My Ojos del Salado expedition would begin on a bad note. I knew it as I sat in the Copenhagen airport waiting for the plane to Paris to arrive. There was to be a delay of 40 minutes, and my layover in Paris was only slightly more than an hour. I knew I cut it close but all the other flight tickets included a night spent in an airport or were significantly more expensive. Luckily it was not further delayed and I spent the time in the airplane preparing myself for the stress in Paris.
As I arrived in Paris, I had 50 minutes to get to my next airplane. Well less, the signs already showed “last call” so I had to run. There was just one problem… I was wearing huge mountaineering double boots that was more than cumbersome to walk in. Now I was running through the airport, the friendly staff cheering me on and as I reached the gate, there was a huge line waiting to check in. Great, mountaineering is all about not wasting your effort, and here I was having needlessly run with cumbersome footwear.
As I sat in the airplane to Santiago, Chile, I just knew that my luggage didn’t make it. If I barely made it, it would have no chance. No matter, it would probably just show up the day after.
At the Santiago airport, I got through immigration and went to the luggage pickup as Chilean authorities demand that you handle the luggage at your first port of entry. And my fears were confirmed, no The North Face duffel bag to be spotted anywhere. So I went and got the luggage reported as missing and carried on to my next flight to the city of Copiapo, a mining city in the desert of Atacama and near the site of the Chile mining collapse where a huge rescue effort got all 33 miners out.
From my previous communication with my tour operator – Adventure Peaks I knew to expect 6 other people and that most would be coming in on the same flight as me. And in Copiapo airport, I knew immediately who it was. It was the other people, also wearing their mountaineering boots on the airplane!
We greeted each other, unfortunately, one had dropped out so we would be 6 overall and have three guides for support.
It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who had lost their luggage. Two others were missing luggage, one was missing since Madrid, another was missing since Santiago which was quite special in that the luggage was checked in again in Santiago.
The expedition was already going well with half the people missing their luggage so we decided to eat some steak and then hope that our luggage would appear the next day.
With this preparation, we decided to use one of the spare days for summit now and leave a day earlier. Two of the bags did duly arrive the day after but my bags decided to take an extended stay in Paris so the night before leaving, the only thing I had was my double boots and my big puffy jacket.
Two of the guides went with me the next day just before we had to leave and we went shopping in the nearby mall. Now if you’re wondering how much mountaineering equipment a mining city in the summer would sell, I can tell you, it’s not a lot. I managed to hastily buy some thermal underwear, some tops, underwear, hiking sticks, a sleeping mat, a sleeping bag with a comfort of -1 degree and a midweight puffy. Armed with this, I was apparently ready.
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