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ACONCAGUA – Day 8 December 29, 2006

Posted by Cheryl in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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Carry to Camp 1.5 “The Col” (5,400m)

The sun hits the tent early this morning as we´re so high up in the mountains now.  The temperature rises quickly.  Geoff comes over first thing and says that if our offer is still open for him to join us that he would like to.  This rests on him being able to work out the logistical issues, mainly whether he will be able to take some food off his expedition group and whether this will give him enough supplies to see him through our more extended programme.  Initially his group leader isn´t happy with the idea, but after some extended discussions and Geoff´s signing off of a legal waiver to say that he is no longer under the responsibility of his expedition group, it is all sorted out.

Geoff setting off to “the Col”   Jason and Geoff taking a rest below the Col   View from the col looking north

So the two became three and we set off for our first carry to our next camp.  We´ve decided to break the next leg of the journey down as the change in altitude between Camp 1 and the traditional Camp 2 at 5,900m is a thousand metres and too much we feel to be able to acclimatise to.  We´ve been told that there are 2 cols around half-way where camping is possible, although water isn´t as easily available.  We´re going to have to do a recce to find the water.

We arrive at the first col after a slow plod up a long and steep scree slope.  It´s a beautiful spot nestling at the foot of the 5,800m high peak of Ameghino next to a bright green and yellow pond of water – beautiful, but unfortunately totally undrinkable water.  We drop our packs and set off in exploration of potable water.  Geoff was a hydrologist in a past life, so a useful counterpart to have in tow!

It´s refreshing to be moving without a great big pack on our backs and the views as we work our way around the mountain to the higher col are breathtaking.  We´re beginning to leave the rest of the Andes below us, and the world opens up at our feet with snowy peaks and knife-point ridges dropping down into wide open valleys as far as our eyes can see. 

From the sulphur tarn at the first Col, looking at the adjacent peak   Looking down from the Col to the trail back to Camp 1    The Polish Glacier face of Aconcagua from the Col

The upper col is an exposed sweep of land with the wind ripping through it. It´s also far less beautiful than the lower col, but has the advantage of water “close” by – a mere half an hour round trip to a small stream trickling down from the glacial melt above.  The stream is icy and freezes as soon as the sun goes down and we can´t be sure what time in the morning it will start running, but it´s good enough and we decide to make this our next camp.   The arduous climb that took 3 hours to ascend, takes a mere 40 minutes to decend by surfing down the loose stone and rock!

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