Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in the mountains

The "Alpaymayo Basecamp Trek"
5 days
96 k´s
1 epic return bus ride

Day 1:
Some days are hard, some days are worse. Without letting my feet heal from the last romp in the mountains i set forth on this 5 day. Two and half hours of transportation later saw me standing at the trailhead with 5000 vertical feet of climbing and a pack loaded with 7 days of food and fuel ahead of me. I los t count of switchbacks after 67 and after 6 continues hours of climbing i finally made it to "camp" - a tight little nook of land between two lakes. The ground was glacial mud - if anyof you know this stuff you know how nasty it is. You take one step and half an inch of it sticks to your boots, you take another, you get another half inch and before you know it your 3 inches taller.

The Dogs, Hurting!

Guinnea Pig in a bag anyone? Little piggy goes to the market

There are some epic rivers around here, Class 5 big water and Class 5 Creaking everywhere!

The Trailhead

Already in the clouds

Despite how pristine or amazing the stream in front of you may look, unless its coming straight out of the bottom of a glacier or falling a thousand feet straight down a cliff that starts at a glacier, then its going to have cow shit it in. Since i have a purifier and not a filter i get to drink all of the cow ask how does cow shit taste? Grassy.

The weather is always´ll snow, rain, and shine sun on you all at the same time. Tricky business when you´re trying to layer up for this stuff. The sun burns you in 10 minutes, the snow freezes you and the rain soaks you and if you walk with layers you overheat...oh the joy of the wet season.

Happy? maybe...only 25 more switchbacks to go!

Day 1 done. Brutal.

And then the real storm begins...It started as snow, went to rain, then switched to snow just as the sun went down. It snowed for 8 straight hours

And this was what i woke to.

I thought day two was going to be a breeze. A morning climbing, a decent, another climb, a massive 3000 ft decent, a 10 k walk up a valley...doesn´t sound too bad. 8 hours later and broken i arrived at camp. This was turning out to be a bit much of a suffer fest

Walking toward the first pass...into oblivian. The snow made trail finding nasty and the foot deep heavy wet snow wasn´t great for going up...down on the other hand was awesome!

The clouds broke just after carving over the pass...what lay around was nothing short of spectacular

The Cordillera Negra´s...even they got snow in this storm.

Sucker hole...i thought it was clearing...clearly i was wrong

Look at the size of that missing ice chunk! thats like 600 vertical feet! Bet that woulda been fun to watch drop 6000 feet into the valley below

Plenty of good whitewater down these valleys

Check out the scree slope on that one

Check out the Moraine on that one! Finally...8 hours later, at camp!

And not a bad camp if i do say so myself

Nevada Alpamayo...voted the worlds most beautiful mountain by the 1966 German mountaineering association...seems silly, but still, hard to disagree.

Sunset was spectacular!

The Good Morning Pass...a mere 2 grand in vert

No switch backs on this one...straight up:

The weather still wasn´t breaking but at least the clouds broke for a moment to reveal the torquise lake hidden behind the giant pile of Moraine i staired at from camp.

The weather closes in at the pass...20 degree, blowing snow, no visibility...Como Se says "what the fuck are you doing up here alone?"

Down into the next valley the weather still wasn´t good but the geology had changed and as had the climate...much wetter and much greener and much more rounded.

Walking in a wasteland

Lots of good folding and faulting for you geology buffs out there

The next pass of the day, strait on ho!

River crossings are always fun when the drainages are swollen, you have a 55lb pack on your back and no running room... i haven´t fallen in yet, but its gonna happen sooner or later

How can you NOT look at that whitewater?

First view over the pass...more clouds!

Wait for it, wait for it...JUST THE TIP!!! ha

I really cant help might be runnable.

The sun cam out and i took the opurtunity to have lunch and let the dogs air out and rest a feet were killing me. I needed more fingers to count all my blisters.

Walking down the valley...3 families live a more or less isolated life out here herding alpaca, sheep and a few cow. The trail goes up the valley and to the right, behind the house.

I huffed it up the valley to where it flattened and called it a day...7 hours of walking. The sun came out, i showered in the stream next to my tent and noted how warm it felt. knowing there were hotsprings just 30 k´s away i wondered if maybe this little valley had something hiding in it. I was on a mission to find out.

Dressed for success and doing a goodluck jig I went sticking my finger in every spring i found to find the hot one...

Stuck my finger in it, but it wasn´t hot

Nope, not hot either

Or this one...

This little spring was huge...surely it was hot...i stuck my whole foot in...but nope..still cold

one last one for good luck? Nope, no such luck.

So green this time of year! My tent is in this picture right at the end of the you an idea of the size of this place when you compare it to the other pic of my tent 5 pics up.

And of course, horeses and cows shitting in the water...why wouldn´t they?!?!

Made some friends...they were a bit weary at first:

But soon came a bit closer...she was seriously prego.

Not half bad...waiting for the rain to start!

I also spotted the elusive Chinquillit that only lives in the rare non-glaciated high elevation valleys on the east side of the Andes...They´re believed to be a mix breed. Half Chinchila, half Squirrel, Half Rabbit...

The rare and elusive Andes Condor...serious though this time, really.

The rare yellow bellied curly haired barking goat

The elusive Andes scrubby warthog...only seen in packs during hoggin and truffle season...musta been hoggin season

The headwall and pass i´d be climbing tomorrow: It looked a bit steep to really be the pass so i took out my compass, took a bearing and sure enough, the magnetics didn´t lie. I was in for a doosey.

This guy obviously couldn´t handle the doosey:

Seashells at 16,000ft...i really didn´t give a shit since i was currently in a state of hyperventilating as i fought up the pass but i figured it was worth the shot...who woulda guessed, all the way up here...crazy

First view over the pass...sure enough, more clouds blocking the mountains..but it was a nice view of the valley i´d be tromping out of.

Storms building in the distance...always building

2,000 ft down, looking back up at the pass

Found this little abandoned house and claimed it as my own...mine

3 more hours down the valley and i was finally spat out into a much bigger valley...not before an epic fail though. This is the valley i dropped out of. I failed to find the bridge crossing to river left where the trail led you down gently over the last 600 vertical feet of dropping. Instead i bushwhacked, lost my jacket, lost my tent, shredded myself and was bleeding from my head, neck, legs and arms...I popped out on a ridge with 300 ft too go, noticed 3 men on the nxt ridge over wildly thrashing their arms at me...i wildly thrashed my arms back at them and made it very clear there was nooooooo fucking way i was walking back up where i had come from...i found a little goat trail and disappeared back into the bush eventually making down to the bigger valley. whooof

A real beaut of a place though...i walked to the very end of the valley to the last flat spot...took up residence next to the glacial river pouring down the headwall and called it a day!

Structurally sound, i swear.

The sun came out which warrented a bit of an explore and i found this beauty of a waterfall and went for a bath

Do not bathe in this

Epiphytes if im not mistaken?

Then of course, the weather sealed in and i spent Christmas Eve in my tent...not before though, the local bull from the local farmer came running up the valley with the local farmer in tow. i popped my head out of the tent and he looked over, gave a few wild frustrated swings of his arms in the general direction of his running-away bull and i returned a few wild arm swings to let him know i understood his frustratioin "stupid bull" and decided to dawn my flip-flops, ford the knee deep braided river and go have a yarn with the guy...I hadn´t talked to anyone in 4 days an i was going crazy and who better to chat with than a friendly frustrated farmer...we chatted about the weather, the bull, christmas, his lack of english, my shitty spanish, our names...nothing really but it was a great X'mas eve for me cause of it...i even played a quick came a flashlight tag with his house later on when i was outside taking a piss...oh the little things!

Waterfalls everywhere!

Right, there´s the weather...

Day 5 was a short 3 hour 15k trek down the valley to the big town...lots of good whitewater to look at.

Given it was christmas there were all sorts of parades...mostly small, but each different. I took up shop in the central plaza and wathched them all go around while i waited for my 10 hour bus back to the other side of the mountains


never figured out what this on meant..."Spikes ahead"? "Sharks in the water"? "Come splash in the waves, the water´s fine!"?

These guys had goats around their necks...i was waiting for the sacrafice...

The bus home, or back to Huaraz at least, took 10 hours, crossed the Cordillera Blanca on a pass at 16,000 ft. The road was dirt (mud) and the bus often skidded out...the road was only 2 feet wider than the bus on either side, often with 2000 ft of distance between the road and the bottom of the valley...i had the very front seat...i was awake for alllllll 10 hours. We only drove 200 or so K´s...thats 20 k´s per hour, thats 12 miles per hour for 10 straight hours...this was no highway, it was a glorified logging road with ruts and potholes and i´ll tell you what...i´d pay 6 dollars to do it again!
Not to mention that the 40 people who had seats were the long distance people, while the other 35 people in the eisles were just the local people who were using the long distance bus as their local bus...i shared my armrest with 2 women for the first two hours and only sat on the last 4 inches of my seat...they know how to pack people in here, thats for sure.
So that was last night...i left Pomabamba at 6:45 pm arrived here at 5 am. washed. did laundry and am leaving for a 30 hour bus ride tonight at 10:30 to Cusco - the general Machu Picchu area...let the good times roll!
Merry Christmas!