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ACONCAGUA – Day 14 January 4, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Aconcagua, Argentina.
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Move to Camp Cólera (5,970m)

Initially we were intending to traverse from Camp 2 to a higher camp on the Normal Route called Piedras Grandes at about 6,200m.   We´ve speculated about this a lot.  On the one hand it would shorten our summit day by about 2 hours which would be of huge benefit and could improve our chances of making the summit.  On the other hand the campsite there is more exposed and a lot of people don´t advise sleeping above 6,000m because you can´t get a good night´s sleep. 

The other alternative is to traverse the mountain at roughly the same altitude we are currently at and climb only by about 140m towards the end of the traverse to sleep at a campsite called Cólera also referred to as Rocas Blancas (White Rocks).

This would mean we wouldn´t have to lug our packs much higher up the mountain and that we would then be on the “Normal Route” which we were hoping to descend down and which offers us an easy escape route off the mountain rather than going down the longer valley we came up.

Some people choose to summit directly from Camp 2 but this is a longer day and means setting off in the dark at 4am on a difficult scree path and crossing an ice field while walking in the icy cold pre-dawn weather.   We want to avoid this!  We decide to cross to Cólera and try to summit from there.  As we don´t want our gear on two different sides of the mountain in case the weather closes in and we can´t get to our other stash, we´re going to attempt to carry everything at once instead of double carrying as we´ve been doing up until now.

Packed up and ready to leave for the high Camp “Colera”    Crossing the ice field beside camp 2 before making the traverse to high camp Colera    Cheryl and Geoff crossing the ice field

The wind is still strong, but seems to have dropped a tad, we break camp and manage to squeeze everything into our packs, but they are heavy.  Jason´s carrying the tent and his pack probably weighs around 35kg!  Mine is maybe 30kg (more than half our body weights!!). 

Jason crossing the traverse    The view down the slope of the traverse towards the Guanaco valley    The View to Rocas Blancas where we are heading at the end of the traverse. Colera camp is at the top of these rocks

We set off at 12.30pm without any water as the stream hasn´t thawed out yet and we only have a small amount left from the day before. 

We can see the huge white rocks behind which Camp Cólera is located on the horizon.  It doesn´t look that far, and we´re hoping despite our heavy packs, it won´t take too long because we´re not gaining much altitude.  What we´re not prepared for is the arduous journey round the mountain that it turns out to be.  It is further than it looks!  And we are going slower than what could be considered sane!  

Chezza looking back toward Camp 2.  You can see the “Col”, our previous camp below to the left of the picture.

First we have to cross an ice field which turns out to be tougher than expected.  There´s no obvious path through it so we have to make our own way trying to avoid the really slippery bits (we decide not to don crampons as it isn´t that far and doesn´t seem worth the bother) but it takes almost an hour to cross just this small stretch.  And we´re still only spitting distance from Camp 2!  At least we´ve managed to collect some water running off the ice.

We continue round the mountain with our packs weighing down heavily on us.  The views are gorgeous.  We have to stop often.  It is really tiring, and the white rocks don´t seem to be getting any closer.  Eventually the scree gives way to a very picturesque boulder field with rocks of various shapes strewn randomly about.  From here we have a tough climb of about 100m straight up to the campsite. 

Is this Cheryl or an Al Qaeeda terrorist??!    Jason At Colera high camp    One of the amazinbg views from High Camp Colera

The campsite is awesome.  It´s situated in a small bowl with light yellow rocks all around.  It´s very clean and very quiet.  We gain our first view across to the Normal Route where we can see Camp Berlin not far off.  It looks much busier and has a reputation for being very dirty.  It´s surprising that more people don´t make the effort to walk the extra half hour to this campsite.

High Camp Colera with Aconcagua rising above us.

The wind has dropped a lot.  We were hoping to go for the summit tomorrow, but today has taken a lot out of us and taken a lot longer than we anticipated.  We only finish setting up the tent at around 7pm and we would still need to melt snow for tomorrow (there´s no water here) which would take hours.  We decide to rest tomorrow and save our summit bid for the following day.

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