Monday, 13 October 2014

Mendoza and Aconcagua: trekking in Aconcagua, and experiencing the driest mountains ever

Went with Andrew and Kathryn to trek towards Aconcagua with Pedro, a mountain guide. It was an amazing drive under a blue sky and with stunning views of different rocks. The mountain tops were streaked with snow but lower down there were rocks of different colours, yellow like sand lower down and then blackish rocks with carved patterns from heavy weathering. We passed a dried up river bed with many rock strata visible in the river banks. There were occasional small streams supporting trees and we stopped for coffee at an oasis like town with trees and water.

Aconcagua is 6969m and we trekked up from the tourist centre along a path that goes up to the base camp. We ascended through a bleak dry lifeless landscape, no trees. The only birds were a pair of condors gliding around and a pair of sparrows that emerged to pick at our lunch crumbs. We crossed a swaying rope bridge that had featured in the film "7 years in Tibet" ( filmed with Brad Pitt in Argentina). We also had fabulous views of the Aconcagua face with a glacier that stops abruptly. I saw how complex the mountain is with a black weathered mountain at the front, then a glacier and behind that two peaks with snow lying on them. We walked for about 2 hours, at an altitude of above 4000 not very taxing, the worst moment was when I had to run uphill to catch a plastic bag that was blowing away. I would have lost any eco- credentials if I had let a bag blow away in this pristine park.

Almost at the top of the pass is the multi-coloured "Bridge of the Incas" which is an extraordinary bridge built up from centuries if oxidised salts being deposited. We were very close to Chile, just a few hundred yards up the road.

We had a fine drive back traversing the dry landscape. It is the driest mountain I have ever been on.
Sat on terrace for a beer and then had supper in a restaurant on the plaza. Andrew loves mountains and was plotting an ascent. Kathryn had lived in Uruguay as a child and they will go to Montevideo later. That is the flattest land imaginable so Andrew had to get his mountain fix first.

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