Getting high in Argentina

October 17, 2005

Jonathan and Soyan in the snow. Moving from Hyatt to hostel was quite a change. Rather than business poeple and couples, we shared our hostel with budget travellers and Chilean students on a “Senior Trip” AKA drunk fest. It was nice to chat with a few other travellers after leaving our very pleasant Hyatt cocoon. We spent two days getting to know Mendoza, since we had barely seen it while we had been at the Hyatt. Then we tried to figure out how to get high. We weren´t looking for drugs from our budget travelling brethren. We were in search of altitude to help us train for Kilimanjaro.

We flipped through a book of available excursions and booked 2 days of trekking in the mountains north of Mendoza. I should have been clued in that the suggested gear list included snow shoes.

The next morning, we took a van 2 hours north of Mendoza to the San Antonio Refugio at 8,446 feet. This is slightly more than 3000 feet above Denver, but nothing like Seth´s visit to Everest base camp.

Our guide looked at our boots with a hint of concern but pronounced them OK and than asked if we’d like to rent gators. I always thought gators looked silly and doubted that they served any useful purpose, but she seemed sincere. I noticed that the other couple going with us had gators on so we agreed to rent them. As we set out I noticed that our guide wasn´t wearing any gators and I wondered if I had been had.

I didn’t wonder long. We set out to climb to Andrecitos Summit with our guide and and another nice couple. After about 600 vertical feet the terrain turned from dry, rocky scrub to slushy snow and run off creeks everywhere. Many of the creeks run right under under the snow. They remain invisible until somebody heavy enough puts a foot down and locates it for the group.

This was the first time I had really hiked in the snow. I had seen snow before hiking in Colorado and in Nevada I had to cross 100 meters of snow from an avalanche shoot. This was different. This was crossing countless muddy creeks and hours of hiking with every step in snow, some times up to my knees and ocassionally to my hips. I now clearly understood why people want gators.

On both the climb and the descent we spent a little time looking for a geocache nearby. The altitude, the terain and the need to be back down for our fellow hikers to catch a bus prevented us from finding it. For those of you not familiar with geocaching, it is a sort of GPS assisted treasure hunt. You can read about it at and I’ll write more about it in the future.

At the end of the day, our boots were unsurprisingly soaked! A little ingenuity resulted in a way to dry them above our room heater for the next day.

The next day we were alone with our guide and it I realized that there had only been four pairs gators to spare the day before, so our guide had given up her gators for us the day before. Some moducum of faith in mankind was restored. Gators in place, we set out on a steep climb gaining 1100 feet in just 3/4 of a mile. Our final destination for the day was a high plane (10,580 feet) used as a camping spot for summit attempts of the nearby peaks. It was a hard hike up, but once we had some lunch I felt like I could have kept on going, but we had a bus to catch and so we headed down.

This is where I discovered the joy of hiking in the snow. The descent was a breeze. We dropped 1700 feet in 45 minutes. The snow acted as a shock absorber and a brake letting me practically skip down the mountain. Of course every now and again a leg would suddenly vanish up to the hip. Nonetheless, I was sorry to see the snow end because walking on the loose rock was a lot more work.

The scenery was beautiful and gave me a little taste of what hiking in the snow is like. With Kilimanjaro just 10 weeks away, I am going to need a lot more to get ready. So we’ll keep looking for ways to get high.

Soyan has written about our hike here.


  1. [...] Jonathan is honing his photography skills to new heights. The upside is that we have great photos, especially of me. The downside for him is that photos of him are taken either by me, or depend on strangers taking shots of the both of us. Check out his post on snow trekking. Filed under: South America, Argentina — Soyan @ 6:56 pm [...]

    Pingback by Soyan Says… » Trekking in the snow — October 17, 2005 @ 5:42 pm

  2. Getting high in Argentina

    [Source: World Unfurled”¦ An entrepreneur sells his company to travel, taking a trip from Antarctica to Zaire.] quoted: It was nice to chat with a few other travellers after leaving our very pleasant Hyatt cocoon. We spent two days getting t…

    Trackback by Sporting Outdoors — October 22, 2005 @ 10:16 pm

  3. [...] Months ago we went in search of altitude to prepare us for our Kilimanjaro climb (which is now just a scant six days away). Last week we came to La Paz, Bolivia to acclimatize as much as we could just before we headed to Africa. Our hotel is at about 12,000 feet. This is more than twice as high as Denver. As soon as we got off the plane, it was abundantly clear just what that would mean. As I exited the plane, I watched a Japanese tourist hurry in front of me. Within ten steps he was swaying like a drunk teenager as he hurried to get his bags. I hope he stopped at the emergency oxygen medical station in the baggage claim. That’s right-there is emergency oxygen at the baggage claim. [...]

    Pingback by World Unfurled… An entrepreneur sells his company and travels the world. » Getting Really High in Bolivia — December 21, 2005 @ 10:57 am

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