days there.
After Aconcagua's climb and after spending a few days in Mendoza, La Colo and I went up to Cordon del Plata Range, and climbed Vallecitos (5,700 m/18,696 ft). We did it in 4 days with bad weather, crossing streams that turned into wild rivers after the storms and with no food left.
I traveled a bit around Argentina, visited Buenos Aires, Tafi del Valle, Tucuman and Salta. Then on my way back home I took a midnight bus to La Quiaca in the Argentinian side, crossed the border to Bolivia and got to Villazon where I rode on a train to Oruro and then on a bus to La Paz. I visited Arequipa for second time in Peru and continued traveling north until getting to Ecuador. It took me 9 days to get back to Quito. What I lived, the great people I met, and the places I visited during my long Expedition will remain like one of the best experiences I had in life.
K' Ashem Trip Report Here