Onward to Los Penitentes

19th – 20th January 2016

The following morning we loaded up our gear and food into the van and started our 185km journey from Mendoza to Los Penitentes. For such a small team (5 of us including guides) it was astonishing how much we were taking and the thought of us having to carry it all up the mountain was daunting.

We stopped for lunch en-route at a local restaurant for another steak (when in Argentina…!) before arriving in the very dry, very windy town of Los Penitentes. During the winter it is a popular ski resort and in the summer it is used for climbers and hikers visiting the area. I found it a bizarre, uninspiring and pretty desolate place. We got checked into Ayelen Hotel de Montana then Bruce and I went out to explore.

We walked down to the street to the ‘Mini Market’ which was simply a corrugated metal container containing a freezer. A lad was trying to communicate with the elderly lady in charge but she didn’t speak English and he didn’t speak Spanish. I tried my best to translate and it turned out that the Mini Market didn’t have any food or drink available. It didn’t look hopeful that Bruce would be able to find a memory card for his camera (which he had just discovered he didn’t have in his camera).

Bruce and I headed across the street to Refugio Cruz de Cana where we grabbed a Coke and caught up after quite a hectic few days travelling. It was a really cool place covered in flags, photos and mountain memorabilia. Johnny and Tincho were at the Grajales HQ sorting out the supplies we’d brought from Mendoza and separating them and our gear into loads for the mules the next day. It was an incredible thing to watch.

The following morning we had an amazing breakfast, chilled out and got our kit loaded up in the van ready to hit the trail.


Photo by J. Shrock

From the IMG blog:
“Another expedition has started on Aconcagua.  Jonathan Schrock, Martin Lucero and team are heading to Penitentes today.  Final packing occurs there and the approach starts tomorrow morning.  Here’s hoping for favorable weather.  The mountain has not made things easy so far this season.” http://www.mountainguides.com/wordpress/2016/01/19/aconcagua/news-from-the-south/

Photo by J. Shrock

“On Aconcagua, Jonathan Schrock sent this photo before Martin, the team and he began their approach march.  Three days of enjoyable walking to get to base camp, Plaza Argentina.  They’re ready to rock and roll.”  http://www.mountainguides.com/wordpress/2016/01/20/aconcagua/and-theyre-off-9/


Buenos dias Mendoza

16th – 18th January 2016
After flying for the best part of a day across continents it’s an absolute pleasure disembarking the aircraft and finding your baggage in one piece on the carousel.  I’d met Rick, one of my team mates, in Santiago airport as we were on the same flight across to Mendoza so upon arrival we grabbed a cab at the airport and took the short drive across to the hotel.

Gear checkJonathan Shrock, our guide, was there at the hotel sorting gear when we arrived. It was wonderful to see him again after a year and a half since my Rainier climb. Rick and I checked into our rooms and unpacked our gear ready for a gear check. Bruce arrived a few hours later.

We met in the lobby that evening ahead of going out for dinner and learnt that one of our team members had dropped out the day before because of a flight mix up. He arrived into the wrong Argentine city and instead of taking the journey across to Mendoza he just flew home back to the USA again! We also discovered that another member, who was there at the hotel that day but none of us had yet met, was unfortunately in the middle of an unexpected family emergency and he’d have to fly home urgently. So there we were, just three clients and two guides.

That evening we had an incredible meal at a local restaurant and started to get to know one another. Rick was a very intelligent, softly spoken, and experienced mountaineer. Tincho, our Argentine guide, had been climbing Aconcagua and surrounding Andean peaks since he was a teenager. Then there was Johnny the IMG guide (who had guided Bruce and I on Mt Rainier in August 2014), Bruce and myself.

The following day we bought extra snacks for the mountain, explored Mendoza, bought and hired any last minute gear (yes, there were a few impulse purchases), and generally relaxed ahead of our long transfer across to Penitentes the following day. It was lovely to sit outside at the hotel pool, relaxing in the 35C sunshine listening to music. I don’t think I could have felt more chilled if I tried. What a wonderful way to begin an trip I had been dreaming about, and preparing for, for over 5 years.

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