Cordon del Plata: Day 6
“I’m writing in my tent at our new camp, la Hollada. It has been snowing vigorously for the past few hours since we arrived around three today. What a day it’s been! I’m warm and dry and listening to some music now, but a few hours back, I was desperately hoping that I would get to enjoy this warm luxury.
We awoke this morning to a camp dusted in snow from a small storm last night. The sky was clear at seven, but by nine, some puffies had formed and they were already swirling around the peaks and cloaking camp in fog. These got my attention. We went ahead with breakfast and preparing to move camp to la Hollada. We took it slow, though, to see what the weather might be doing.
At around eleven we decided to leave and begin moving up the trail. About ten minutes into the hike: boom, boom, boom. Storms were building above the peaks to our left and in the adjacent canyon below and lightning was starting to hit the peaks. Eventually we all turned back to camp to spend the early afternoon assessing the situation. I pitched a tent in case the sky opened up and we needed shelter.
Then, it stopped… Low clouds and graupel pelted us, but there was no wind and the thunder and lightning ceased. We had a group hacky sack session, made lunch. After lunch and just a bit before 3pm, we decided to set off again for la Hollada.
30 minutes into the hike: boom, boom, BOOM! Damn. The storm was hitting behind us and to the left and right ridges again. I looked back and our old camp at el Salto; it was completely enveloped in fog, snow and graupel. No turning back now. We needed to just push on and get into the next camp. Ahead lay a steep rise on a moraine that slowed my progress to a crawl. In the background: BOOM!!!! From this peak and that, but it all seemed just a short distance behind us. If we could just top out on that rise, then scurry left into the bowl where camp hid!
At one point the fear and adrenaline of the approaching storm made my heart race so fast that I couldn’t keep moving. The exertion of hauling a 70lb pack up a steep rise at 14,500ft and my nerves were too much. I stopped and forced myself to forget about the lightning, accept the risk and move upward. I counted my steps. I counted my breaths. I never do this, but it took the focus off of lightning and me hauling tons of metal gear. Finally the top of the rise came into site and Ryan yelled some words of encouragement. It was just enough to push me over and into the psychological “safe zone”.
As soon as we crested the rise, winds picked up and the snow started to dump– not as graupel–but as wet snowflakes and it started to accumulate. The trail from here on contoured a rise into camp another quarter mile away.
We arrived to la Hollada and couldn´t see much of the surrounding terrain. There is some mild objective hazard from rock fall and across the valley is a giant glacier on the south face of Cerro Vallecitos. I haven’t seen much of it yet… Maybe when the weather breaks.
What a day. Looking back on the hike, it had to be one of the more memorable I´ve ever had and I´m glad it´s over. It is kinda fun to be snowbound up here for now. It’s summer and this should break soon according to the last forecast I saw, right? Then again, I hope this isn’t a sudestada…”
There weren´t too many pictures from the hike up to la Hollada. Once in camp, the only view I had was this: