We booked a tour with the local hostel to go trekking in the high Andes with the company Campo Base. Although the walk began at 2900m it was initially described to us as a constant gentle walk. By the time we had booked and were shown the more detailed description the incline has become moderate to difficult.
We were picked up from the B&B around 8:30 by a rather decrepit minibus and met our companions for the day. Our guide Roger was from Buenos Aires originally, but had been guiding for a while and was also a guide on Aconcagua. During the journey to the start of the walk he asked us whether we had any experience of walking at altitude. After we both replied ‘no’ he simply grinned.
Also on the bus was another guide from Campo Base, a guide from another company, a German (Steffan) and 2 other Argentinians.
The walk started at the ski resort of Vallecitos, about 2 1/2 hours from Mendoza. Unfortunately it took us about 3 hours to get to the resort, since the minibus struggled to get up anything more than a gentle incline (and the trip to Vallecitos was much much more than a gentle incline. Not only that but the road up to the resort proved too much for the minibus, which stopped working, resulting in an unplanned 10 minute repair stop.
The walk itself started next to the ski lift, but soon moved away from the lift onto more scenic territory. Roger kept the pace slow (his favoutite phrase was ‘tranquilo’) and encouraged us to keep drinking water and eating.
Although the inital walk was fairly steep, it was manageable, though Paola found the later stages challenged her vertigo since the adjacent slope was steep and the footing uncertain. Fortunately Roger didn’t rush us or make anyone feel that they were holding up the group.
When we got to the top of the peak (Lomas Blancas) we had fantastic views of the high mountain range behind, with peaks over 5000m and of the country around. The weather which had seemed so threatening earlier in the day, was now sunny and we looked down on fluffy clouds from 3850m.
On the trip down we saw guanacos and condors, and the treacherous footing soon gave way to an easy walk.
As my first experience of walking at altitude, I found it more challenging than usual, but manageable. At times we found that our hearts were racing, more than would we expected from our ‘tranquilo’ level of exersion. Paola also experienced a headache during the walk.
The walk was more difficult than we were originally told, although the detail that we were shown (after we paid) was more accurate. That said, I enjoyed myself (Paola rather less so) in our last day in the Andes before our trip to Buenos Aires.