Argentina Adventures

Mountain Climbing in the Andes

Two Months, 21,000 ft., Nov-Dec 2007

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Part 3 page 3 of 3
Back at it again, in a different area.
Our high camp at 19,500 feet, Jenny is mining snow for melting.

About the mountains themselves, no mountains in the contiguous U.S. are so high, which is why we are here. For example, our recent base camp was about as high as the tallest mountains in the States. (We spent two weeks climbing above this base camp, to 20,500' this time.) We are here, not because we want to climb the highest mountains, but because we want to learn all we can about climbing and camping at altitude - first hand, and we are interested in developing our own clothing and equipment. The Himalayas would be good for this also, but there is no town comparable to Mendoza a few hours away. So this region is very convenient.

Now, in the wake of these two months we are heading home with a host of new ideas for gear, food, and strategy. For example, for this trip we took the same type of clothing that we used in Antarctica. They were perfect there, but we found that they were not in the least appropriate in the ultra high mountains. So its back to the drawing board with them.

Also, I plan to write in detail about the MSR stove that failed at 19,000'. This particular stove is a popular model with what I feel might be a design flaw.

* * *

We are back in Mendoza after a 16-day stint in the high mountains. That was so fun!! In fact, we enjoyed the entire trip so much that we're thinking of returning next year. But for now, with bodies worn out but minds refreshed we're heading home. We plan to reopen our business Feb 1. A big "thank you" to our customers who have been waiting to place orders.

The main attraction here is the Andes above 16,000 feet, and the town of Mendoza, which is only a few hours away by bus. The bus ride between the two is only $5.00. So after spending 2 or 3 weeks in the mountains we can come down and spend a few days with all the luxuries a city can offer.

We have stayed at the same hotel four times, and the staff is beginning to treat us almost like family. They worry about us while we are away (due to the newspaper stories of frostbite and even deaths in the mountains) and they are glad to see us when we return.---The restaurant next door serves good hamburgers made with Argentine beef, and good French fries. If you ever wondered what French fries tasted like back in the fifties (without all the artificial ingredients and processing), this is it.

Speaking of additives, we don't enjoy eating meats purchased in America, mainly because of all the horrible additives, hormones, antibiotics, and the whole host of other "ingredients" they contain, but here it's a different story.

Vegetarians take note: what happens in Argentina, stays in Argentina  

Two blocks away is a restaurant with outside seating that shouldn't be missed. There is nothing even remotely like it in the U.S. For $8.00 you can feast on open-range, succulent, char-broiled steak, etc, and have more than enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

A couple of blocks east of the grocery store are a bunch of restaurants that serve excellent food at even lower prices. For example, all-you-can eat parilla (beef, pork, chicken, sausages, etc grilled on an open hard-wood fire), salad bar, pasta etc, and a big dessert table including fresh fruit with my favorite: large figs - all this for $6.50.

Our favorite food by far, however, comes out of the grocery store. This is jugo de whatever sold under the brand name Citric. This is so good that it would probably be banned in the U.S.

The nearest grocery store is two bocks away and is comparable to those in the States. This is where we buy all of our food for our climbing outings. As a rule, the Argentineans are not fat, and this is reflected in their diets. We think the local cookies and candy, for example, are not very good, so no one must eat them   There is no such thing as pancakes down here, or the like. That said, around town are ice cream shops galore, and the best ones are usually packed with customers. Again, the best ice cream tastes like something out of the fifties, and it comes in dozens of interesting flavors. After a few days of this, it is good for the body to get back in the mountains  

Speaking of grocery stores, while Jenny is shopping for groceries, I'm sitting the included coffee shop writing this update on my ipaq and transmitting it with WiFi.

A note about the people: The Argentineans are something like 97 percent European descent and the city of Mendoza looks like something you might find in Spain or Italy. The people speak Spanish, and most will gladly help you learn. They don't understand much English, but ironically they seem to like American music, movies, and tv. They have 30 tv channels; only about half of them are Argentine.

By the way, for the guys, here's the good news! The city of Mendoza is absolutely packed with pretty girls. I've never seen anything like it. And now for the bad news: unless you are a handsome Argentine, they won't even look at you  

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