Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Aconcagua 2010 - Plaza de Mulas Sunday

Sunday, February 28, 2010. Plaza de Mulas at the base of the normal route at the top of the Horcones Approach Trail on Aconcagua. Got up with a light dusting of snow on everything. It was odd to my sense of reality because South of the Equator the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, as you expect, but does it while leaning to the North, not the South as I'm used to as a native of the Northern Hemisphere.

Because of the surrounding terrain the sun didn't hit base camp until around 9:30 or so. It's typical for most people to lay around camp waiting for the sun to hit before moving around much.

The Europeans were up in the dining tent around 8 or so, and for the most part cooking their own food on primus type bottled gas stoves using large Doite canisters. I assumed from this that some place in town or Osvaldo of LANKO sold them. He offered me canisters (his preference) or white gas.

I had chosen white gas and was told two liters was waiting for me at base camp. I had made a little fuss about it, since I had read so many trip reports about spilled gas from 2 liter bottles (the normal way to store white gas in Argentina) ruining bags of stuff on the mules. Anyway, yesterday I received my 1.5 liter Coke bottle, being told it was 2 liters. I wasn't sure if it was ignorance or deception, but wouldn't push it. I assumed I had way over-estimated anyway.

I lit up my MSR XGK to see how it ran, and it smelled odd, but close enough to white gas to work. It's a bit scary, honestly, since the typical thing to do in Mexico is to go to a paint shop where it's sold as paint thinner called gasolina blanca. Here it's called naptha. As you drive by the gas pumps you see two grades of diesel and naptha as the three options. Hmmmm - I would be careful about venting if that's the case.

Lunch was set for around 1 PM. Annoying. I'm not going to do this again. I had decided to go ahead and get two days of full service so I could acclimatize and build camp without stressing over cooking, but now I can pass this advice on - don't. Sure, if you want meat get the dinner. It won't really affect anything, but having to wait around till nine every morning and then again at noonish puts a real damper on the schedule.

Add to that the apparent cycle that everyone there seemed used to. 9:30 sun hits camp. Everything dries out. 11:30 storm hits camp and blows everything away and covers everything in snow. 2 PM sun comes out and melts everything making it all wet. 5 PM storm comes in and covers camp again.

Carlos told me he had stuff to do, places to go and all that, and Vanessa was in charge now and he left. Vanessa had about as much English as I had Spanish, so maybe it would be okay.

I had originally planned to go 1,000' higher every day to test my speed and acclimatization level, but with this crazy schedule, and the sneaky storms that I wasn't prepared for dealing with at this point, I decided to honor the rangers and not go up till my 6 PM checkup.

And lucky thing too. I had thought of going up at the 2 PM clearing, but every window in the quonset hut leaked the melting snow onto the bunk below it. Including my appointed bunk. I was out enjoying the sun and thinking of heading up. Got my boots on. Prepared my water. Noticed drips running on other bunks and looked at my sleeping bag and found about a quart of water inside. I quick flipped it out and dried it with a microfiber towel. Thanks to pertex it was fine, but very annoying. I managed to rearrange my stuff and had to hang some things out to dry between windows.

I spent the afternoon drying out my stuff and moving to another bunk. Then to make things more interesting a couple of Polish climbers, presumably married, came in. I had to again move stuff around to make room for them, and pointed out to Vanessa that the bunks leaked so she moved stuff around too to make room for them. They looked in really bad shape.

I did my checkup, had decent numbers and returned to camp to prepare for dinner. The Polish climbers joined me tonight and she had some English and him almost none. Shortly after bedtime she began puking a lot. Over and over. All night. Oh, joy.