We set off on the 18th of December after my big shopping trip. Our first destination was a small clearing where we could camp. After a beautiful 3 hour drive, we arrived at the campsite.
First we had to set up the tents. The group had a variety of experience camping, and some had been on many expeditions, others had camping experience and then there was me who had set up a tent twice. We had a big dome tent where we would be eating our meals in and for the guides to do meal prep. It was quite a challenge to get the dome tent set up for the first time and we struggled a bit with the unfamiliarity of the tent and the wind blowing the tent out of shape. We managed in the end and then went off to set up the individual tents and 3 person tents for the two couples. Luckily I would be using the same type of tent that I had bought myself – a The North Face VE 25 tent. With tents set up and our sleeping gear unpack, we were all hungry and gathered in the dome tent.
Food on expeditions is usually not that good. Freeze dried foods, pasta and whichever is caloric dense is usually the favored food. This expedition differed in that it was possible to drive to most locations so we had fresh food throughout the trip. This first night we had steak and sausages and the quality of food never went down after that.
After a night of uncomfortable sleeping, I was a bit tired but excited because we were finally going to do a hike. The hike was to get some exposure to altitude and we were essentially going up the closest mountain spotted. After breakfast, we started going up and it was almost offroad hiking as I don’t think anybody went up the way we did. We did a lot of switchbacks to cope with the steep slope and got introduced to what would haunt us for the rest of the trip – loose scree. Loose scree is a collection of broken rock fragments from the surrounding rocks. That it was loose meant that we could go a few steps up but slide one step down. We came up a few hundred meters in altitude, spotted some wild guanacos and then had lunch.
Going down in loose scree is a bit easier than going up. The technique is to slide down a bit on each step but it took a while before we got it down. Some took to it more easily than others, I was not one of them. But we arrived back at camp, dusty but energized after the hike, ready to pack down tents and move on to the next spot.
We had a short drive to Laguna Santa Rosa crossing a mountain pass at 4125 meters above sea level where we saw the Laguna from afar. As we descended down to the campsite at 3800 meters, we could see the flamingoes walk around in the water, trying to find food. We set up camp, now slightly more experienced but also more challenged by the winds picking up and then settled into the serene campsite. This would be home for the next 3 nights so getting comfortable was important. Apart from the flamingoes we also got acquainted with the wildlife as a fox raided one of the tents to steal some sweets and then the common tent to steal some bags of snickers! How rude! We zipped up our tents very carefully afterwards.
One of our objectives at Laguna Santa Rosa was to keep acclimatizing and the next goal was to reach the top of Cerro Siete Hermanas at 4950 meters. I had a headache the day before from going on the hike but had taken some ibuprofen for a headache and felt well again. As we went up the mountain I started to get a headache again that just built up. I also somehow managed to get so sleepy that I almost fell asleep while walking, although I had experienced that on summit day on Kilimanjaro. I struggled on upwards, falling behind a bit but making it to the top a bit after the others. The view was nice but clouds were starting to come in and the wind was picking up as well so we started going down quite fast. There’s nothing like hard exercise and altitude to make you have a great nap so that’s what I did after coming down and quickly getting some sugar to replenish the lost energy.
The plan for the next day was another acclimatization hike. This time we drove out to the base of Cerro Pastilitos, 5090 meters, which we would climb. This mountain had a bit more loose scree but free of a headache I felt a bit better and started out at a respectable pace. That turned out to be too quick and I slowed down to my usual slow and steady pace while the others climbed on. I would catch them again at the top however and have a bit of lunch before making the descent. A nap followed after coming down and I was really feeling tired. While the food was amazing as usual, I found that I had very little appetite and was tired all the time. Luckily we would move on the next day to Laguna del Negro Francisco and stay at a CONAF ranger station which would be more comfortable than the world’s thinnest sleeping pad that I had been sleeping on so far. Although I had been very tired during the two hikes and throughout the stay at Laguna Santa Rosa, I would also miss the amazingly beautiful lagoon and its inhabitants.
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