Saturday, March 28, 2009
HIKING IN THE ANDES
I've just got this thing about mountains. Snow capped mountains. It could be caused by “Growing up in the Heartland” (from the song Jack and Diane...1982...John Mellenkamp) also known as flatlands. We have incorporated mountains into the trip....the Tatras in Poland, Julian Alps in Slovenia, Apuene Alps in Italy, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, The near Himalayas in India, The Southern Alps in New Zealand and now....the ANDES.
Because this trip is weather planned...eternal spring...we haven't seen a lot of snow on the tops of mountains. A hint as we sat on our deck at the Annex Hotel in McLeodganj in Northern India and Kilimanjaro also showed us a peak when we could see her. But nothing big. Until now. The peaks around Termas de Chillan, even though only topping out at around 7300 feet, still have snow on them. It's early fall here in the Southern Hemisphere and the snow from last winter hasn't totally melted. Cool!!!
We (Our family plus the Gutmann/Fuentes household) hiked up to around 5500 feet keeping in mind that there were four youngsters involved. Our elevation rise was not only steep but the path was filled with loose soil; unusual, almost like dust because it is so dry. The dust was also kicked up by the people walking ahead so you get a nose, mouth and body full. My shoes at the end had never been so dirty. So we went up and up and up. Our arrival at “our” peak was stunning. A whole valley with jagged peaks on the sides. Amy, Avocet, Andrea and Siena sat atop a large boulder, not anticipating the hike back. But you know what they say, “one hour up, half and hour back”.
Wrong!!! The loose soil and small rocks mentioned before (called “scree” in mountaineering parlance) were so loose that you couldn't keep your “grip” on the ground..you would slide and lose your balance. Kinda like walking tentatively on ice. It was easier to go off trail and walk in what little grass there was. But that alternative was usually steeper and filled with different issues. It took us just as long to get down as it did to go up. The kids did great but they didn't seem to mind falling. All except Andrea had sore butts. Luz did great. Dave did great. Lisa and I didn't kill ourselves.....but carried the rear.
This was our toughest “hike” of the trip. I thought at one time in my life of climbing Pike's Peak, maybe Denali, etc, etc. On second thought, maybe a movie at the Omnimax will suffice!!!