Last Great Unclimbed Mountains

The building of a road!

We repaired the cars as best we could, and decided to head out again, to a more accessible region of the PUNA.  Max, Pedro and I were hoping we might even be able to climb two 6000 metre mountains in a day, as we were feeling so strong.  We decided to head for a mountain called Copiapo, 6100 metres.  We didn’t take the normal route to the mountain, but instead found another possibility on googlemaps and decided to try it out.  So, back into the desert:

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We drove off the road and up a small track.  We snook quietly through a mine (which we later discovered was abandoned, so no sneaking required!) and then up a sort of path.  I say sort of, because it rapidly disappeared…

Last March, heavy rains hit the area and flash floods hit the town of Copiapo, depositing a metre of sludge into the city. In quite a few areas (such as the football stadium) the mud is still there.

It turns out that the heavy rains also took out the small track we were hoping to follow.  It looked as though a river had washed away the centre of the road.  We pondered trying to straddle the chasm (which was a metre or more deep in places) with the wheels of the car, but it was too wide, and a bit of a dodgy prospect.  We couldn’t drive round it because the hillside was too steep, and the surface was loose.  So, we decided to dig out the hole in the road to a width such that we could drive down into it, along the bottom of it, and up at the other end.  The distance we had to cover was a few hundred metres.  We only had two small shovels and our bare hands (note to self: bring a better shovel!)

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Ok enough photos of me standing around and everyone else digging…I was digging too!

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Then the boys took my shovel away, so I was put on ‘rock-moving’ duty.

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Well we tried the cars, and eventually got the Troller though, although it was tight in places!

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It turned out that Conway was significantly wider than the Troller….so some more rock-moving.  Time for some team work!

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Here’s a movie (you have to click on it,sorry) – Conway really was stuck!  You can hear the wind, which was actually quite mild that day.  At this point I should pay tribute to the incredible off-road driving skills of Pedro and Jovani.  There were so many times during the last couple of months when Pedro was driving Conway through some ridiculous place, while I had my eyes closed in the back of the car not daring to watch.  He really is a skilled off-road driver.  We also taught him the skill of driving long distances in neutral, but that’s the story of an earlier post…

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Well we finally got both cars through, but it was getting dark.  We drove further, and the Troller ended up stuck in a snow drift.  We (Max and Jovani) got it out eventually by attaching the winch to a boulder, but it was clear we could drive no further.  We set up camp in the ‘road’, and Max made a massive and delicious meat stew, and we settled down for the night.

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The story continues in the next post…