Acon-Part I, Pre and Post Climb
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01/05/04, 01/06/04 Pre-Climb
After 23hrs of travel from Denver to LA to Lima to Santiago to Mendoza we were finally there, amazingly001-mendoza.jpg (173960 bytes) enough with all of our luggage too! It was early afternoon so after a short ride to downtown Mendoza and our hotel (NH Cordillera) we were off on our own. A few blocks away were many shops and sidewalk cafes and the Parque Indepencia with fountains and plenty of places to people 002-mendoza.jpg (190644 bytes) watch. It was warm enough for shorts and tee-shirts and great to relax with an Andes beer and our first of many cheap steaks. Most of the discussions were involving the climb, gear, and conditions. It was pretty obvious that we were all anxious to get on the peak!

This day we loaded up our 23 duffels and daypacks to get our permits before heading to Puente del Inca (Bridge005-mendoza.jpg (112942 bytes) of the World). It was $300 each for a climbing permit since it was the prime climbing season (make sure your bills are brand new, crisp, and without a single tear or blemish). The permits are like gold and checked at camps to make sure you've paid to climb. The 4hr drive to Puente del Inca was mostly uphill and very similar to the landscape of western Colorado and Utah. It was 009-pdi.jpg (198364 bytes) pretty windy and dusty in Puente del Inca and consisted of a few hostels, climbers camps, small stores and kiosks and a military base across the street. Beautiful scenery on both sides of the010-pdi.jpg (150752 bytes) valley and bus loads of tourists to see the actual bridge formed by mineral deposits and the structure carved out of it below. We had a great dinner of steaks (again). A day hike up the valley was on the menu for the next day. 

The first obstacle of the day was to chase the cat out of our room that came in through the window at some point during the night. For our day hike we started at the church that was the only building that survived an 019-pdi.jpg (231675 bytes) avalanche years ago, and switch-backed up the side of the valley. It wasn't too long before Aconcagua's South Face and hanging glaciers was looming in the distance about 20 miles away. It was fantastic seeing our goal finally for the first time with our own eyes! We topped out at020-pdi.jpg (181746 bytes) about 11,000ft before heading back down to sort gear and pack for the rest of the day. I could really get used to eating steak each night! The next morning our mules, from Aymara outfitter service, headed out with all of our stuff besides the day packs that we would carry through the valley. A quick change of a flat tire and we were on our way to the trailhead. Once there our permits were checked and we were issued trashbags that have to be returned full or risk a heavy fine. Aaahhhh, off to trekking up the Horcones Valley towards Confluencia.....Horcones Valley and Base Camp


01/22/04 Post-Climb
Back in Puente del Inca after 12 nights/days in a tent with the same clothes, most would head to the showers first. But what the hell, we earned beer! Off to the restaurant bar to suck back a few Andes beers, potato chips and revel in the recent climb. A shower eventually came that was by far the best one ever taken. At dinner soon after no one looked the same with clean clothes on and combed hair! The sunburn was pretty evident but couldn't cover up the ear to ear grins on everyone. Salad (tomatoes do not mix well with a sunburnt tongue, yes a sunburnt tongue) and steaks before heading back to the bar for laughs and sharing stories with our friends from Quebec, London, and Montana. 

We bused back to Mendoza and quickly found a pizza and beer joint. Not as good as American pizza, but delicious just the same. A few of us went out to "La Forenzia" for dinner that night, a classy place but that didn't stop us from eating obscenely gigantic steaks and plenty of wine. We were getting pretty loud and laughing a bunch so the waiter brought us over champagne instead of asking us to leave! We promised we would be back the next night with the entire crew and bounced around a couple more bars that night.

A winery tour was on the docket for our last day in Mendoza. The bus was an hour late and the broken English of the guide was practically unbearable. We were all excited to get to the tasting room. The first place was more of a factory and we made our own fun by pretending to pee in the vats and laughing at the old guy wearing a "Is that your girlfriend? She wasn't last night!" tee-shirt. The huge oak barrels were pretty impressive though and I learned a lot about how wine is made. Finally at the tasting room they were out of glasses so we found our own and hijacked a bottle from another table! As one Canadian put it, "good old American initiative at work". After several glasses each we were tuned up and ready for the second winery. Now this place was cool, big grounds and a more homely feel. We learned how the real tasters judge wine and drank a few more glasses before buying some for ourselves and an extra bottle for the bus ride home. That evening we went back to "La Forenzia" and had our celebratory dinner. The waiter hooked the women and Steve up with roses and champagne for everyone. Lots of wine, steak, laughs, toasts, and good times for all. Total bill came to about $11 each, can't beat that! Off to another night of beers and laughs at the casino and other local bars. May as well do the last night in Mendoza right! 

Our last day was just packing up and chillin' in the park before another 23hrs of getting home....this time without our luggage. Hint: never check your luggage in as a group.

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003-mendoza.jpg (146276 bytes) Old woman begging in Mendoza; Fancy bathroom in the Hotel NH Cordillera 004-mendoza.jpg (104344 bytes)

006-mendoza.jpg (216367 bytes) Rich at the permit office; Me at permit office 008-mendoza.jpg (253084 bytes)

011-pdi.jpg (195899 bytes) A girl and a stray dog at Puente del Inca; The mineral bridge 013-pdi.jpg (259934 bytes) 014-pdi.jpg (172062 bytes)

017-pdi.jpg (225432 bytes) The church that survived an avalanche, unlike the rest of the town 018-pdi.jpg (75677 bytes)

022-pdi.jpg (193911 bytes) Wayne with Aconcagua looming in the back; Our hostel in Puente del Inca 023-pdi.jpg (201928 bytes)

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