Saturday, May 9, 2015

Four travel days and I'm home

Here is a four-part conclusion of the 31-part posting of my journal entries and photos from one of the greatest experiences of my life so far--a month-long mountain climbing trip to the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile and Argentina, which included summiting three 6000 meter peaks (~20,000 feet).  To view all the entries in this series, check the posts labeled South America.

Day 28 – Monday 1 February 2010

The trip home to the northern hemisphere, thousands of miles north and slightly west of where I began this morning, took me south and slightly east – straight in the wrong direction – for the first two days, first by bus, then by plane to Buenos Aires.

It began at 8:55 this morning when I hauled luggage to the front of the Hostelria where the bus was already waiting. We left virtually on time for the 5 or 6 hour drive to Catamarca. We stopped half way at Aimogasta at a gas station with a little clean snack table area and very clean rest rooms (same place we stopped on the way up). I bought an ‘Imperial’ Beer, an Argentinean beer I hadn’t seen before.

From there we passed through a canyon very reminiscent of Tucson, Arizona, with saguaro-like cacti.  See the photo above.  They were notable on the way up a couple weeks ago, but now they were in bloom! It may have been the rain that fell here that triggered it, or perhaps it’s just normal seasonal bloom. My photos were taken from the moving bus.

We got to our hotel Arenales at about 2:40AM after the bus driver, who apparently had to hand a bribe to the police checkpoint person coming out of Fiambala (I suspect his bus inspection was not in order because his brakes seemed to be squealing and thus probably in need of repair), took back roads to avoid the check point coming in to Catamarca.

We went to a restaurant right around the corner and had a big celebration dinner that totaled more than $20 US dollars per person--pretty extravagant for prices here because we all ordered lots of food. John and Thom and Barry leave early in the morning for their bus ride to Mendoza and then on to the climb of Aconcagua. I had decided not to join them because I would have to sacrifice my air fare and buy tickets for a new one-way flight home.

The majority of the rest of us are flying out tomorrow and will share a taxi or shuttle that leaves the hotel at 11:20 tomorrow morning. I got back to my room at 10:35 and called it a night.

Day 29 – Tuesday 2 February 2010

There were four of us left in town the next morning, all taking the same flight to Buenos Aires. We had two compact taxis to deliver us to the airport, one for the luggage and one for the people. Our Peruvian guide Damian was there to make sure everything went smoothly and to give us money to pay the drivers. He would stay in town one more night then return home.

We were on the road by 11:30 and got to the airport about 11:50, relatively early for a 1:05 domestic flight. We got our boarding passes, sat around and visited some, and then boarded the plane, which left on time at 1:05PM. There was a 20 minute hop to La Rioja where most of the passengers got off and somewhat fewer got on. Then we flew the hour and 20 minutes to Buenos Aires. Weather was dreary there, but on the approach I got a good shot of the city with the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucci Liberti football stadium in the foreground.

We got our luggage and then said our good byes. John and Phinella got shuttle tickets to the International Airport and Brian headed out to get a taxi--he’s staying in the city for a couple of days of touring on his own. I decided to camp in the airport for the night—the next leg of my flight was not until 8AM tomorrow, so I hung around in the food court, relaxed, ordered two meals, and watched some football (soccer) then settled with my luggage in a quiet place nearby for the night.

Day 30 – Wednesday 3 February 2010

I probably actually got a little sleep, although there were so many noisy people who seemed to gather around in my area, some interested in sleeping, others with noisy screaming kids, that the sleep was intermittent at best. At 7:05 I went through security and soon was standing in line for boarding for the 8AM flight to Mendoza.

It was clear and warm in Mendoza when we arrived about 10:30. The airport is small but very clean and spacious, with a nice restaurant and some interesting local art posted on the upstairs walls. Here’s a sample:

I found that I could not only check my bags right away, but also that I could get an earlier flight to Santiago, Chile, that leaves at 3:05PM instead of my original flight leaving at 6:30. That flight was less than an hour, just up and over the Andes and down. The mountains there were free of recent snow—so I guessed that prospects for my expedition friends climbing Aconcagua looked reasonably good based on the snow cover conditions. (I learned later that they could not summit due to high winds, so I had saved myself a lot of money.)

We landed and I had no customs to go through, just got funneled straight through to the international flights waiting area. Soon I was in the area of the Ruby Tuesday restaurant that I had eaten at on my way to Argentina last time. I sat down there and ordered a really big meal—more than I could finish. I got a Kunstmann Bock (an expensive Chilean beer), water, broccoli and cheese soup, and an avocado burger with a separate plate of fried onion rings. I sat and ate slowly until I could eat no more—total cost about $30. I then lounged around in a quiet area and watched the sunset.

The flight to Miami began boarding about 9:40PM. I found my seat by the window, second from last row and was delighted to find that the aisle seat beside me was empty. From what I could tell, the plane was nearly full, so I was incredibly lucky. That meant I had all sorts of spreading-out options to get a comfortable rest on the 8 hour overnight flight to Miami.

They served us a hot dinner that tasted lousy - wasn’t that hungry after the big Ruby Tuesday meal. Then everybody settled down to sleep and/or endure the night. I put up the arm rest between my two seats and settled in for an unexpectedly comfortable long international flight. What a blessing.

Day 31 – Thursday 4 February 2010

Another advantage of my situation was that I was able to freely go back to the very nearby bathroom, which I did twice. I even overslept the breakfast service, but it didn’t look very appetizing anyhow. I did get one last cup of the great Chilean apple juice--the fresh tasty pulpy cider-like stuff that is not even available in Argentina (nowhere that I encountered anyway).

The plane landed at 5:05AM, still dark in Miami. I moved through the passport check, customs declaration, picked up my luggage successfully (yay!) and moved it through customs and dropped it off at the TSA security point where they would check it and automatically send it on to my connecting flight to BWI (if all goes well).

Security was strict, as I expected, but I was at my gate with laptop fired up by 10:20 after calling the BWI airport shuttle and confirming my reservation with them. So I had an hour and a quarter to kill until the scheduled 11:35 boarding. As I sat there by the wall with an outlet I noticed a flight attendant come up to the counter and then get on the plane who looked remarkably like Tanya, a member of my church in Columbia. The likeness seemed really remarkable. I had no idea what Tanya’s occupation was or even if she had a job or was a stay-at-home mom.

Later, when we boarded the plane, I kept looking at her to try to distinguish some feature that was different, so that I could be sure that she was only a look-alike. Finally as she was serving drinks, I caught her eye. By then I was almost sure it was not a look-alike but was actually her, even though I had no idea that she had any job at all, let alone a job as a flight attendant, let alone on the airline I was booked on, let alone on the actual plane that I was on.

There was an awkward moment of non-recognition on her face, but then the light came on. Yes, it really was Tanya! What a delightful way to end my vacation! There were empty rows near the back of the plane, so when Tanya was free, she and I sat down in one with my laptop between us; and we chatted and I showed her a bunch of my photos from the trip. Using her privilege as an employee she gave me free food that normally we have to pay for—a huge chocolate chip cookie ($3) and then a Heineken beer ($6). Tanya is such a quiet and unassuming person that it was surprising to see that she has such a people-oriented job. She reluctantly posed as I snapped her photo in the back of the plane. Here she is with such a pretty smile:

As we approached BWI I had a great view of the Bay Bridge:

I exited the plane and made my way to the baggage claim to find my bags right there circling the carousel. So I was quickly out to the designated exit door where I was to be met by a GO shuttle van. That was at 2:50PM. I had to wait a few minutes, and I called the shuttle company to let them know I was waiting. When the van arrived and picked me up, the driver then had to circle around once and pick up another party destined for the NW side of Ellicott City. We drove there first. The driver then delivered me to my garage door and I was back home in my condo at 4:10PM, full of memories of brash adventure, but happy to be back to the ordinary, at least for a little while.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Back to civilization, safe and sound

This is part 27 of a 31-part posting of my journal entries and photos from one of the greatest experiences of my life so far--a month-long mountain climbing trip to the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile and Argentina, which included summiting three 6000 meter peaks (~20,000 feet).  To view all the entries in this series, check the posts labeled South America.

Beautiful morning at Aguas Calientes

Day 27 – Sunday 31 January 2010

I had an amazingly comfortable night or sleep. I slept well most of the night. It never got below about 40 degrees all night and felt like spring and sounded like it, with birds singing and the babble of the stream. When awake I had been thinking about the hard decision about whether to go on an extension trip to Aconcagua with John, Barry and Thom. We got up at 7:10 and had breakfast, during which I asked John to give me the itinerary for that trip. I had also talked about it with him along the trek yesterday, and then to Thom about it also. After breakfast we had plenty of time to pack up and tear down camp.

The mules arrived around 9AM, even before we had finished packing. They sent a couple of mules on up the stream to near its source where the three Argentineans had made camp last night after the sick one was brought down on a mule. We headed out about 9:30 expecting to arrive at the vehicle pick-up point at the end of the canyon above Cazadero Grande by the appointed time of 2PM.

After a hard march through some wide open spaces, and past the mule men's permanent summer camp,

with some big examples of these tight growing ground-hugging shrubs,

the first two of us did arrive there on time, but lagging further behind, I slowed down because the mules had not yet passed us and there were no vehicles at the pick-up point yet.

The vehicle arrived 8 minutes late but we still had to wait around for more than an hour for the mules. The drivers had brought a cooler with a 2 liter bottle of Quilmes beer and a bottle of orange soda--that was an enjoyable little respite after a couple weeks in the wilderness.

Finally we had the two trucks loaded. The support guys wanted to wait until the three Argentinians had arrived safely—they were going to camp there tonight. We saw them arrive, then were on the road at 3:20 for the two hour drive to Fiambala. We got there in the heat of the afternoon and unloaded the trucks and got to our rooms with three and a half hours to clean up, etc., before meeting for supper at the same (one and only) nice restaurant in the town—the Pizza Roma.

The clerk had roomed everybody together as before, though John had planned to continue our rotation. So instead of being paired with Thom, I roomed with John Starbuck again. John had opted to stay at Aguas Calientes for a week while we were all higher up, so he had unique stories to tell and was interested to hear about our experiences. While John took first turn at showering I got out the scale and weighed myself--down 12 or 13 pounds from when I left home! I also photographed my weather beaten face:

After we both took showers and shaved, then ate some of the snacks we had with us from today’s trek, I downloaded all my photos to the laptop and showed him some. Then at 6:45 I started catching up on my electronic journal, skipping past everything on my notepad and just catching up with today’s entry first. Then at 7:05 I started transcribing the two weeks of hand written entries. I got through a number of days’ worth of entries before 8:30 when it was time to meet and go over to the Roma Pizza restaurant for a nice outdoors dinner in the warm evening breezes.

We all ordered gigantic meals--steaks with lots of chips (French fries) or a whole large pizza with full dinner salad on the side. I got a whole anchovy pizza with a full dinner salad. The pizza was great, with loads of cheese, and I happily scarfed down every bit of it. After a nice dinner and conversation, the others went to another shop somewhere for coffee and I returned to my room, arriving at 10:40. Though I was tired, I did a little more journal work, then went to bed at 11:10PM.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Homeward trek begins

This is part 26 of a 31-part posting of my journal entries and photos from one of the greatest experiences of my life so far--a month-long mountain climbing trip to the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile and Argentina, which included summiting three 6000 meter peaks (~20,000 feet).  To view all the entries in this series, check the posts labeled South America.

Lonely sand-blasted boulder in a vast open plain on our trek out

Day 26 – Saturday 30 January 2010

It was another cold night--about 15 degrees. But that was up from about 11 degrees the previous morning. I didn’t sleep at all until around midnight, both because of the long sleep last night and the caffeine in the GU I ate during the Volcan del Viento summit climb yesterday. I got up at 8AM and had breakfast and packed up.

We were on the trail about 9:45AM after saying good-bye to the Argentineans, one of whom was clearly continuing to suffer from cold and/or altitude. We hiked at a good pace, up over the little pass then down, down, down.

Shortly after surmounting the pass we met the mules coming up to pick up our stuff.

They also had the black bag that the Argentineans were expecting. We left the snow behind about half way down--a third of the horizontal distance to cover today.  That's where I stopped to photograph the wind-sculpted rock shown above.  As usual we stopped after an hour of walking for a snack or for lunch.

We whipped right past our intermediate campsite at Aguas Vicuñas and got to our campsite at 13,500 feet at Aguas Calientes about 4PM. We had carried two tents and some cooking stuff with us expecting the mules to arrive late. That was a good choice because we sat around until 6:30 before the first of the mules arrived. They were late because they had to transport the sick Argentinean guy back down on a mule.

We had supper and chatted and then more mules came with more tents and my duffel. We set up and I then took a walk a short way back up the valley to check out a cave big enough for shelter for our whole group. It was right off the valley floor overlooking a small cascade in the stream. I returned to the group for a minute or two of chat then retreated to my tent (tent-mate Barry tonight) and caught up on my journal, finishing just as a thunderstorm developed to the northwest over the places we had been for the last several nights. That was at 8:25. I settled into my sleeping bag and relaxed and listened to the frequent thunder. It rained a little then the rest of the night was quiet and mild. Tentmate Barry settled in when the rain hit and we went to bed around 9PM.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Summit day, 6000m Volcan del Viento

This is part 25 of a 31-part posting of my journal entries and photos from one of the greatest experiences of my life so far--a month-long mountain climbing trip to the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile and Argentina, which included summiting three 6000 meter peaks (~20,000 feet).  To view all the entries in this series, check the posts labeled South America.

Atop 6028 meter (19,777 foot) Volcan del Viento on a beautiful calm day.  This was the last of three 6000m peaks I 'bagged' during this expedition

Day 25 - Friday 29 January 2010

I fell asleep almost instantly and slept really well through a long night, making up for the lack of sleep last night. I didn’t get up until 8:25 with the sun already well up and shining on the tent. We had our usual breakfast of cold cereal and I was feeling surprisingly good. I have been blessed with near perfect health for this trip. We decided that Thom and Barry would go with John and attempt what might be a first ascent of a remote and obscure minor peak of 6000m+ height a few miles northeast of Medusa. With no formal name they’re just calling it Medusa NE. Note: as it turns out they were apparently the first people ever to climb that peak.

They would do that while Damian would guide Phinella and I up Volcan del Viento: a 6000 meter peak south of camp and importantly much closer to camp.

After breakfast we packed up and headed out at 9:30. The other group left a bit later. We had beautiful, in fact perfect weather with sun and calm wind, but the snow conditions made this a very challenging ascent. It was both deep and crusty.

Damian blazed the trail most of the time—I did a bit of leading—often through knee-deep snow. Near the summit it was thigh-deep: 2 feet at least. We got to the summit at 1PM and enjoyed panoramic views under clear sky, calm wind. We spent half an hour on the summit.  Here’s the three of us, Damien, Phinella and me with Ojos behind.

We descended to the col between the main and lower north peaks for lunch, again in calm conditions. We reached base camp at 2:45 and lounged around waiting for the other group to return. I got out my notepad and caught up on my journal after snacking some. That was done at 3:40PM. I then rested and read Silmarillion some and relaxed through the afternoon.

Damian started preparing dinner at 6PM even though the other three hadn’t returned from their trek yet. They arrived at 6:30. The up-down terrain, snow and distance had simply been more than they expected. But they had made it to the summit of the Medusa NE peak.

We had supper and chatted. The evening was fairly nice until a bit heavier snow moved in (It had been spitting snow most of the afternoon with thunder occasionally off to the NE). I retreated to my tent to finish dinner, then read Silmarillion again until some excitement outside diverted my attention.

I watched the drama unfold through the air vent in my tent. It appears that three Argentineans, expecting a mule to have delivered a black duffel bag here, arrived without it. So they were stranded here without tent and sleeping bags and other critical equipment. One of them seemed pretty dazed and underdressed. I suspect he was close to hypothermia. John offered them some hot tea and then Thom moved from his tent into the main leader’s bigger tent that could sleep three people reasonably comfortably. The three Argentineans then snuggled into Thom’s tent to endure the night with what they had (three pretty full back packs so probably extra layers of clothes).

Everybody settled in and got quiet as it got dark around 9PM. I had been peeking out for a long time, then I warmed myself up in my sleeping bag for a few minutes and then caught up on my journal. At 9:20 I read Silmarillion some more, reading one of the highlight chapters in the book--the one about Beren and Luthien. I finished the chapter about 9:45 and went to bed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Danger at High Camp

This is part 24 of a 31-part posting of my journal entries and photos from one of the greatest experiences of my life so far--a month-long mountain climbing trip to the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile and Argentina, which included summiting three 6000 meter peaks (~20,000 feet).  To view all the entries in this series, check the posts labeled South America.

As our early morning start time for a summit attempt on 22,615' Ojos del Salado approached, this happened.  Suddenly we were more worried about survival than about climbing a mountain.

Day 24 – Thursday 28 January 2010

Overnight the skies opened up.  We got about a foot of snow.

At 1:30AM, thankfully, it was beginning to let up. I spent 20 minutes clearing all the snow away from our tent. At 3AM Damian came over to say that the snow was too deep for a summit attempt and that we needed to pack up and try to get back to base camp instead, to which Phinella and I heartily agreed. If we got much more snow, even going down would become a problem. We were potentially in a life threatening situation.

It was only after those decisions were made, and with the sky actually clearing that I got a little sleep.

The day dawned sunny with the clouds left in the east wispy and far away. I bundled up and went out at 7:45 and found it breezy and 13 or 14 degrees F, but the wind quickly abated. It turned into a nice, although a cold morning. I went back to my tent and caught up on my journal, then at 8:20 we had breakfast and started packing up.

We were on the trail back to base camp by 10:30. The shot below shows our distant base camp, which is out of sight below the low straight ridge line. The high mountain behind that low ridge, right at the edge of the photo, is 6028 meter (19,777 foot) Volcan del Viento, which we would climb tomorrow, and the high mountain on the left side of the photo is Medusa.

Here’s a nice shot showing the snow depth that also has artistic value, followed by a shot of me smiling (but unhappy on the inside because I was denied a chance to attempt the big summit).

The traveling wasn’t too hard with Damian breaking the trail the whole way. It took only four hours to get back to base camp. The reunion with those at base camp was fun. Brian was feeling much better and nobody had gone much of anywhere due to the snow that was as deep at base camp as at our high camp.

With the help of those who had been resting all day, we set up our tents as we visited. I’m tenting again with Phinella at her suggestion, while Thom, who came down with stomach cramps at lunchtime on today’s trek home, got his own tent. For a couple of hours, his stomach problems really slowed Thom down, but thankfully he was much better by evening.

Eventually I settled in and napped/rested to 5PM, then got some water at the glacier-base outlet/spring. I started catching up with my journal but was interrupted by an early supper of corned beef and mashed potatoes from dehydrated potatoes. Both tasted really good. The final course was not served (dessert) before thunder, dark clouds, and an east wind rolled in around 6:05PM. I retreated to my tent as snow grains began falling mixed with snowflakes.

I finished catching up on journaling and then settled into the sleeping bag to rest and listen to the familiar sound of the snow pelting the tent. Fortunately the snow ended before sunset with only an inch of accumulation. I went out just for a bathroom break at 8:20 then read in my tent until my hands got too cold, then I went to bed at about 9PM.

Monday, May 4, 2015

No chance to go higher today, rest day at 19,300 feet

This is part 23 of a 31-part posting of my journal entries and photos from one of the greatest experiences of my life so far--a month-long mountain climbing trip to the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile and Argentina, which included summiting three 6000 meter peaks (~20,000 feet).  To view all the entries in this series, check the posts labeled South America.

It snowed lightly all night and dawned dreary, ending plans for Damian and Thom to attempt to summit 22,615' Ojos del Salado today.  We'll all attempt the climb together tomorrow, weather permitting.

Day 23 – Wednesday 27 January 2010

Despite being at 19,300 feet elevation, I had a very restful night of sleep. It never really cleared up outside. We got a dump of an inch and a half of snow then the moon came out partially but with clouds always around. As a result Damian and Thom cancelled their summit attempt. Weather permitting, we will all make a very early attempt tomorrow, getting up at 2AM and leaving at 3AM to beat any bad afternoon weather.

We got 6 inches or so of snow overall--enough to make the climbing tougher, especially for those breaking the trail (likely to be Thom and Damian) assuming we go. The trip is wearing me down in little ways--one not yet mentioned is chapped/sunburned lips, despite the fact that I use a high SPF lip balm regularly. It has become painful to eat or drink--just another impediment to getting and staying hydrated and fed.

I woke up at 7AM to hear snow falling on the tent. It snowed to about 9:30AM as the sky steadily cleared--no further accumulation. We all got up slowly, had cereal for breakfast around 8:30. After a bit of chat, I returned to my tent and warmed up. The sun was soon hitting us and the best part of the day had commenced around 9:30AM--meaning clearing sky and sunshine. I got up and caught up on my journal and arranged a few things, then at 10:10AM I put on sun screen and wandered over to the giant penitentes field at the head of our little protected valley. You can see it in the backdrop of the photo up top--an endless field of needle spikes, close-up inspection shows that they are huge--some twice my height:

From there I worked my way up hill to the ‘ramp’ that rises from below our camp to the serious slope that we would take between snow fields up the side of Ojos.  Here's the view of our route up.

I sat there at almost 6000 meters and enjoyed the late morning calm wind and warm sun for as long as it lasted. I came down about 11AM. Off to the east it had been very dark and threatening all morning; and now that began to move in. It began snowing soon after 11, but only light with sun mixed in. I retreated to my tent. Phinella had just begun heading up hill to the ramp and plateau area as I was coming down. I cleaned myself and changed underpants and rested/napped in the tent, actually getting a bit of restful sleep. It’s clear that my legs need recovery time to perform tomorrow, assuming good weather also.

I got up for lunch at 1PM--good but not enough food as usual. I was craving salty stuff. We had powder soup and sardines (one small can for the four of us) on crackers. We were done at 2PM and I moved to my tent as snow got a little heavier. I napped and got more sleep. Phinella came in and read at about 3PM. I got up and tried to figure out how to convert my watch altimeter to meters from feet with no success. So then I started figuring conversions by hand. My most accurate estimate of the altitude of this camp is 19,350 feet. Ojos is 22,588 feet I believe, so a climb of 3238 feet tomorrow--not too tough if the weather is OK.

I finished the calculations including making a table converting meters to feet (roughly) every 100 meters from here to the Ojos summit. That was done at 4:20PM. Meanwhile the snow had steadily fallen harder and had begun to accumulate, up to an inch. And it was foggy, much like yesterday. There was a very hopeful break in the skies with light snow for about half an hour around 5:30PM as we had a late tea that doubled as the first course for supper. But then the skies really seriously closed in, and it began to snow harder than at any time since the 6” we got at Aguas Vicunas.

We were served supper in our tent by Thom and Damian and at the end, around 7PM Damian announced that any decision about going up Ojos would be delayed as we watched for clearing weather. Phinella and I both waited for a break in the storm before going out to do our business, but the break never came. I went out about 8:20 and got water at the ice encrusted stream. With the weather continuing to be bad, it appears less and less possible to make a summit attempt. By the time I came back in we were approaching six inches of new snow on top of several unmelted inches from previous days. I came in and caught up on record keeping by the light of my headlamp and then settled into my sleeping bag but not into the liner at 8:45. About half an hour later I got in the liner and formally went to bed.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Ojos del Salado, moving to high camp at 19,300 feet

This is part 22 of a 31-part posting of my journal entries and photos from one of the greatest experiences of my life so far--a month-long mountain climbing trip to the Atacama Desert area of northern Chile and Argentina, which included summiting three 6000 meter peaks (~20,000 feet).  To view all the entries in this series, check the posts labeled South America.

Hauling all my own stuff - about 70 pounds of it, I'm headed to the base of the mountain over my right shoulder--Ojos del Salado, second highest mountain in the western hemisphere.

Day 22 – Tuesday 26 January 2010

I didn’t sleep for a very long time. I attribute it to the caffeine in the GU I consumed during the Medusa summit effort. Maybe also it was just the excitement of having made my goal. It snowed briefly around 10PM, no more than a third of an inch, then cleared up the rest of the night. A nice moon was out until midnight. I finally noticed some dreams after 3AM or so - first substantial bits of sleep that I was aware of.

The morning dawned clear and cold with temperature as low as 15 degrees at sunrise. We all announced our decisions for the day at breakfast, which didn’t commence until about 8:20AM. The sun hit our tent about 7:50. Brian, my tentmate was suffering from a continuing headache, even slightly worse than yesterday, so he opted to stay at camp. Barry and John (expedition leader) were staying and planning to try to climb Cazadero from there because Barry had already climbed Ojos and they felt they could summit Cazadero (~6600m) from base camp tomorrow and get all the way back. So it was just Thom, Phinella and me who packed up and headed to Ojos high camp, led by Damian as our guide, and carrying with us two tents, food, fuel, etc.

My pack must have weighed 70 pounds, and my legs were still heavy from yesterday’s overworking trying to get back before the bad weather hit. Phinella also likes to plod along, so she and I were always separated from Damian and Thom. But they waited for us every hour or so and the weather held. With up-and-down terrain followed by a 1000 foot ascent near the end, it was a very hard day. We left around 10AM and Phinella got into our high camp about 4PM, just as snow and cloud began closing in. On the way, during the morning while the weather was good, I got this shot of Medusa:

Damian and Thom had been at our high camp for 20 or 25 minutes by the time I arrived; and they had already set up the two tents: one for Phinella and I and one for them. The camp is a beautiful setting, worth exploring on our rest day tomorrow. (Thom and Damian plan a summit attempt). Phinella and I settled into our tent and had some nice conversation while Damian cooked and served us tea and then soup, main course, and dessert in our tents. It had been snowing pretty hard all that time with light wind and a few claps of thunder around. It had already accumulated 2 inches or more by 7PM when Thom brought tea for Phinella. I caught up on my journal, finishing at 7:25PM and then just laying down in bed to rest and recover from the hard “piston” workout that my legs had with all that weight. Later when I warmed up I changed into my regular bed layers and went to bed formally. Phinella read with her lamp for a bit and then went to bed too.