Rest Day at La Vitrola Camp . . . January 15, 2010
Every trip to South America is the same . . . we score a weather window and want to climb . . . but we long ago learned that you simply have to bide your time at altitude to acclimatize or you will pay the price. We awoke to a beautiful blue sky day at La Vitrola Camp and there was that summit, just a few thousand feet higher than us, or so it seemed. But we knew the rule and today was going to be a rest day for the body to build a few new red blood cells before we pushed to the next higher camp on the following morning.
We took in the sun, drank mate and hydrated and pee'd it all back out. I wandered about the vicinity and from a geologic perspective, this is the place you do not want to be if there is an earthquake. The ground in and all around our camp was cut by cracks, leaving me with little doubt that the forces of nature had taken a serious dump on this piece of ground. Above the camp there are cliffs composed of deteriorated rock and below our camp is a valley full of mounds of soil that have sloughed from the edges of terrace we are camped upon. My geologic days are long gone but we were sitting on a swath of ground that has been weathered and/or oxidized and robbed of whatever stability it once had.
As the day passed so did the sun as bank of clouds appeared on the far side of La Mesa and swept across the summit of Mercedario, obscuring its 22,000 foot heights in a wall of white. Anibal had told us that clouds to the east were nothing to worry about but when they come in from the west, then that is a sure sign of bad weather to come. He noted that the bad weather usually will last a day or so but if the weather comes from the west be ready for rain or snow, depending upon your altitude. The weather we were watching was coming in from the west . . .
Our sunny day was soon gone, the warm temperature was gone and the gray wall soon obscured the summit of La Mesa and then La Ramada above us. Then it was not only the summit that was lost to cloud as the white started pushing down toward our elevation . . . Soon we got a flake or two of snow, then more snow and before long we abandoned the outside to take refuge in the Mid. The Mid offered a warm stove, hot mate and the promise of more room than the sleeping tents ever could. We put up with the snow, tapping the walls of the Mid on a regular basis to knock the fluffy white stuff to the ground so there was room to sit without the tent draping across one's back. We got through dinner and another hour to two of conversation before calling it a night and scampering off to the smaller tents.
I think we were all curious as to how much snow we would get and what effect it would have on our plan to climb the next morning at least to the Torres Rosadas camp, 1800 feet higher on the mountain . . . We would just ahve to wait and see.