Last Great Unclimbed Mountains

Climbing Copiapo, 6100 metres

The following morning I think it’s fair to say that there were a few aches and pains in the group after our road-digging.  Max had multiple blisters on his hands, and while I’d like to say that I didn’t because my hands are hard-core from rowing, I think it may indicate that he really did the lion’s share of the digging.

We set off the next morning carrying everything we needed to set a high camp.  We had 1100 metres of ascent, and the final section was up a steep snow gully (argh, no photos I’m afraid!) so it took us a while to get up there.  Here are some photos:

1S9A0821 web  1S9A0904 web 1S9A0971 web  1S9A0810    1S9A0892 1S9A0872

I was looking through my photos and saw this one.  I have no idea what was happening here, but suffice to say that Pedro is hardcore!

1S9A0932

e set up our camp at 5100 metres, leaving us a 1000m summit day.  We had some time constraints the following day (we HAD to get Caio to Copiapo airport in the afternoon!) so we had to leave super-early (5am). Caio decided to sit this one out, so Pedro, Jovani and I set off and Max caught us up.  He likes to organise the tent (read: sort out all of my random kit that’s in his way) before he starts, and he knows he can catch us up.

We were absolutely freezing.  I had a tank top, two long-sleeve tops, a down vest and my trusty black jacket on, and two pairs of trousers, and I was soooo cold.  Max didn’t even bring that many clothes so he must have been even colder.  I put my down jacket on over all of my other clothes, and that helped a lot, but really we would have liked to have left many hours later, with the sun to warm us.

Unfortunately Jovani turned around, leaving Max, Pedro and me, the usual suspects.  We carried on up the mountain, and Max took this photo of the shadow of the mountain as the sun began to come up:

DSCN0751

The mountain was steep (not sure if you can tell how steep from the pictures) and one giant scree slope.  We were taking two steps forward and sliding down one step, and it was hugely frustrating.  Max was leading (and therefore doing the work making steps in the scree) for most of the way.  Even he was growling in frustration from time to time as he took a step and ended up exactly where he was before.

Max and I reached the summit around 8am.  There are some huge (known-about) Incan ruins on the top, and the view was spectacular.  Just before the top we had to leave the sheltered side of the mountain and were blasted by an incredibly strong wind.  It was hard to breathe and the sound was like a jet engine.  Max had planned for us to climb on the protected side of the mountain (part of the reason for not taking the normal approach) because the forecast was for high winds.  I only then appreciated how bad it would have been if we’d tried to camp, let alone climb, on the unprotected side of the mountain.

Here are some summit photos.  The final one shows a huge Incan wall; probably a couple of metres high.

P1020491  DSCN0756 DSCN0754

My camera froze, so I didn’t get a nice photo of us on the top.

P1020495

Pedro was less than half an hour behind us, but we were absolutely freezing, and we had to get down.  At this point the scree was on our side, and we literally ran back down the mountain, reaching the tents in just 25 minutes.  Our descent route had nearly vertical scree, which was perfect terrain for us.  We packed up the camp and met up with Pedro, then headed down to join the others at the cars.  We got down at 11:45am, feeling as though we had completed quite a lot for one morning!