Climb to Torres Rosadas Camp . . . January 16, 2010
(see Google Earth Photo for Route from La Vitrola Camp to Torres Rosadas Camp)
The night before, we hit the tents soon after dark and wondered what the next day would bring. We subsequently learned our first lesson about the weather . . . it may snow in the afternoon but by the middle of the night, we would most likely be looking at the Milky Way cutting a swath across the night sky. That was the case in the early hours of the 16th of January.
However, I really didn't give a damn about the stars, the Southern Cross, Orion, or anything else beyond the discomfort of getting out of that all too small tent to take another piss. The choice had come down to doing a night of Cheynes Stokes or dropping a half a Diamox and pissing all night. The tent was too small to maneuver the pee bottle into place and the night became the night of the living dead . . . I had no doubt that I would rather be just about anywhere else at the time. Eventually, the sun came up and as soon as I knew there was a spot within a half mile of the tent that had some sun, I got up to go there.
It was a damn cold morning but I knew that the sun could make the worst of days a wonderful thing. I just had to go to the light in order to find my personal salvation. But . . . it had been a night from hell and I was sore in the hips and legs like no tomorrow. After walking about a half mile from camp, back toward the drop off to Lagunita, I found the edge of the sun hit and salvation. As the sun rose higher, I wandered back to the tent and was given the sacrament I needed to renew my faith in life, a single tab of Dex to knock off the hurt in the hips. And . . . an hour later, I was born again into the world of the living, the climbing, and those who are thankful for pharmacological aid to the aging body.
We ate breakfast and then broke camp for the trip up the hill to the next higher camp. Our goal was the Torres Rosadas camp at least but there was the possibility of doing another 1000 feet of vertical and catching the Alto Camp. Our choice would depend on how we felt when we hit the first camp and what the weather was at that point. We broke down the Mid, the small tents and took our now slightly lighter shares of group food and cooking gear.
One can easily see the Torres Rosadas camp from the Vitrola camp and it seems like it would be a short climb. But remember what I said about everything being large on these peaks. A short day is really a medium day, a 1000 foot gain is really 2000 feet, and a quick jaunt is really an extended hike. We started up the center of a shallow swale that formed the most obvious route up the slope to the ridge above. We knew from our GPS points that there was a trail of sorts that led to the next camp and there truly is one. But if you add six inches of snow and take away enough oxygen, you will not likely see it on the way up. We chose the most obvious route and started rest stepping our way upward.
The route was over steadily climbing ground to a flat spot that marks the completion of one fifth of the vertical climb. Climb, climb, and climb on we did, stopping once every 30 minutes or so for a Gu and shot of water. We knew it wasn't that far up the slope in our hearts but our minds reminded us that we were really out to gain 1600 feet on this one slope before we would break the ridge and ascend the last 200 feet of vertical to the camp. We trudged on and finally . . . the four of us broke the ridge, landed on a trail trace and then moved upward. Once on the ridge, we needed only to trudge up through some steeper ground before we came upon the Torres Rosadas Camp.
The Torres Rosadas or Red Towers Camp has a half dozen tent pads clustered on the edge of a short cliff that allows a wonderful view of the Vitrola Camp and the valley ever further below. We picked a pad up against the cliff edge outcrop for the Mid and then polished up a pair of tent pads for the sleeping tents. Soon enough we had a camp set up and Manuel was setting about heating water for the afternoon mate. There was no flowing water at the Torres Camp but there was also no lack of snow from the prior evening's weather and other patches that would outlast any afternoon melt. Soon we had water, mate and some lunch.
We did consider moving on from the Torres Camp but I will admit to not being keen on the idea. I was feeling a lot better, actually no pain at all, but given the choice, I was of a mind to push through an extra 1000 feet the next day, Summit Day, in lieu of dragging the camp up another 1000 feet. I just figured a 1000 feet with a summit load was sure better than the alternative. We discussed the idea and added in the factor that if the weather came in again, we would be better off 1000 lower if it really hit us hard or settled in for a day or so. We made the right call.
After a couple hours in camp, the clouds mounted a full scale assault on Mercedario followed by Ramada and La Mesa. The ceiling dropped fast this time and we were getting snow in no time. What had been a sunny vista from the tent turned into the same view clad in snow. More interestingly, this snow storm came with a side dish of charged ground as within a few minutes of the start, Manuel, who was in the Mid, hollered out that the poles holding up the Mid were ringing and his MP3 player had started on its own. I exited the sleeping tent and headed for the Mid, where we dropped the center pole in about 2 seconds flat and evacuated the pair of us to my tent.
We waited out the storm for about and hour and half to two hours before the sky lightened and we felt safe raising the Mid for dinner and mate. In the meantime the sun began to show through the clouds over la Mesa, granting us a sight not soon to be forgotten as the sun shined up through the clouds as sunset approached. That view alone was worth the climb to the higher camp. Following dinner we set a time for our departure for the summit the next morning, knowing the we had added an extra 1000 feet to the day but that we would start as light as we could. The alarm was set for 1 a.m. and we figured to leave by 2 but then we moved the whole program back an hour to get just a bit more rest. Manuel did most of his water melting the night before and then we all hit the sack as we knew our awake up and depart times would arrive all too soon.