Aconcagua Expedition: Mallory & Team Head for the Mountains
Finally with all of our gear, we left Mendoza this morning and headed for the mountains. The tree-lined streets of Mendoza gave away to carefully tended vineyards that produce the famed Malbec wine for which Mendoza is known. The road led into the foothills of the Andes, weaving along the edge of the thick red Mendoza River. The small hills soon grew to tall mountains and the road began passing through tunnels carved through the rock in the mountain sides. By midday we reached the ski outpost of Penitentes, a handful of kilometers from the Chilean border. Penitentes, no more than a few buildings with long slanted tat break the incessant winds, is a ski resort in the winter and a staging ground for Aconcagua climbers in the summer.
We spent the afternoon in Penitentes preparing our gear for the mountain. We set up and checked our tents, fired up the stoves, and packed our food and fuel into tight, well protected containers to endure the jostling of the mules on the approach to Base Camp. Once our loads were prepared, we ventured up the valley to Punta del Inca, a famous natural bridge created from geothermal springs that spans the entire river. Decades ago visitors would drive their cars across it. We ventured a bit further up the road to the mouth of the Horocones Valley where we caught our first views of Aconcagua since reaching Mendoza. Capped in clouds and new snow, the mountain’s impressive south face loomed over the head of the Horocones Valley. It was an impressive, exciting, and humbling moment.
We are settled into our Hosteria now, enjoying the thin cold air, and happy to finally be in the mountains.