Monday, February 27, 2017

Aconcagua, 2

Continuing my day trip to Aconcagua, in Argentina...
Looking into the canyon, huge blacks moved there by the
glaciers

Ta-da!

Best summit view

The 300 meter thick glacier is on the lower right


Fauna

The lower bits of the mountain are sedimentary

In the visitor center, a display on the mountain's features and
routes; the west side is actually a trek; no technical climbing;
east side the normal route; other sides far more challenging;
3000-4000 try Aconcagua every year; fewer than half succeed;
several will die, mainly due to weather and altitude sickness

Base camp

So one wonders what par is?

By lunch time--Cristian had brought us some wonderful
Argentine sandwiches...beef, turkey, cheese, tomato--the
clouds had arrived and there was no more to see

Adjacent peaks, more in the 4,000 meter range

A map of Portillo

Nice setting, even in summer

Lounge

In the historical gallery

A young Frenchman named Jean-Claude Killy
made himself and the place famous

Training ground for European and Norteamericano Olympic
winter sports teams for many years

Table with a view

Terrain, with Cristian's van

Portillo

On the way back to Santiago, a last view of Aconcagua, the
west side, after some fresh snow

Aconcagua,1

Aconcongua is the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas, tallest in the southern hemisphere, and in the western hemisphere too. It is in northwestern Argentina, out of our way back in January. But it occurred to me it might be just a day trip out of Santiago, and, sure enough, a firm called Andes Wind, namely Cristian Minich, provides such day trips to Aconcagua and other places as well. He has been doing this for some years and has the trip pretty well perfected. Alas, much of the time is spent driving to and from the mountain and passing through the Argentinan and Chilean borders. But there is plenty to see, there are a couple additional sights along the way, and if you're lucky, the company can be fun as well. We were six that day, 2 Brasilians with limited English, a couple from Australia, a young woman from NYC, by way of Arkansas, and me. All fun. And Cristian, who is the perfect tour guide.
Chilean vineyards north of Santiago, along the way; Concho y
Toro, Gato...

First sight of Aconcagua, backlit and shadowy; 22,000 feet

Drying peaches

Eastward the land turns very dry 

Much truck traffic between Chile and Argentina

Huge cleft in the canyon below

Stopping to admire the switchbacks...29 in all...take you to
about 3,000 meters and the pass; note complete lack of guard
rails!

Our group

The switchbacks are numbered, just like in some places in
Europe

The famous ski resort Portillo is on the way,
and we'll stop there on the way back

The famous tunnel between Argentina and Chile


Different, softer terrain on the Argentine side

The Inca Bridge, a natural bridge, formed by hot springs;
above are the former bathhouses


Former hotel for the hot springs; burned down; the whole
place is considered unstable now

Now in the provincial park...helicopter reserved strictly for
rescue; to climb Aconcagua one needs to set aside 3-4 weeks,
to allow for acclimatization, weather, the crowds at the base
camp and further camps; to register to climb, you also need
to plop down $1,000 deposit on helicopter rescue (the helis
can only get as high as the base camp, however); and there
are other restrictions (see next post)

First view, walking up the canyon; clouds hovered in the
morning, but we got to see all of the mountain; then they
closed it down, clouds and rain, and snow; the canyon here is
about 9,500 feet

Up closer


The hike up the canyon is optional and can take 2 or so hours;
despite the Patagonian adventure of the last week, I felt like
someone had dropped an anvil on my chest; the glacier on the
right was said to be 300 meters thick at its snout

Summit, clearing

Yes!

Santiago: Caveat, Visitor

We had two incidents on our last day in Chile: a taxi driver who set the meter on fast-forward and then palmed two 10k peso notes right before our eyes...and then, our hotel, La Foresta, tried to scam us with an additional, much-inflated bill (we had already paid in full via Hotels.com). The first was not a lot of money, and we did have the satisfaction of doing our civic duty and reporting the matter, at some length, to the Carabineros. We expect nothing to come of it. No sooner had we finished with the police and gotten back to the hotel, the smiling desk clerk told we owed another $277, since Hotels.com does not pay the full costs of the room. At length, with our "fully paid" receipt in hand (on iPhone), we said no way and then spent the night fretting about what might happen. Next morning, a different clerk was on duty, and he checked us out with no further ado. Vicki has reported the matter to Hotels.com, although we expect nothing to come of that either. Nearly eight years of incident-free travel, scores of taxis and dozens of hotels...and then two incidents in one afternoon! We'll be far more wary with taxi drivers. And always have a receipt for the hotel.
The taxi driver did not like being photographed

Tried to pop the lid before I could his license number

And makes his get-away

Our room at La Foresta

Nice, and a great location in Santiago


These pix taken to show we didn't trash the
room; once you've been messed with, you begin
to wonder what will happen next