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Days 4-7 from Mendoza to Puenta del Inca

My first impression of Mendoza is that it looks like my hometown of Bishkek: canals and trees along the roads (although, unfortunately, trees are cut down in many places in Bishkek to widen the roads), the rectangular layout of the city, even houses hidden behind high fences with large gates. As in Bishkek, here in Mendoza one day is enough to see all the sights – a giant park, Independence Square and wonderful pedestrian streets. Tourists come to Mendoza rather for food and wine. So much meat I had these couple of days, I probably did not eat that amount in the whole year. The meat here iamazing: it turns out tender and juicy.

All the team members soon arrived one by one: from the Pink Summits this time we had Rudiger, who traveled with us in Kyrgyzstan during expeditions to Leipzig Peak and Putin Peak. Everyone else was new to me. One participant was unlucky: his luggage did not arrive on time and he had to stay in the city and wait. This unfortunately meant additional costs. Therefore, for such expensive expeditions, it is very important to have full insurance in case of luggage loss or delay, so that you do not have to spend extra money on renting or buying equipment. It is advisable also tbuy tickets from the company organizing the expedition. In this case, this company will be responsible for all problems with the flight and baggage. Or you can do as we have done: arrive on your own a few days before the start of the expedition.

I didn’t have much free time in Mendoza. All the time free from food, talks and walks, I worked. At the end of the year there was a lot of stress at my jobs. I even had to work in the gorge right before our acclimatization hike near Puenta del Inca. I was looked askance at by other climbers when I pulled out my gigantic work laptop, keyboard and mouse at the beginning of the expedition and worked until midnight. Oddly enough, I am very productive and manage to get a lot of work done when I travel.

Day 7 – Puenta del Inca

On the way to Puente del Inca, we stopped for lunch at one of the roadside eateries with grilled eat. The choice was only between an all-you-can-eat lunch or one meal from the menu at the price of the all-inclusive lunch 🙂 There is a choice, but at the same time there is no choice: everyone had to order a full buffet.

In Puente del Inca, we first arrived at the camp, where we had to unpack our luggage and send some to the upper base camp, and the other part to the lower one. It was not easy to decide what exactly to send to the upper camp, because it is not clear what kind of weather awaits us below for the first three days of the expedition. I also didn’t want to carry a bunch of things, but I nevertheless came to some reasonable decision: I definitely need to take some protection from wind, rain and cold with me.

We were expecting to spend the night at a hotel in Penitentes that day, but we were brought to an army unit instead. Imagine my surprise when I saw a soldier with a Kalashnikov-type gun at the entrance. We were warned that we will have another place to stay, but the fact that we would live in a functioning military barracks was a complete surprise for us.

Inside, everything was in spartan conditions: sleeping rooms with bunk beds for 6-8 people, shared showers, smelly toilets and washbasins without soap. It was somehow cool though: after all, I had never spent a night in an army hostel. For army standards, I think we had still chic conditions with fresh linens, hot water and a delicious dinner.

However, the evening was chaotic: a lot of climbers arrived and the kitchen couldn’t keep up. Only two people worked there: a cook and a waiter. At the same time, the waiter was both a receptionist, an interpreter, and a logistician. I was completely amazed how they managed it all. Army discipline maybe?

After dinner, a cold and long night awaited me: I didn’t sleep well and at the same time I was sick for the last few days. I had a cold with a cough, headache, sore throat and running nose. Good that I had no fever. How am I going to climb mountains while being sick?

Day 8 – First Acclimatization Tour

After a hearty breakfast, we set off along the railroad to the bridge over the Mendoza River. It was sunny and very hot. My whole back was completely sweaty. The railway bridge turned out to be not for the faint hearts and those who are afraid of heights – there were giant openings between the beams. There was only one thought in my head: how not to fall into this stormy river or onto the large stones below. Such a fall would certainly have ended in serious injury, if not death.

After crossing the bridge we went up into the mountains. The weather had changed rapidly: it suddenly became cold and overcast, then a strong wind blew, a thunderstorm began with frightening thunder, and finally it started to snow. All possible and unthinkable weather conditions happened in just one hour.

On top of the mountain we had a quick meal and went straight back down – it was very cold up there. We didn’t want to be there longer, despite the beautiful panoramas around us: a part of Mount Aconcagua was visible in front of us, the deep gorge of Mendoza laid below us, and stunning mountain landscapes resembling the rocks of the wild west opened up behind us. It was unpleasant to go down: there was a lot of dust and rubble around, which constantly got inside the boots. At least the sun came out and it immediately became warmer.

After we crossed that dangerous bridge again, we went to the climbers’ cemetery, where each burial was decorated with boots, ice axes and other mountaineering equipment of the deceased This is another reminder of how dangerous mountains can be. The most important thing for all of us is to return alive and healthy.

The day ended back in Puente del Inca: some of us were surfing the Internet, and some of us were drinking beer. I went to buy magnets for my mom. She actively collects them: we already have an entire refrigerator full of magneets back at home in Bishkek. When I ask my mom what she will do if there is no more space on the refrigerator for her magnets. She replies: “I’ll buy a new fridge!”

After sending a couple of messages to my mom to let her know that I was fine, I returned with Chris to the “hotel”. After I took a hot shower and drank paracetamol, my head stopped hurting and I felt much better, but a strong cough continued to torment me all day and all night.

Nicholas arrived during dinner: his luggage still didn’t arrive and he had to buy or rent things at exorbitant prices. Most importantly, we are now altogether as a team ready to go to our first camp called Confluencia.

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