Flirting with high altitude in South America

 

Summer is over in the Alps. Time to rest, time to travel before the winter comes back. Winter times with cold, snow, ski… but not everywhere. Winter is starting for us but is over in the south hemisphere! Some friends of mine went skiing in August in Chile this year. Winter/summer? Depends where you go!!!

South America always sounds fun to me. I’ve even started to learn Spanish planning to visit one day this part of the world. As a mountain lover, my idea is to go and climb there. Yes but which peak? South America is so big that you have the choice!

 

After some research we decided to go to Argentina (maybe because it sounds more like vacations to me) with my wife Charlotta, my best friends from childhood François and his wife Veronique. The plan was to climb some nice mountains, have the opportunity to see some beautiful landscapes and have a good time together. Icing on the cake, we all agreed to “taste” high altitude. Not very high but for us it is a 1st experience above 5000m. 3 weeks round trip from France to climb the second highest peak of south America, the Ojos del Salado, 6800m. To fit to the technical level of all of us, we planed quite easy routes. Our goal was to climb remote peaks by ourself alone. The weather will be a key point as usual. My main worry is the wind because this range is well know to have some of the strongest winds on earth… It will be a great field test for our BIGPACK equipment.

 

October, 26th. I’m in the plane. I think about our trip. My mind is full of fantastic and unique sceneries. We did not summit exactly the peaks we wanted because some of us felt altitude sick with a beginning of pulmonary oedema. We manage to deal with it but what an experience! We were hundreds of kilometres away from any kind of rescue with no people around! We had to adapt so we did! We climbed 4 6000m peaks in a beautiful area. I want to come back. We want to come back. There are so many other summits! At the end this is what I was looking for: something new, different from I’ve seen before. Not difficult, not crowdie. Another great experience!

 

The team climbed 4 peaks above 6000m.

Ascent of Nevado de Ccahi. Camp4 5200m high. It doesn’t seams on the picture but the wind was super strong! and it was very difficult to find a quiet spot to use the stove to cook! Eventualy, we will not summit  because some members of the group started to resent some symptoms from pulmonary edema during the night so we decided to come down as quick as possible.

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On the descent from Nevado De Cachi, one of the numerous frozen lake.

Oct 16th, at the border between Chili & argentina; There are lots of littles mountains buts all along the road (hère at 4700m). Very usuful in case of storm of mecanical pb with your car…

Border Argentina – Chile 4700m high!

Oct 17th; we drove up to 4400m high and then reached Cerro Bertrand 5200m. Wind, sand and a gigantic crater at the top! So big that it was not even possible to take afull picture of it!!!  In the background, laguna san Francisco

Ascent of Cerro Bertand

Right below the summit, a huge sandy flat part with beatifull rocky sculpture made by the strong winds (we call them « Tafonis » in French).

Oct 18th; Ascent of « Dod Conos » 5900m, a « round summit »; We climbed the snowy couloir on the south. It was different from the rocky and sandy hiles we did before! But bad luck because the 4 wheel drive road was still covered by snow at 5000m high so we had to walk more than we planned. Distance are tricky over there; It was super long, much more than we thought!!!

Very flat!!! Sandy& rocky flat plateau! We were total that those summits are climbed no more than 10 times per years! and none of them use the same way to reach the top!!!! We felt like pionners!

« Laguna Verde » 4450m high. Salted & very very cold water. This laguna looks like the one in the carabean sea (because of its color!)

Mountain hut « Murray » 4500m high (not catered like a bivouac in the Alps) not far from Laguna Verde. Starting point to the famous Ojos dekl Salado 6880m, énd highest peak in south america & highest volcan in activity in the wolrd. All around there are numerous 6000m peaks: la vicuñas (6080m), el Muerto, el Fraille, las barrancas blancas…

Volcano Laguna Verde 5870m above Laguna Verde

Summit of Vicuñas, 6067m

On our way to Cerro San Fransisco, 6030m in the early morning.

« vigognes », the typical animal from the andes wit the Lama.

Ascent of Cerro Bertrand

Ascent of Dos Conos. In the background, cerro san fransisco 6030m & Incahuasi 6060m. On top of Incahuuasi, they found some old Incas’s stuff!!!

Pink Flamingo!!! very…. Pink!

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Ice pénitent, typical ice forms shaped by the winds and the big variation of temperatures. Beautiful but impossible to walk through!!!

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Summit of Vicuñas (6080m)

This area is well known to be one of the windiest places in the world!!!! The closet village is at 120km! and even from Argentina with a quite good road there are nobody. We did not see anyone in 10 days! the range around Ojos del salad concentres lots of 6000m peaks that lots of them are virgin (or with just a few registered ascents) because it is very complicated to reach them. Except Cerro San Fransisco which is known to be the esiest 6000m peak in south america is not very frequented!

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