Aconcagua Diary – It Starts Here

December 5, 2017


Aconcagua Diary: 2 December 2017

The climb out of Berowra Waters is so familiar I could it traverse it in the dark but today it feels a little tougher than usual. The humid air drapes its wet blanket over us and slows us down. We are barely begun and the sweat slicks off my arms, and salts my eyes. The cicadas are out for the first time this season, and the orchestra that is the Australian summer thrumbs deeper and harder the higher we climb. There are moments when we pass between one on each side of the track, both vibrating at the same time and their chorus feels like it’s resonating in your head. It makes my ears hurt until I step on and up. Is it my imagination or are there less and less cicadas each year? There are certainly less Christmas Beetles. Where have they all gone? Once upon a time thousands would inhabit the bush at this time of the year. Last weekend I saw one lonely sample who had come inside – and came perilously close to being killed by those he startled.

Our weekend is full so we have abbreviated our usual course, and reversed it. Variety is spice. But it’s also a shorter course but with two steep climbs in it which is what we are all about. The high stepping action up these rocks is excellent training we have discovered. We’ve used the course for Kokoda and Kilimanjaro and Nepal and are counting on it to help in our preparation for Aconcugua which now looms close – February. We’ve been coming out here most weekends now for four months and mixing this with our three nights a week in the gym. Its paying off as we climb this escarpment with relative ease, despite the humidity. But we keep pushing against the clock and that makes us sweat. Every bit of work here will be helpful on the mountain.

As we gain the ridge the breeze snaps in, much to our relief. The day is overcast which keeps the direct sun off us, a blessing. But that grey cloud has trapped warm air in the gullies which makes our walk that much harder. Up here, along a track burned out in September but showing signs of regrowth, the breeze is cooling, and thoroughly pleasant. If the sun was out this section fo the track would bake us dry. The fires have stripped the canopy off and the rocks over and through which we scramble radiate merciless heat.  We stop at our regular ‘Black Stump’ campsite and indulge an early lunch, something that amused other walkers who wandered through. But this walk can take the sap out of you pretty quickly so keeping the food up is a good idea. So too the sports drinks that keep us tanked up. We are counting on Aconcugua not being so humid. Indeed, our gear preparation has been very focused on making sure the cold weather clothing is appropriate. We have some final purchases to make but the hard core gear is all done. Protecting the extremities is the main thing.

We reverse our course. This profile means we have a harder ascent than descent, though Kavitha gets away on me on the downhill sections – I favour my knees in a way I should have as a younger chap. I catch up fairly quickly on the climb out of the creek, about half way down but she gets away again as we drop back to the water at Berowra. We pause and chat to some elderly English tourists who look like they are trying to induce grandma to climb the escarpment. They are in good humour despite the heat and steep track and I suspect are now heading back down the hill having discovered their folly. One of them is down at the lower steps and looking over the water. “Are there crocodiles in here?” he asks. I tell him we are too far south for those but that there is always the nagging worry about Bull Sharks in there whenever we swim. He looks startled at the prospect of swimming in such a place.

We finish at the “A Chef’s Secrets” café. In all the years I have been walking through here this is the first time I’ve stopped at this waterside café. I’m not sure what the secrets are supposed to be but we appreciate the cold drink and the coffee before we get back to our other weekend activities.

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