January 6, 2004 - Kick-Off for The Ojos del Salado y Aconcagua Expedition

Listen to Audio of Wally's Call (.wav)

It’s the 6th of January and this first dispatch for this season’s Berg Adventures Ojos del Salado and Aconcagua expedition is coming to you from the middle of the desert of course. As you probably know our climb of Ojos, the second highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, will take place in the Southern edge of the Atacama Desert. The desert in Northern Chile was formally accepted to be the driest desert on earth.

BAI 2004 Ojos y Aconcagua team

The team met up in Santiago on the 4th. Yesterday we flew north to the friendly and lovely desert city of Copiapo. A climbing town and also nearby in the irrigated areas there are grapes. Some of the best grapes in the world are grown here. Not for wine in this case like in Southern Chile, but for export. Many people in North America buy Chilean grapes at the supermarket and they may well come from Copiapo or near by.

Today’s drive to approach the altitude that we’ll need to acclimatize to get up Ojos in some days, is in the stark and seemingly at first, featureless brown hills out from Copiapo. But as you look closer you see amazing textures in this beautiful landscape. Not vegetation but textures in the rock. You see also igneous intrusions in the larger sedimentary rock, and the landscape is beautiful because of the vast blue sky above.

Dry climate and now, even though Copiapo is only 250 meters or 900 some feet, we’ve already driven almost imperceptivity on the flat roads gradually up and now we stopped for a little lunch break at something over 8000 feet. We’ll stop tonight closer to 4000m, believe it or not. We’re going to walk around here a bit and begin to breathe and acclimatize as we ascend higher at Santa Rosa Lake, over 12000 feet.

In the next days we’ll be reporting to you as we explore this lovely desert landscape and get ourselves fit and prepared to attempt our climb of Ojos. Great group here. A lot of old friends from various other BAI climbs over the years, Elbrus, Nepal, and Africa and elsewhere, so there has been some great reunions. We’ve also been glad to welcome Dee on board as one of our new climbers, and also Daniel.

Daniel was quick to buy the first round of pisco sours in Santiago. You may know that is a typical Andean drink made from pisco which of course is from distilled grapes. And last night we all had a great time, in this friendly city of Copiapo. We’ve always loved it up here because the people of this northern desert town are so nice and open to travelers and visitors. This is where we chose to have our welcome dinner because Richard Clark had flown in last, arriving from Houston via Panama in the very early hours yesterday morning.

So we are finally all together and we took the opportunity to get our little kick off, send off dinner for this adventure to be held in Copiapo. Good sleep in a nice little hostel in this friendly town last night. And now we’re going to be far from any restaurants or hostels. We have everything we need with us. There are two four wheel drive trucks and a pick-up carrying all our water and supplies for 10 days. We have to bring in all our water because it is so dry out there. Right now we are very comfortable driving in our air conditioned bus on our way to Santa Rosa Lake.

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22,841 feet
6962 meters

22,637 feet
6900 meters