Jenny and Alex called in after a warm, Christmas Day hike up the Vacas Valley. We’ve mentioned that the approach to Aconcagua is up an arid, desert valley, which means that it can be HOT at times. Today was such an occasion and upon arriving at their destination, the team did their best to find shade from the high temperatures.
The valley opened up as they hiked, with the terrain changing from a deep, “V” shaped valley, largely carved over the ions by the Rio Vacas, to a broader, “U” shaped valley, the result of glaciers carving their way down from the upper flanks of the nearby mountains. After leaving Pampa de Lenas early this morning, they crossed the Rio Vacas on a steep footbridge before following the east side of the river for the rest of their trek.
A tall waterfall was one of the first sights the team passed. Known as Lagrimas del Vieja (Old Woman’s Tears), the creek below makes a nice place to take the first break of the day. In general, we like to hike for about an hour at a stretch, taking good breaks during which climbers eat, hydrate and reapply sunscreen and lip balm as protection against the heat of the desert.
Much of the day’s hike was above the churning Rio Vacas, but as the valley grew wider, they dropped into the cobble-strewn river bed and had to hop across a few small channels of the glacially braided river.
Their second night on the approach to Aconcagua will be spent at Casa de Piedra, “House of Stone,” so named for a hut constructed of stacked rocks alongside a giant glacial erratic, a boulder left from the glacier retreat thousands of years ago. The hut is located just upstream of the confluence of the Rio Relinchos, which pours east through a narrow valley from the Polish Glacier high on Aconcagua.
Here are Jenny and Alex!