The team is on the move!
Yesterday, they drove from Mendoza up into the rugged, arid mountains just shy of the border with Chile. They stopped for lunch in a town called Ushpallata, which gained some fame years ago as the base for the filming of the Brad Pitt film, Seven Years In Tibet. After lunch, they rolled into Penitentes, a small ski resort, where they spent the night.
Today, they got a leisurely start and hiked about 8 miles up the Vacas Valley, which trends northward just to the east of Aconcagua. While the Rio Vacas thunders with snow melt and it’s glacial source, the valley itself is very dry and is reminiscent of areas of the Grand Canyon. Chuckawallas bathe in the sun on boulders, while smaller lizards dart out of the path of climbers on the approach. Occasionally, guanacos can be seen grazing on the steep hillsides framing the valley. Rust-colored relatives of the llama, guanacos are protected in the park.
After about five hours on the trail, the team set up camp at a flat area on the west bank of the Rio Vacas, known as Pampas de Leñas. They brought in the fixings for an “asado,” or a traditional feast of grilled meats. With help from the “arrieros” (cowboys who drive in the mule trains that support expeditions), the team prepared and enjoyed a huge first dinner on the trail!
Tomorrow they will hike another eight miles further up valley, which should take them about the same amount of time as today’s hike.