Alex and Jenny called in a very nice update from the site of their first camp on the trail, a spot known as “Pampa de Lenas” (field of firewood), located on the west side of the Rio Vacas (Vacas River).
They hiked a bit over five hours today, gaining a little over a thousand feet of elevation along the way. The Vacas river valley is very arid; however, the team encountered numerous tributary creeks and small rivers that required crossings of differing difficulties. This has been an exceptionally snowy year, so the rivers are pumping!
At he beginning of the trek, the valley is very narrow, but widens as the get higher on the approach to their Aconcagua climb. It is a genuine desert, with plenty of pokey plants, brightly colored chukawallas, and the occasional guanaco traversing a hillside. Guanacos are the indigenous relative of the llama and alpaca that run wild in the Andes. Rust-orange in color, they epitomize the wilderness of these relatively remote valleys. The Vacas sees its share of trekkers, but few of the valleys feeding into it have seen much in the way of human traffic.
It sounds like they feasted this evening, dining with our team of arrieros (mule drivers), who helped prepare an asado, a traditional meal of grilled meat. Argentina is famous for the quality of it’s grilled steaks and few know how to prepare it better than the arrieros.
Tomorrow, they will hike another eight miles up the Vacas Valley, gaining about a thousand feet of elevation. They will camp at a broad plain just above the confluence of the Vacas River and the Rio Relinchos, which drains from the valley that they will use for their base camp. It is a similar day of work, and they will spend between 5-6 hours on the trail before stopping for a Christmas Day feast!
Here is Alex and Jenny: