Last Great Unclimbed Mountains

A storm hits

Just time for a refuel in Copiapo, some tent and car-fixing, and we were off again.  We knew a storm was coming, so we went to the hut at Laguna Santa Rosa to sit it out.  The boys were laughing at the sorry lives of the flamingoes.  They stand all day in freezing water that’s full of minerals so totally undrinkable, dunking their heads in to suck we-aren’t-sure-what out of the water to eat.  To add insult to injury (and this appeared to be the last straw for the boys) they’re pink!  This appeared to be a dire situation.

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Caio and I went for a walk (of course) and we waited for the snow.

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The snow came, and we retreated into the hut for another day, grateful for a roof over our heads.  When we appeared the following morning, we looked out at the lake, and low and behold the flamingoes had bravely weathered the storm and were still out there on the lake, despite snow and absolutely freezing temperatures.  The boys decided they deserved respect, and maybe it wasn’t so bad to be pink…

Snow at low altitude in the PUNA is not a good thing, as any possible roads we could take were dips in the landscape (which collected snow) and any steep tracks were impassable.  We decided that we had to try to get back into the same mountain region as before, so we set off.  Visibility was a few metres at times, and we were skidding all over the road.  Below is the main road to Maricunga, the Chilean border post.

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Max and I got out of the cars at one point as we had to tow the Troller with Conway.  We were out of the car for just a few minutes, but we were blasted by wet snow as the wind was fierce, and by the time we got back in the car again we were soaking wet, and absolutely freezing.  Never let it be said that I have only been posting nice photos of myself…

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We just couldn’t get up the river and the steep hills to the mountains.  We tried, but Conway was skidding off the road, and the Troller wasn’t much better.  We had to use the winch several times.  The wind was strong, and it was extremely cold.  I got out my huge down jacket.  Sand and snow were scouring our faces as the gusts got stronger.

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We had to turn back in the end, as there was no shelter for our tents, and we couldn’t afford to have them smashed by the wind again.  As we came down, conditions began to improve as the wind dropped.  Some of the snow on the lower passes melted and we ended up with quite a bit of mud.

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We didn’t think that would be a problem, but it coated the radiators of the cars and made them overheat.  The Troller was still leaking anti-freeze, leaving a trail of green slime like a giant slug.  Conway had an overheated gear box radiator so we thought we’d try to tow Conway with the Troller.  The Troller instantly overheated.  We had two broken cars.  Again.

We limped to Maricunga, which made us uneasy as we had spent some time at both the Argentinian and Chilean border posts in the past, and things hadn’t always gone well.  It was late, and we slept there, however the following morning we were forbidden to leave!  This made us very unhappy…

Eventually they opened the road again, and allowed us to leave.  We limped back to Copiapo to do more repairs on the cars.

Spirits were still high though, and we managed an awesome jumping photo…

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