Forum Index > Trip Reports > Return to Argentina, February 10-26, 2022
 Reply to topic
Previous :: Next Topic
Author Message
Gimpilator
infinity/21M



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1596 | TRs | Pics
Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostSat Mar 05, 2022 11:12 am 
Introduction It had been 11 years since the last trip to South America. When Petter invited me to return to Argentina, I wanted to say yes immediately. I didn’t even consider which peaks he had lined up for us as an important factor. Being the trip researcher and planner, he could make all the major decisions. Petter hired Franco to be our driver. Franco is primarily a mountain guide, but also works as driver-for-hire on the rough mountain roads. He speaks pretty good English and is well integrated into the alpinist scene. He knows the various mountains by heart, and can arrange for porter animals, stays in private huts, is willing to dodge pesky authorities, and is not deterred by damage to his truck if it gets you closer to the peak. He can acquire any food/gear you might need for your trip. We would not really be needing any guiding for these selected peaks, but Franco did accompany us on the 4 day trip of Bolsón. I can honestly say that in the years I’ve been peakbagging, no other worker in the space has impressed me as much as Franco did. He’s honest, hard-working and will do anything to optimize your trip. I will certainly plan more trips with him in the future.
February 10, 2022 Colina del Piedra del Molino – 11,401' After some email discussion, Petter selected this small hill for our first hike. Historically I have struggled with acclimatization and been on the slow side. I appreciated that Petter took this into the plan, since he could easily have gone to 4000 meters on the first day.
2-11 Cerro Tintin – 12,241' Acclimatization peak number two was a bit bigger. Without any information available for a summit route on this peak, we just selected a ridge that looked good and then followed the main crest. There are several high points and we used a sight level to verify the correct one. I was impressed by the cardon (Echinopsis terscheckii) which is reminiscent of Arizona saguaros or Baja cardon.
seashell fossils
seashell fossils
There were other plants here in the desert that look strikingly similar to those of my home desert, but with small differences, perhaps a different shaped leaf or a different odor. I began musing on the genetic ancestry of these plants. Was Pangaea the answer, or had environments themselves given rise to the same solutions which the plants of North America developed?
guanaco
guanaco
Tintin was a very enjoyable peak with numerous wildflowers. We were in good spirits when we neared the truck and Franco, that is until several rangers pulled up and were obviously harassing Franco. After extended discussion, Franco explained to us that the rangers claimed an ascent of Tintin was illegal and our hike the following day of Malcante was also illegal. They had issued him an infraction, while leaving a national park pamphlet for us. In the pamphlet, I read suggestion such as “just take pictures” implying enjoy the park from your car. Petter said this was very bad and clearly Argentina was taking modelling ethos after the US park system. Knowing the rangers would be checking for us the next day, we left Malcante for later. 2-12 Rain! Driving day. Stuck in a sandy creek near El Moreno.
Feb 13,14 Nevado de Chañi – 19,455' The first day, Petter and I hiked up to the hut at 16,150 feet. This wide bench features many ruins which might be Inca in origin. I was amused watching a number of chinchillas bouncing around the hut and ruins, and also saw condors gliding above this peak and several others during the trip.
summit visible at right
summit visible at right
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
chinchilla action
chinchilla action
On day 2 we started in the dark. Petter was moving slow and had been fighting some intestinal distress for several days. I had already offered him some antibiotics, but he was initially reluctant to take them, preferring the bodies natural immune system. At some point he decided that the bug had stolen too much of his strength and he would not make the summit in time. He gave me his ice-ax. I stupidly decided not to bring one on this trip. I explained where to find the antibiotics back at base camp and we parted ways.
summit at right
summit at right
Between the hut and the saddle, there is a climbers path, but talus makes it near-impossible to follow exactly in the dark. Eventually I reached the saddle. A hard crust necessitated crampons and ax. I continued along the northwest ridge. There were some narrow sections. Once the sun was warming things up, I cached half my water and cold-weather survival layers. The final summit is narrow and very exposed. My 3rd highest summit at the time.
middle summit seen from summit
middle summit seen from summit
summit behind me with my tracks
summit behind me with my tracks
When I returned to base camp, Petter was extremely happy that I had made the summit, and his exuberance displayed a complete acceptance of the unfortunate circumstances. Both him and Franco didn’t expect my return for another 2 to 5 hours. Franco asked about the summit scramble and when I told him it was all snow and showed him the photos, he said he’d never seen that much snow up there, despite having climbed the peak 6 times.
2-16 Cerros de Pereyra – 8661' Petter likes to be the first to explore an ultra. We bagged a bunch of unknown ones on our previous trip to Kenya/Uganda, so I had an idea of what we might be in for on Pereyra. It’s low enough to have issues with brush and there’s certainly no roads or trails anywhere near the summit. First we stopped at a farm and asked if we could try and drive one of their old roads, but they said it ended only 1km from where we were. Next we drove to the town of El Fuerte. As I had learned in Uganda, sometimes it’s best to show up and ask around. A friendly police officer described an old road to us. Several other people had hinted at it’s existence. He told us to drive north from El Fuerte, cross 2 cattleguards and the road would be on our left after 14 km. We found it exactly as he described. Recent rains made this road risky, even for the truck. There were mud wallows and numerous creek crossings. After the debacle near El Moreno, Franco was very careful to avoid getting stuck again. It would not be good, this far from help. The road narrowed and we found ourselves driving literally in a creek, at the bottom of a narrow slot canyon. Higher up the road, we passed a small active logging operation. Beyond that, there were several fallen trees, which forced us to make camp. There were a lot of what looked like alpine strawberries growing near the camp. I tried eating some, but they had zero flavor.
Between El Moreno and also the Pereyra road, Franco incurred significant damage to his truck in cosmetic and structural. He deserves credit for the iron-will to get us near our peaks.
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
On the day of the hike, Petter and I finished what was left of the road in the dark. We came to a junction at 7000 feet. Presumable the right fork would continue towards Peak 8087, but we turned left towards the true summit and the road promptly vanished. We spent the vast majority of the next 10 hours bushwhacking, except the more open area around the summit.
strawberry?
strawberry?
Escapee livestock has developed very helpful paths through the jungle, but often they don’t aim in the exact direction of the goal. Also, there are ant nests shaped like small domes of mud. Petter stepped on some of these and the ants decided to reward him by invading his clothes. I noted that once the resentful creatures closed pincers on his skin, they were content to just stay stationary, jaws locked in place and retribution served. He took his clothes off and I helped remove the ones on his back.
The summit area is more open, but there is still brush to the very end. Two summits separate by 300 meters, the southwest being highest. Petter built a cairn.
summit over there
summit over there
between 2 main summits
between 2 main summits
came from way over there
came from way over there
2-17 Cerro Malcante – 16,732' We returned to the scene of our tressbagging crime to commit more. Our hope was that the rangers do not check the Malcante trailhead every day. Despite prohibitive signage, Franco was willing to risk it for us. From the high point of the road, Petter and I ascended directly up a west ridge with numerous switchback Vicuña trails. The modest beasts were scattered around, usually staying just far enough away to prevent a good photograph.
The upper north ridge was less steep, but I could feel the altitude again and Petter quickly pulled ahead. I like to stop for food breaks and he doesn’t seem to need to eat anything, ever. He says he burns fat. I brought a full suitcase of food to Argentina (seriously), and he didn’t bring any food from home. This small adaptation allows him an edge over me, despite being in his 70’s. I eventually caught up to him on the summit, in a white-out. 4 hours round-trip.
summit
summit

Summitpost | YouTube | Peakbagger

GaliWalker, awilsondc
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
Gimpilator
infinity/21M



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1596 | TRs | Pics
Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostSat Mar 05, 2022 11:13 am 
Feb 18,19 Cumbres Calchaquies – 15,551' Starting from pavement, at the saddle at 10,000 feet, Calchaquies is a long hike. Conceivably it could be done in a day by someone who is strong, fast and acclimatized. We opted to spend the night where David Hart had indicated the “great camp”, and 13,475 feet. Here we found flat platforms surrounded by giant mounds of yareta, a plant I had first seen on the Bolivia expedition. Yareta of this giant size are somewhat less common. The measurement of annual growth rates is a known variable, therefore the plants around this camp likely exceed an age of 3000 years.
yareta camp
yareta camp
On day 2 we started in the dark. A local couple were camping nearby, for their ascent of Cerro Negrito. They had expressed mild shock the previous day when Petter told them we were starting at 5am. Much too “frio”! We passed several lakes in the dark, and the Guanacos bellowed their typical alarm-cry before racing away from us.
After crossing a stream, we ascended a spongy moist gully and then ascended over a shoulder at 15,330 feet before making an ascending traverse towards the summit. There are several plausible contenders for the true high point. We were mentally prepared for the extra effort to visit them all, but fortunately with Petter’s sight-level, that wasn’t necessary.
It was a long exhausting walk with heavy pack back to the truck. We decided to take a rest-peak the following day. On the map I found an unlisted Ribu nearby. Franco told us he had actually done that peak numerous times, and it had a trail to the top. He even showed us photos of his most recent client, whom he guided up there.
2-20 Cerro Nuñorco Grande – 10,935' Petter’s friend Hakon from Norway joined us on this hike, but was struggling with some serious health problems and was not able to keep pace. He was hospitalized prior to meeting us and also afterwards, forcing him to drop all his established plans to climb any peaks with us. What a bummer.
After a major route-finding blunder on my part (do not follow the most obvious trail across the canyon), we got back on the proper trail which crosses the canyon higher up. Livestock was grazing on some grassy benches overlooking the lake. The scenery here was more Switzerland and less Argentina.
As we got higher, the braided trails became lost in tall grass. It’s easier to discern the way on the downhill. The final summit block has a few moves of easy YDS class 3 and a shrine at the very summit, with 4 registers and 0 writing implements. Fortunately I always carry a pencil, but seeing as this was a rest-peak, I had taken everything out of my pack, except food and water. White-out, with no open views.
:lol:
lol.gif
Feb 21-24 Cerro Bolsón de los Cerillos – 18,209' 69th most prominent peak on earth, this was Petter’s main objective and sort of the meat of the trip. Requiring 4 days, Franco hired Willy to be our muleteer. Similar to Aconcagua, mules would be responsible for the bulk of our supplies, while we would be responsible for ourselves. On the first day we hiked up a gorge, crossing the creek many times and then traversed across several kilometers of sandy ground.
We crossed a bigger creek and then ascended steeply, sometimes traversing steep loose gullies. The mules were surprisingly sure-footed on these traverses. We made camp 1 on a flat bench at 12,985 feet.
camp 1
camp 1
The following day we hiked up to the high camp at 15,420 feet.
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
On summit day we started in the dark. Franco led the way up very steep and loose small-talus between 16,000 and 16,400 feet. Above that was snow. The crust was hard, but not icy, so the crampons and ice axes were merely carried to the summit. The wind was exceedingly intense flowing over the northeast ridge which we were ascending. Some of the strongest wind I have hiked in. Franco was unperturbed and said this sort of wind is normal in the cordillera.
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
photo by Franco
We signed the summit register and then went back to the ridge to fight more cold wind. I was very happy to have my Nisus Charysh ice-fishing mittens, made in Russia. The mysterious Cerro Laguna Blanca was visible to the west.
Feb 25-26 Cerro Laguna Blanca – 19,724' Petter told me he had an idea for a route which would enable us to do this peak in 2 days. The peak was first climbed in 2006 and has only had a few ascents. Franco has done the established east route before, an undertaking of 6 days. To get to Petter’s western “quebrada” (canyon) route, Franco would have to be willing to do some real off-road driving, about 10 kilometers. This turned out to be no problem and soon we were at an excellent starting position. We didn’t know if there would be any water on the route, but as it turned out, the quebrada was a wet canyon with flowing water the entire way.
waterfall scramble
waterfall scramble
This peak was full of surprises. We encountered some narrows with a class 3 scramble to avoid a waterfall. Another narrow section after that was avoided by very loose slopes on the climbers left side. When we made camp at 16,660 feet, and Petter asked me what I thought. I looked around at the landscape devoid of any sign of life and replied “lunar”.
On our final summit day, we started again in the dark. This being the highest peak of the trip, I knew it was going to be bitter cold. Petter is from Norway and doesn’t care about cold, or somehow doesn’t experience it the same way I do. We slept with the tent door open, every night of the trip. I would never do that, but I also didn’t really mind. I had left my thick down parka at the truck to save weight, figuring a few hours of minor suffering was better than the loss of energy required to haul it up.
photos of the ice walls, from later in the day (after sunrise)
photos of the ice walls, from later in the day (after sunrise)
In the dark, the quebrada was blocked by some ice walls. WTF? We couldn't understand what we were seeing, row after row of tall ice formations, perpendicular to the canyon. We tried to pass it on the left, but that didn’t work, so we tried on the right and that did. How odd...
Petter said I was going too fast, but I was just trying to generate enough heat to warm my numb hands and feet. We agreed to ascend more directly out of the quebrada to reach the main ridge crest south of the south summit. This would make for a longer span of time at high-altitude, but it would also grant us some blessed sunlight. After so many hours in the dark and shade, I was ready to get warmed up.
Above 19,000 feet the snow was mostly continuous, but not icy enough to require crampons or ax. We traversed over the south summit and I realized it was still a long way to the north summit, over a mile, with ups and downs. We visited the central summit first and took a look at the north one with the sight-level. Petter said he thought it was lower, but it looked pretty close to me. We went over there and the GPS measurements indicate it’s about 2 meters higher.
middle summit
middle summit
lower far northern peaks
lower far northern peaks
Of the 100 most prominent peaks on earth, Petter has now done 44. To put this in perspective, Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountaineer of all time, has done only 16. This particular summit was Petter’s 360th ultra-prominence peak. I am very fortunate to share the experience, and even more privileged to have him as my friend.
ultra #360
ultra #360

Summitpost | YouTube | Peakbagger

MangyMarmot, rubywrangler, belowfellow, reststep, Tom  GaliWalker, awilsondc
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
RichP
Member
Member


Joined: 13 Jul 2006
Posts: 5462 | TRs | Pics
Location: here and there
RichP
Member
PostSat Mar 05, 2022 3:01 pm 
Very cool report. I really like this part of Northern Argentina. Hoping to get back there some day. So much variety in this part of the world and good on you guys for getting some obscure summits. I once hopped a freight train in Salta and took it over the Andes and got a good view of this mountain from its base on the Chilean border. I vowed to go back one day and climb it but that will probably remain a dream, or maybe not. You got me thinking. wink.gif Socompa

Malachai Constant
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
Gimpilator
infinity/21M



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1596 | TRs | Pics
Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
infinity/21M
PostSat Mar 05, 2022 5:53 pm 
That's a very cool story Rich. Thanks for digging up your old photo. smile.gif I see Socompa has over 2000 meters of prominence and only one ascent on peakbagger. That is a very rare peak, indeed.

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
RichP
Member
Member


Joined: 13 Jul 2006
Posts: 5462 | TRs | Pics
Location: here and there
RichP
Member
PostSat Mar 05, 2022 5:54 pm 
Not my photo but that was the same view from the train stop in the settlement also called Socompa. No way I could hang around there as the train switched cars from the Chilean side and headed back the next day. I wasn't the only "passenger" on the train as this was a thing one could do in those days by slipping the workers some pesos. Just getting to the area is a big deal as it is very remote.

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
mike
Member
Member


Joined: 09 Jul 2004
Posts: 6278 | TRs | Pics
Location: SJIsl
mike
Member
PostSat Mar 05, 2022 6:31 pm 
Years ago I took the train from Jujuy, Salta, la Rioja, San Juan, mendoza then over the pass, not the tunnel. It was a steam locomotive for part of the way. Beautiful lonely country.

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
raising3hikers
Member
Member


Joined: 21 Sep 2007
Posts: 2297 | TRs | Pics
Location: Edmonds, Wa
raising3hikers
Member
PostSun Mar 06, 2022 3:14 pm 
sounds and looks like a great adventure to some new peaks! glad you had a brave driver

Eric Eames
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
Redwic
Unlisted Free Agent



Joined: 23 Feb 2009
Posts: 3281 | TRs | Pics
Location: Going to the Prom(inence)
Redwic
Unlisted Free Agent
PostSun Mar 06, 2022 5:55 pm 
Great job. Well done.

60 pounds lighter but not 60 points brighter.
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
Stefan
Member
Member


Joined: 17 Dec 2001
Posts: 4926 | TRs | Pics
Stefan
Member
PostMon Mar 07, 2022 8:39 am 
very cool. Great you found and used Franco. Very helpful person to you two!

Art is an adventure.
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
timberghost
Member
Member


Joined: 06 Dec 2011
Posts: 1132 | TRs | Pics
timberghost
Member
PostTue Mar 08, 2022 5:22 am 
Beautiful area

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
   All times are GMT - 8 Hours
 Reply to topic
Forum Index > Trip Reports > Return to Argentina, February 10-26, 2022
  Happy Birthday peppersteak'n'ale, lookout bob, chiwakum!
Jump to:   
Search this topic:

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum