Me at the entrance to the Horcones Trail. Aconcagua behind.
Osvaldo of LANKO had me stop here and break out my camera so he could take this ominously meaningful picture. He dropped me off at the ranger station at about 9,000', and I checked in with the rangers and got my first garbage bag. You must either bring the bag back, or have your mule provider sign off for you that they are dealing with your bag, or you will be fined a large amount. I heard something like $200 US, but that's hearsay.
There is dirty running water here and a toilet trailer. I suddenly discovered a slew of little difficulties. I had packed my sunscreen in my mule bag. I only had half of my trail food. My trail running gaiter was missing a cord. My camera was gone. I emptied my bag and finally remembered that it was out for the above ominous picture, so I had the ranger radio down to Osvaldo, who came back with my camera. In the meantime I found a camera strap I wasn't using and rigged it as a gaiter cord. An hour later than I expected, I hit the trail.
Wearing my white UA-style shirt in full sunlight along the Horcones Trail. Aconcagua behind.
It was difficult moving my clothes around to protect me from the sun, but I managed to make great time along the trail to Confluencia, 6 miles away and at about 11,000'. Within minutes of 2 hours. Nice pace 1,000' vertical and 3.0 miles per hour. There is a water hose and picnic table right before the ranger station, and I sat and snacked.
I checked in, receiving a new bag, with instructions to bring it back here (in very bad English). I suppose in some odd ways I was very lucky that none of the rangers I encountered spoke any real English at all. Made for a lot less hassle. I was to stay in the dome to the far left of the above picture, a subcontractor named Carlos that maintained it for a number of other mule services. He was to provide a cot with pads, and three meals. A typical late Argentinian dinner and breakfast, and a bag lunch.
Nice steel dome with nice steel beds and nice thick mattresses. Ominous.
Since it was still early, I decided to do a little more acclimatization, and run up the Plaza Francia trail to 12,000'. This is the trail to the horrible, difficult, test-pieces on the South Face of Aconcagua. The trail was a bit softer and more rugged, and I got off-trail (lost - ominous) a number of times, but did make it to 12,000' in an hour over an estimated 2 miles. Not a great view from here of the South Face, but oh, well. I ran back to camp as the sun went down, and prepared for dinner. Again, the meat, but it was pretty good, not as fatty as the meat yesterday. Eduardo re-ordered for me the previous day, as he had noticed that most Americans (United States) don't like fat.
In my dome was an empty sleeping bag laid out (not sure for who) and a guy from Quebec trekking (not intending to summit), who was fun to talk to during dinner. We went to bed around 10 PM (about the time dinner was done) and shortly after some guy came in and filled the empty bag.
About 3 AM, I woke to the bed quickly but gently swaying, wondering what the heck was going on.