We left our cozy refugio on Christmas Eve to go to the Ojos del Salado base camp. It was a long drive but the dramatic landscape made up for it.
Basecamp was situated at 5200 meters above sea level and would be the highest that I’ve ever slept at. I did feel tiredness when putting up tents and after a nice dinner I went to my tent and tried to tend to my headache that had developed.
The next day I woke up tired and freezing. Temperatures plummeted and it was too cold for my sleeping bag but luckily our guides improvised a tarp out of a sheet to improve the heat retention of the tent and the insulation between me and the ground. After a night of shivering, I welcomed this change.
Christmas day was spent on an acclimatization hike to high camp. It was short but I took it slowly as there was 600 meters of ascent. At high camp, we settled down for a bit, took some time to check out the hut that would house us for our summit bid.
We were used to being alone but at base camp, two German teams and an Argitinean team set up camp after we arrived and at high camp, we met an American who had reached the summit in only 4 hours. Still it felt quite remote even with more people than we were used to.
We went down again but I got a ride down in the car as I was exhausted. In the evening we got the forecast which was good for whichever day the team would want to go. I had decided to not attempt summit as I was too exhausted and cold most of the time so I wanted to try and recover and acclimatize well before going to Aconcagua afterward.
We had a rest day before the group would go up to high camp and then onto their summit bid. I found out that you better have a bit entertainment with you as rest days can pass by agonizingly slowly. I slept most of the day, taking advantage of the sun heating up the tent and then we spent quite a while listening to the tales of the guides. There was also a bit of time for the group to train with ropes as a part of the route included fixed ropes.
On the 27th the group would move onto high camp with their equipment. Luckily the car could go up to high camp so the heavy equipment was dumped there. For me it was another rest day and taking in the sights.
The 28th was the summit day. The group woke up at 3 AM for breakfast and last minute preparations and then went off to climb the mountain. I woke up at 8 AM and went up with a guide to the high camp where we would wait for them to come down again. We met two of the group going down to base camp as they had turned around after a few hours due to cold feet. The remaining three of the group would make it all the way to the summit and we eagerly awaited their return. When they returned they were understandably tired and they got a ride down. I walked down with one of the group members who had a principle of not using help to go up or down. After a feast at dinner or at least what was left of the food we had brought along, we all went to sleep knowing that we would get back the day after to nice hot showers.
Next day we had breakfast and then due to either our experience with packing or eagerness to get back to civilization we packed up the tents in record time. It was only 200 kilometers to Copiapo but it took much longer as a majority of the roads were dirt roads. Nevertheless, we came back to Copiapo where I hopped onto the wifi and saw that my bag was in Santiago airport. We drove on to Bahia Inglesa where we got showers and wifi and finished the expedition with a feast at a nearby restaurant.
The day after we were driven to the airport where we said our goodbyes to the people we’ve been spending more than two weeks with. As we flew into Santiago airport I had made arrangements with Air France that I would pick up my luggage and after successfully retrieving it I could relax and fly with two group members and our guide to Argentina and prepare myself mentally for Aconcagua.
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