Last Great Unclimbed Mountains

Climbing Majadita (pronounced like the drink!)

After Condor, we had decided to climb Toro, but it quickly became apparent that we had a problem.  The road to Toro from Argentina goes through a gold mine.  Well, I should say that the road to Toro is a private road, owned by the gold mine…  We don’t know of anyone who has had permission to drive through the mine (we thought we did, but it turns out they didn’t get through) and so we decided to head for Majadita instead.  This mountain requires permission to access from the local police (who ran us in merry circles) but eventually let us through.  We drove as far as we could (to 3,900 metres), and walked 8km up a valley and made camp.

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The next day we climbed to one of the largest glaciers in the mid-Andes and camped next to it (for water).  I collected samples of frozen rock from the bottom of the glacier, having climbed over huge Penitentes to get there!

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The following day we set off for the summit early.  Despite venting our tents, ice had covered the inside, freezing the zips.  I wore seven layers of clothing, and was freezing cold most of the climb.  It was steep, with some scrambling (in double plastic boots!) and the surface was shale, so loose.  One step forwards, sometimes two steps back.  Distance from tents to summit, 6.5 km.

Eventually we made it though, despite a cruel false summit that really got our hopes up!

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It was windy though, and cold!!  I forgot my sun stick and burned my nose…

We then had to descend to the tents (I was struggling at this point) and then pack up camp and go all the way to the car.  We covered 25km on summit day alone, and were exhausted.  The police let us through no problem and we made it safely down.  My 4th 6000er of this trip!

Toro was our next target.  Problem?  It’s a 100km approach on foot from the Chilean side.  It’s less from the Argentinian side, but to get close we need to drive down a road owned by a gold mine, and actually drive through the mine itself.  This mine has recently been the subject of scandal as they were accused of releasing cyanide into a local river in September (and admitted it).  Needless to say, they are jittery about strangers trespassing at the best of times (being a gold mine) but even more so after the recent accusations.

We know of nobody who has successfully got through the mine to the mountain.  We contacted the mine, and were given a list of things we needed to do, in order to *maybe* be granted access.  To fulfil these requirements, we drove to the city of San Juan.  Currently, there is a Zonda wind, which means it’s 45 degrees C here, with very high winds, dropping to 38 degrees at night.  These zonda winds happen periodically and totally change the typical weather systems for up to several days – we’re glad we aren’t high on a mountain right now.  However, we are staying in a hostel with no air conditioning…

Ok, so for the mine, we have to:

  1. Show them our passports
  2. Have a medical checkup and provide a doctor certificate.  This is in case we inconveniently have a heart attack while driving down their road.  They literally told us they don’t care what happens on the mountain, but NOTHING can happen on their road.
  3. Sign a waiver to say that if anything at all possibly happens, it’s all our responsibility.  Show them insurance documents (well mine – I’m the only one with insurance)
  4. Send them mug shots so the people at the mine know we’re the ones granted access when we turn up. Here they are:

blume     gabriel   max   suzie

Would you let this lot into your gold mine??

Especially Pedro, who we made laugh while we were taking the photos:   pedro

Adventure to be continued….