January 14 - Reaching High Camp and the Snow

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

It’s the 14th of January and I’m calling you from high camp at 19,000 feet.

Snow and the Atacama desertAtacama Desert is supposedly, I’m sure it is the driest desert on earth. I found out the answer from my friend Ken the other day about why we think it’s so dry, that’s because there are two mountain ranges, smaller ones of course between us and the Pacific Ocean which is only 100 kilometers away.

They do serve as a rain shadow for the Atacama and I’ll tell you what, twice in the last few days they have not stopped previous snow storms from hitting Ojos. We saw it a couple of days before we climbed. We were wondering how the team was doing that was up here at that time with a few inches of new snow. Turned out they were able to summit and then last night here at high camp we saw a really significant accumulation of new snow.

We continued with our 4-wheel drive adventure, our Chilean staff was determined to bust through the Penitente. As you know from photographs and our descriptions that the Penitente are those lovely towers of ice that are melted and left standing in the summer months in many parts of the Andes.

PenitentesThe guides did not get through with the 4-wheel drive, so we all carried our big packs up with our sleeping bags and what we needed, but dinner was somewhat delayed to say the least. So we decided snow and late dinner combined we did not want to wake up at 11:00pm last night and begin climbing at 1:00am this morning. And we will, at least a group of us will try to do that same thing tonight, leave during the darkness tonight and try to summit Ojos.

Some of the others, who are looking to maximize their acclimatization today and probably not go for the summit, saving it for Aconcagua, are up with Grant on the glacier above me now. They are going for 20,000 feet today. A few others are back at Atacama with Leila and Waldo, not Wally, Waldo our Chilean cook and they’re taking their acclimatization at 17,500 feet.

All this is interesting, the logistics are complicated. The mountain is beautiful and all the surrounding desert landscape as well with the added uniqueness of a new snow storm. And Aconcagua lies ahead as well as some recuperation in the lower altitudes of Copiapo, Santiago and Mendoza, Argentina. We’ve got a lot of adventure ahead of us, including a summit attempt tomorrow morning. I’ll report to you on how we’re all doing as that day unfolds.

22,841 feet
6962 meters

22,637 feet
6900 meters

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