Besides guiding, he was also in charge of organizing the rest of the trip and to get Argentine money, he called his friend to do some money exchange. Since the peso is losing a lot of value, they are happy to by dollars and Euros to a very nice exchange rate (Official: 6.5 ; in Restaurants 8.5, "Dollar Blue" 10.0 USD). So, a nice men enteres the hotel you lead him to your room, where you first place the dollars / Euros and he provides the matching amount in Peso. Everyone is happy after the trade...
Getting the permit is another story the next day: first, you need 5'000 Peso in Cash (depending on the rate above, this is more or less) and your passport and a piece of paper Ilan filled out. With this, you walk down the road to get to a "rapi-pago" place where you cash in the 5'000 Peso and get a receipt. With this receipt, you head to the main office of the parque Aconcagua, sign some papers and receive finally your permit.
Before leaving, we rented the missing equipements (e.g. special boots that look like skying boots) and we had a nice piece of meat before going to bed. Next day, we headed to Uspallata (a place where the movie "7 years in Tibet" was shot) and stayed on night there in a big hotel that, to our bad luck, was hosting about 100 old age pensioner (German: Typische Kaffeefahrt Gäste) that were having a party in this hotel (luckily only till midnight). Leaving the place in the morning, we continued to drive up to 2400 m altitude to start our hike at punta de Vacas (well, we did not see a single cow.... they must have been eaten by the other hikers before)! A nice hike along a river to our first night in tents (YEAH! Camping!!) at pampa de lenas. Instead of "punta de vacas" we suggest to rename the start to "punta de mulas" since we have seen quite a lot of them. They are used to bring our luggage and food, etc. to the camp sites.
|Mulas on their way|
|Casa de Piedras|
|Base Camp - Plaza Argentina|
Day 4: Resting day. Medical check to see if we are aclimatized already to this altitude. All of us passed :-) . Not moving too quickly, drinking tea, reading, waiting for dinner.
Day 5: A little correctiton: sleeping in a tent is definitely not fun if a winterstorm is rushing through the camp. Snow and wind kept us up all night.... but we still had to do some aclimatization hikes, so we climbed "cerro Collorado" next to the camp.Fortunately, the sun was out and melted away the snow quickly.
|Aconcagua - 6962 m|
|Swiss Hiker group|
|Aconcagua and penitentes|
|Man on Aconcagua|
Day 10: The weatherforecast seems to be good and we are in a pretty good condition as well. So, we pack our stuff and hike up to campo 3 on 6'000 m. At the beginning a steep hike, becoming better after a while. And the tension is rising. If everything works as planned, we'll try to climb the montain the next morning. So, we go early to bed (but taking some pictures before) to be ready for the day.
|Campo 3 - 6000 m|
|Sunset at 6000 m|
Besides our guide Ilan, another guide / porter is with us, Hugo. Unfortunately, the group get's split into two and we get Hugo as our lead.... well, we have seen better guiding. Instead leading in a constant pace (as Ilan did) he goes fast and slow in cycles... so the way up to the next place for a break becomes very difficult. Nevertheless, we made it up to "las cuevas" a good place for a break. Unfortunately, the weather turns to it's bad side: snow and wind and fog are now all over the place.Not the best conditions for hiking up such a tall mountain, but we keep going.
At about 6'800 m the weather is still bad (even worse) and the guiding not better. After a break, we decide to prefere to have a save descend rather than trying to reach the summit. So, we won't make it to the top, but the view is anyway not good (so no panorama pictures) and a safe descend is important!
The way down is much quicker and we arrive around 18.00 campo 3 again, where we stay one more night.
|View from 6'400 m (Refugio Independencia)|
|Going down again|
As in some airports, our luggage did not make it down the mountain on time, but some other sleeping bags were quickly organized and we could sleep in a fixed tent with beds instead of our tents!
|Base Camp - Plaza de Mulas|
|Puente del Inca|