We arrived at the refugio at Laguna del Negro Francisco after a long drive. The refugio looked quite nice on the outside but the inside showed a different story. The place was a bit run down and a peek in the guestbook showed few visitors and one angry review. But there were beds of which I happily claimed one as I had not been getting great sleep with the thin sleeping pad and cold sleeping bag I had bought in haste in Copiapo.
We checked our equipments for the climb the next day. Volcan Copiapo was the target at 6052 meters. What is interesting about Volcan Copiapo is the Incan ruins on top of it and the Incan mummies that were found near the top. As I went through my equipment, lightweight trekking poles, lightweight down jackets for warmth, warm double boots, I couldn’t help think of the Incans who, with their technology, probably suffered a lot, climbing the volcano and then even building walls, burial sites and carrying bodies up to the top. It certainly made me really grateful for the equipment I had and how much we have advanced since then!
We got up at 3AM to eat breakfast and prepare lunches. I didn’t manage to get as much sleep with only 5 hours of sleep but managed to get some sleep in the very bumpy ride to the base of the mountain.
Wearing both my big down jacket and thinner down jacket I was warm throughout and we got moving. The road to the base of the mountain was blocked by penitentes – snow spikes found mostly in the Andes, so we had to walk quite a bit before the actual climbing. But it was a nice trek as the sun rose and while we were still cold as we were in the shadow, a look behind revealed an amazing backdrop. We crossed some penitentes on the way and then started climbing on steep loose scree. I started out too quickly and during the climb, I lost more and more energy fighting the loose scree. I ultimately decided to turn around at 5850 meters to save my strength. I didn’t get to see the Incan ruins (although some of the others did summit and completely overlooked the ruins) so I will have to see them another time. For now I was just happy to at least have a magnificent view before making my way down. We drove down to the refugio again and rested. The guides managed to start a fire in the fireplace and we had some great barbecue – also cooked in the fireplace.
Next mountain would be the big one. Ojos del Salado at 6893 meters and the last acclimatization before the climb.
Part of series