Mendoza - Day 3-5

Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 3 - 09/01/09

The Dakar rally passed through Mendoza this morning, the rally has been re-routed to the Americas from Africa due to troubles on the original route. Was fantastic to watch these noisy supped-up 4x4's driving through the city. Most of the vehicles were modified Toyota's looking rather dirty and worse for wear after their epic journey's across the South American continent.

After watching the cars for an hour or so I had a walk around the wide boulevards lined with mature sycamore trees. Mendoza is such a pretty city. Plaza Independencia at the city's core is a beautiful open park space with fountains, walkways, market stalls and hundreds of locals enjoying this idyllic spot. Had some lunch and returned to the hotel to meet up with the expedition lead. Spend the afternoon shopping for food stuffs for when were high on the mountain. At base camp there's a company which provides food for when we're resting and acclimatising but up high we need to provide and cook our own grub.

Another member of the climbing team arrived this afternoon from Ireland, so we went out for a bite to eat in the evening and a few cheeky beers on one of Mendoza'a cosmopolitan boulevards. Mendoza has a real café culture with the pavements littered  with tables and chairs from the numerous cafe's and bars.

Day 4 - 10/01/09

Spend most of the morning sat outside a café on Mendoza's main drag, eating, drinking and people watching. Mendoza's a fantastic place to just sit around and do nothing and that's exactly what I did this morning. In the afternoon I went shopping for some last minute supplies and generally chilled out around the city centre.

The two remaining guys doing the climb arrived at the hotel this afternoon, so the team is now complete! This evening we went out to a fantastic all you can eat Argentinean barbecue. Eat some amazing steaks, just wish I could eat more, need to store those calories for the climb. I expect to lose at least 5 kilo's in weight while I'm on the mountain.

Day 5 - 11/01/09

We obtained our climbing permits this morning. It was actually a relatively stress free procedure. Handed our passports and permit forms to the clerk and within 15 minutes we had the permits in our hands. All the formalities are now complete and we're ready to go. We returned to the hotel for a talk about the climb with the expedition lead. We discussed the climbing itinerary, tents, cooking, keeping healthy on the mountain, the usual stuff. We also had a delightful conversation about shitting on the mountain. Above basecamp we have to shit in plastic bags and carry it back to base camp for disposal, nice! Never had to do this on a mountain before, certainly will be a new and interesting experience!

Found out today that 4 people died on the mountain in the last week. Not a great piece of information to find out the day before we're due to set off to climb this temperamental and fickle peak. One of the victims was British too, a very sobering realisation that this is going to be a seriously difficult and dangerous climb. We first found out about the deaths from an American climber who we bumped into in a camp shop. He was on the peak when the deaths occurred, and he lost a member of his team. His parting gambit to us when we said our farewells was "Have a good time on the mountain and stay alive". The way I see it, if your times up, it's up. I could get run over by a bus, life is for living and doing things that are challenging and exciting is what life is all about. This s not something I'll lose sleep over, although I feel very sad for the people that perished on the mountain over the last few days.

The weather on the mountain over the last couple of weeks has apparently been completely horrendous. Heavy snow storms and high winds with bitter temperatures. A Brazilian team were confined to there tents at base camp for 5 days due to the heavy snow. They had to come off the mountain when the conditions improved because they'd lost so much time. The permit is only valid for 20 days so they'd be no chance for them to get up and down after losing so much climbing time due to the weather conditions.

I organised all my mountain gear this afternoon for our departure tomorrow, had to separate my kit into two bags. One bag will be taken to base camp by mules, this bag contains all my cold weather gear, crampons, down jackets, boots etc. The other bag I will carry to base camp myself and contains equipment I need for the two day hike to base camp. Wish me luck!
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