Strong Winds and Christmas Cheer

It’s December 23. The weather is changing and our location has changed. We’ve moved to the refugio - what you might call the hut - that is out in the open plains a few kilometers from the lake where we were before, Laguna Verde.

Ojos del SaladoWe’re now about 200 meters or almost 700 ft higher and we have a clear view of Ojos del Salado. I say a clear view - it should be a clear view but the weather has changed. We awoke this morning to strong winds at our lakeside camp and clouds. We drove up here to find blowing sand and dust and an obscured view of our mountain because of the clouds.

We made the decision not to move to the 5000 meter camp, which we’re calling High Camp I because we’re planning to move to one camp above that on our summit attempt. The weather is just too bad. You can’t see anything. The blowing sand and dust that I’ve talked about makes it too hard to travel.

Yesterday while we climbed the unnamed peak, Bernardo and David actually drove up to take our first loads to High Camp at 5000 meters. Boulders on Laguna VerdeWhen I’m talking about all of these vehicles, I may be giving you the false impression that this area is populated and developed. Nothing could be further from the truth. This area is as desolate and remote as any I’ve seen in some time. The contrast to Aconcagua where we will be shortly is very sharp.

We see no one here except for one lone German climber who we enjoyed visiting with as he returned from the high slopes of Ojos with a report that it was too windy to complete the climb and he’s descended now.

We also see the Carabineros or the border police, the frontier police in this wild area that patrol the border between Chile and Argentina. These friendly men seem very lonely, especially in this holiday season in this desolate area where they are stationed. They are nice fellows and we’ve occasionally run across them. They stay at refugios that we also use to stay in as we’re moving across this terrain.

One of the things that is brightening up our refugio is this little Christmas tree that Leila has been bringing along for our group. She found it in Santiago. It reminds members of the group of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree – the little skinny one that looks like the only one no one would want to take home. Leila got it for our group and we decorated it with some ornaments she brought from Santiago and we carry this small tree with us as we go from camp to camp.

We’re all having a great time as I said earlier, out in this desolate wilderness. It is where we want to be. It’s the kind of place that makes our soul feel great and excited.

But I can also guarantee you that everyone is thinking the warmest thoughts of family and friends back home and we have our own little family here around our small little Christmas tree in the refugio, with the wind blowing hard outside. We’re all a happy crew.

We’ll report to you tomorrow, Christmas Eve, to let you all know how the weather is doing.

22,841 feet
6962 meters

22,637 feet
6900 meters