Sunday, May 09, 2010

useless trip statistics...

some useless statistics from the international portion of the trip:

number of countries visited: 33
number of days out of country: 332

time in transit (train/bus/car/boat/planes): 1,127 hours (46.9 days or 6.7 weeks)
total miles traveled from city to city (train/auto/boat/planes): 82,620 miles
number of nights on trains: 9
number of nights on buses: 9

number of nights camping: 70
number of days climbing: 38
number of nights eating pasta: 72

number of books read: 56 (robin); 49 (erick)

Friday, April 30, 2010

last installment of overseas photos

we made it home in one piece, now busy unpacking and dealing with stuff we haven't had to think about for a year.

just posted the last installment of photos from australia, pretty much all climbing photos. they're in the usual place:
http://picasaweb.google.com/robin.h.liu

Thursday, April 29, 2010

final days...

i guess it's been a while since the last post. we're in the brisbane airport right now, awaiting our flight to SFO via auckland, last leg of our trip. we'll have a month in the US before i go back to work, planning on a week climbing in the valley and a roadtrip to montana/seattle/portland to visit erick's family and some friends.

quick recap, from melbourne we headed up to canberra. spent a couple days climbing on ACT granite, very tuolumne like with lots of slab and also nice cracks. had some fun bushwhacking, it took 2 hours of bushwhacking to get to the start of one climb.

from there we headed to the coast and climbed a day at point perpendicular. unfortunately we timed it poorly and the weapons range was closed the first day we were there. spent that day bushwhacking and found some really dirty climbs we didn't want to get on. had a good day at point perpendicular though.

then headed into sydney to visit some cousins i'd never met before, then up the coast to corindi beach to visit a friend we met traveling in jordan and egypt at the end of last year.

from there, headed to frog buttress, renowned in australia for it's crack climbing. we had the whole place to ourselves for 3 days and got on some really great climbs. definitely worth a trip back there one day.

which brings us to the end of our international portion of our trip, hard to believe that we've been traveling out of the country for 11 months.

Friday, April 16, 2010

arapiles climbing

we just came back from our first taste of australian climbing. we decided to head to mount arapiles, about four hours northeast of melbourne, probably the most famous climbing area in australia. we lucked out with weather and had 3 great days, two bright and sunny, one a little cloudy. the climbing there took a little getting used to, everything is near vertical, even on very easy climbs. we climbed a grade 9 (equivalent to YDS 5.4) which is the steepest 5.4 we've ever seen.

we got in 3 good days of climbing, did a few of the classic routes but way too many routes there, you could easily spend months there and not make much of a dent in the book.

we drove through the grampians on the way back to melbourne today, just to check it out. rock and scenery look nice, next time we come down here we'll have to check out the climbing there.

next up, we slowly head up to brisbane starting tomorrow. we'll stop and climb a few places, tentatively ACT granite, point perpendicular, and frog buttress, as well as visit relatives in sydney and a friend we met traveling in the middle east on the coast.

climbing pictures from arapiles posted in the usual place:
http://picasaweb.google.com/robin.h.liu

Sunday, April 11, 2010

melbourne and tasmania

we've enjoyed our first week and a half in australia, visiting relatives in melbourne, eating lots and lots of good food, and sleeping in a bed.

the trip to tasmania with my parents was good and relaxing. we went to cradle mountain national park and then spent a few days on the east coast, visiting freycinet national park, tasman national park, and port arthur. one day erick and i hike out to the totem pole (probably the most famous climb in australia, at least the most picturesque) and saw a group of coloradans preparing to climb it with a cameraman in tow. didn't recognize them though...

next up, we'll head to mt. arapalise for 5 days to check out the climbing there and also a side trip to the grampians.

tasmania photos posted in the usual place:
http://picasaweb.google.com/robin.h.liu

Saturday, April 03, 2010

melbourne and new zealand pictures

we made it to melbourne and have been eating constantly for a few days. it's nice having a good shower and sleeping in a bed again. tomorrow we head off to tasmania for a week with my parents...

finally posted pictures from rarotonga and the month in new zealand in the usual place:
http://picasaweb.google.com/robin.h.liu

Monday, March 29, 2010

last days in NZ

our 4 weeks in NZ has passed quickly, we have two days left. from queenstown we headed down to te anau, with the intention of going to milford sound, probably the most famous attraction in NZ. unfortunately for us, two big storms rolled through and the area got 8 inches of rain overnight and a few thousand lightening strikes. there were landslides on the road, so they closed the road to milford sound for a few days and had to helicopter evac people off the milford track.

we headed down along the south coast to dunedin and did some easy climbing on the beach. then headed to mount cook and it cleared enough to see the lower glaciers. headed back to the coast to timaru, where we spent an hour searching for a climbing area which is supposed to have a 10 minute approach (we never found it) to the sounds of animals (cows?) screaming because they were being slaughtered. a horrific and disturbing sound.

then headed to castle hill, world renown for the bouldering, and bouldered a little. mostly walked around because erick can't really boulder and risk falling on his bad knee and i'm a big wuss, especially when we didn't have a crashpad.

new zealand was nice and fun, although we did a lot less hiking and climbing than we expected due to erick's accident. we think he has a minor sprain in his left knee, probably will be another month before it feels good, another few months before it's at full strength.

next up, we head to australia for our final country. we'll spend some time in melbourne with family and meet up with my parents. then we'll take a week trip with them to tasmania and hopefully some climbing after that, knee dependent. we're looking forward to sleeping in beds again after camping every night in NZ, good food and wine as well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

south island I

not too much to report, we've been on the south island a week and a half. been driving a lot. first went wine tasting in marlborough sound, hiking in able tasman np, climbing at paynes ford. headed down the west coast sight seeing, climbed an afternoon at charleston on sea cliffs then headed to wanaka. now we're in queenstown, will head to milford sound soon.

lots of driving, easy day hiking, a little climbing. erick got the stitches out of one knee but the other knee isn't doing too well, still inflamed and he can't straighten it. we'll get it looked at again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

north island

after spending a week touring the north island, we took the ferry down to the south island. it's a bit strange having a car but very nice. we've been staying at holiday parks, equivalent to the commercialized campgrounds in the US, due to the lack of public campgrounds. they've been very nice though, nice kitchens, washer and dryers, hot showers and generally very, very clean.

we first went up to the bay of islands, then down to rotorua to see some of the geothermal stuff then down to taupo, where they had just held an ironman. we spent a day climbing in beautiful whanganui bay. the road down was a bit rough and we scraped up the car a bit, good thing it was a rental and a well-used car. we only got on a couple climbs since we didn't have a guidebook and there were no other climbers there, so it was hard to judge how difficult the routes were.

we opted not to do the famous one-day tongariro crossing (dubbed the best one-day walk in NZ) and instead did a small portion of it and hiked up to the top of mt. ngauruhoe instead (mt. doom in lord of the rings). it's a cool looking volcano but unfortunately it was completely clouded over when we reached the summit so we could barely even see the lake in the crater. the ascent was hard work through loose scree and deep ash but the descent was very quick, scree-skiing most of the way.

went to egmont national park in the west and saw tarakana, the volcano the used as mt. fuji in the last samarai.

which leads us to the ferry. we had some time to kill before catching the ferry and erick decided to play on the trampoline at the campground. he successfully did a few flips but on the last one landed on the edge of the trampoline, hitting both knees on the metal edge and falling to the ground. the result was one badly bruised knee and one knee with two deep gashes (you could see the fatty tissue) but not much blood. fortunately there was a medical clinic close by and they stitched erick up in half an hour for only ~US$21 consultation fee. amazing how much cheaper and efficient the visit was than in the US. so we'll take it easy for a few days until he's able to hike and climb again.

Friday, March 05, 2010

LAX and rarotonga

we spent a nice 10 hours at LAX. we were going to stay in the airport, but after going through security we realized it really sucks. very few food options which are extremely expensive and not even a book store to buy a NZ guidebook. so we went out of the airport. a very friendly and enthusiastic security woman gave us good advise and told us how to get to an in-and-out via a parking shuttle. so we went there and found a baja fresh (burrito fix), trader joes (clif bars and chocolate), panera bread (free wifi), and a bargain bookstore with a NZ guidebook. pretty much we were in heaven. erick's friend ted and his wife jane cane out to meet us for dinner and took us to a ramen place, so pretty much we had the perfect layover.

rarotonga, the largest of the cook islands is beautiful. unfortunately we chose to go there during wet season, so it was really windy and cloudy the whole time with some showers so we didn't hang out on the beach or anything. the first day we rented bikes and biked around the island, 32 km. it was really beautiful with a nice lagoon and picturesque beaches. second day we did the cross-island track with a dutch girl staying at the same hostel. the trail was mostly through jungle, very steep and slippery and led to a big needle in the middle of the island with good views and ended at a waterfall.

we're now in new zealand, on the north island at the bay of islands. we decided to rent a car for our time here so we can climb and easily do hikes, etc. it's weird having a car again and driving everywhere. we are enjoying the english speaking everywhere and the friendly people. a week here on the north island then we take the ferry across to the south island for the remaining 3 weeks.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

chile earthquake

thanks for all the emails checking in on us. just wanted to let everyone know that we're fine, didn't even know about the earthquake until all the emails. we're in buenos aires, flying out tonight. we got very lucky with timing and deciding to fly out of argentina instead of chile. hopefully by the time we arrive in LA things will be more settled with the tsunami warnings since we're scheduled to fly to the cook islands.

Friday, February 26, 2010

south america climbing info

since we were carrying all our climbing gear for this leg of the trip, we wanted to make the most of it and sought out places to climb wherever we were. some places it was easy to get info, others not so much. we decided it might be useful to someone in the future looking for info on these climbing areas to post what we´ve found. the following is a summary of the places we climbed in bolivia, chile, and argentina. info is current as of early 2010 and recommended climbs only include the climbs we did.

bolivia
amor de dios
closest town: la paz
type of climbing: sport
type of rock: volcanic
guidebook: no, but route grades are written at the base of the routes
recommended gear: single rope, quickdraws
directions: amor de dios is located about 20 minutes SW of central la paz. you can take a bus there but it'd be hard to know where to get off. we took a taxi from town (20 Bs).
lodging: many hostels in la paz
number of climbs: good for a half day

chile
toconao
closest town: san pedro de atacama
type of climbing: top-rope, trad
type of rock: volcanic crack climbing
guidebook: no
recommended gear: single 60 m rope, anchor material (bolted anchors), single set of cams with doubles in the mid-sized if you want to lead or establish new climbs
directions: there are a couple buses that leave san pedro for toconao in the morning (the one we took left at 9:45 am from the bus station by the soccer field, CHP $1000) buses return to san pedro at 1:30 pm and 5:00 pm. from toconao, walk back along the road to san pedro until you reach the bridge. walk about 5 minutes up the canyon and you'll start to see anchors. set up the TRs or there is a steep path before you get to the climbs that leads to rock steps and a locked gate you have to climb over into the canyon.
lodging: many options in san pedro.
number of routes: about 5 top-rope anchors but lots of potential routes if you want to lead.

cochamo
closest town: cochamo, closest big town is puerto montt
type of climbing: sport, trad, aid
type of rock: granite
guidebook: no but big book of topos in the refugio
recommended gear: two ropes, full trad rack (set of stoppers, double set of cams), extendable draws, aid gear (if aiding or establishing new routes)
directions: from puerto montt take bus to cochamo (CHP $2000). we heard from others that the bus will skip the puerto varas stop if it is full, so it's best to go from puerto montt. from cochamo town, get a ride to the trailhead (9 km from town) or get off the bus at the bridge (6 km walk down a dirt road to the trailhead). hike the 10 km mud slog (4 - 6 hours) to the la junta camping area or 15 minutes further to the beautiful refugio. horses can be hired and are suggested if you have lots of gear. see the cochamo website (see below) for much more detailed info.
lodging: plenty of camping at la junta (CHP $2000/per person/night), stay in the refugio- dorms and private room, or camp/bivy at the farther climbing areas. water is safe to drink without treatment.
number of routes: enough to spend months there.
recommended routes: apnea (5.10b)
website: http://www.cochamo.com

argentina
refugio frey
closest town: bariloche
type of climbing: trad
type of rock: granite spires
guidebook: yes, photocopies of r. garibotti's "guia de escaladas refugio e. frey, cerro catedral, bariloche" are available only at club andino in bariloche (20 de febrero #30) for AGP $25.
recommended gear: single 50 m rope (two ropes would significantly increase the number of routes you could climb), full trad rack (set of stoppers, double set of cams), extendable draws
directions: from bariloche take the bus to catedral (runs every 1 1/2 hours from moreno 470, AGP $6). from catedral follow the signs to refugio frey from the left end of the parking lot. trail is 10 km and takes about 3 - 4 hours.
lodging: free camping, beds in refugio (AGP $40/night). water is safe to drink without treatment.
number of routes: enough to spend months there.
recommended routes: del frente (5+) on aguja la vieja cara noreste.

los arenales

closest town: el manzano historico, 135 km SW of mendoza
type of climbing: sport, trad, bouldering
type of rock: granite
guidebook: yes, mauricio fernandez's "escaladas en mendoza, mendoza rock and ice climbing" (AGP $80), available at most of the outdoor gear shops in mendoza (on espejo, las herras).  we found many inconsistencies between the written route description and topos for the grades and lengths. we found one rap anchor on el condor pasa had been moved about 5 m.
recommended gear: two ropes, full trad rack (set of stoppers, double set of cams, at least one wide piece BD #4 or larger for some routes), extendable draws, or only quickdraws if only sport climbing.
directions: if driving, drive south of mendoza on ruta 40 to tunuyan. in tunuyan follow signs to el mazano historico (42 km). continue on dirt/ gravel road west of el mazano historico when the pavement ends. after 12 km you will reach a guard station portinari, where you need to register. the bridge over los arenales river is another 2 km further. the refugio is 1 km up the canyon from the bridge (road not passable with most cars). via public transportation, a bus runs from tunuyan to el mazano historico only on weekends. in el mazano historico you can ask for a man named yagua to drive you up to the guard station or else hike up the road.
lodging: there's a loft in the refugio (free) or plenty of camping outside. there is one good campsite by the bridge. we were told that we couldn't camp by the first curve after the guard station, despite the suggestion in the guidebook. there is plenty of water, which we filtered because of all the horses and cows in the area.
number of routes: enough to spend months there.
recommended routes: samarkanda (6a+), andante con dulfer (6a),  el condor pasa (5+).

el salto
closest town: el salto, 90 km west of mendoza
type of climbing: sport
type of rock: volcanic
guidebook: "escaladas en mendoza" (see los arenales section for where to get guidebook)
recommended gear: single rope, quickdraws
directions: take ruta 7 west from mendoza. take porterillos exit and follow signs to el salto. just before entering el salto, you will cross a bridge over a small creek. take the first right (dirt road) after the bridge. there's an abandoned building that is partially destroyed on the corner, not a police station as depicted in the guidebook. drive about 1/2 km and you will see the rock and a small parking area.
lodging: camping and cabanas available in el salto and porterillos.
number of routes: good for a day of climbing.

capilla del monte
closest town: capilla del monte, 106 km north of cordoba.
type of climbing: sport, trad, bouldering
type of rock: granite
guidebook: "guia de escalada capilla del monte cordoba" (AGP $20). we bought our copy in capilla del monte at kiosco aguando (corner of buenos aires and belgrando). book is also available in cordoba and buenos aires and other places in capilla del monte. see the GECU webpage (http://www.gecu.com.ar) for the other locations.
recommended gear: single rope, quickdraws, full trad rack (set of stoppers, double set of cams) if planning on trad climbing.
directions: for los mogotes, walk north of town about 1 km on ruta 38 until the turn-off to paseo los mogotes. walk down road until climbing area. total 4 km from the center of town.
lodging: many camping, hostel, hotel, and cabana options in capilla del monte.
number of routes: in los mogotes, a day of climbing (many routes in the guidebook are quite vegetated).

capilla del monte

we spent a couple days in capilla del monte, about 120 km north of cordoba. after talking to a tour company and deciding we didn't want to pay them $75 to take us climbing, we found a place to buy the guidebook and headed to one of the areas, los mogotes ourselves.

it's a 4 km walk from the municipal campground, so not too bad. there's a few good slab routes and lots of dirty routes or very hard ones, so we didn't end up climbing too much. we later met a local climber who said the trad climbing at another area, paredones, was really good. next time.

now we're in buenos aires for a night and fly out tomorrow night for the cook islands, via LAX. amazing how fast our time in south america has passed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

new pics

posted new pics (mainly climbing ones) from the past month. in the usual place:

http://picasaweb.google.com/robin.h.liu

arenales climbing and mendoza wine tasting

we decided to take the chance and rent a car for the week from Mendoza.  the main purpose of the car was so we could easily access the climbing area los arenales, 140 km southwest of mendoza. without a car we could only get there on weekends and it would involve a 12 km hike up a dirt road from the town manzano historico unless we could find someone to drive us up.

from bariloche we took an overnight bus to mendoza and got the car. by pure random coincidence we ran into marc, a Canadian we'd met at cochamo, on the street in mendoza. crazy.

we spent a total of 5 days at arenales. weather wasn't great, lots of low clouds, some wind but also some nice sunny days. we got in 4 good days of climbing. unfortunately we were limited again by our small rack and only one rope, so stuck mainy with sport climbs. did a couple bolted trad- like climbs, samarkanda and andante con dulfer which were really good. did a number of sport climbs including el condor pasa, a fun 5-pitch sport climb and we did see a condor while climbing. wedidnt get to do any of the longer trad climbs and nice cracks due to our limited gear. not very many people there. the book had some wrong and conflicting info about route lengths and grades which got us in trouble once on a rappel. still it was a fun few days in a nice location and it feels good to be sore from climbing again.

in the middle of our arenales trip we went up to mendoza to meet up with don and martha. had a good dinner and next day went down to maipu for some wine tasting. they did the bike thing and we visited on winery with the car then went into the andes towards the Chilean border. had a good view of aconcagua, highest mountain in south america at 22,830 feet. decided we didn't want to pay to dayhike there and camped in uspallata, where "seven years in tibet" was filmed. headed down to arenales again with a stop in el salto to do a little sport climbing on volcanic rock. place was like an outdoor gym.

only little incident we had is we lost a little piece of the bumper, we have no idea how. maybe someone previously did that and glued it back and on the dirt road it fell off. we'll see how much that costs us. 

less than a week left in argentina/ south america. we'll next head to cordoba tomorrow night and check out capilla del monte and hopefully climb, then buenos aires then onto cook islands after a 10 hour layover at LAX.

Friday, February 12, 2010

bariloche, el bolson, frey climbing

on paper it was a great plan. erick and i would stay a night in bariloche, hike our camping and climbing gear up to refugio frey, stay 2 nights, climb 1 day, then come down and meet don. we'd buy food for a week, erick and i could carry that and some of don's gear since our packs would be empty with all our gear up at frey, we'd get one great week of climbing in and then head back to bariloche so don could meet up with another friend and we'd move on.

unfortunately the infamous Patagonian weather did not cooperate. the summer weather here this year has been all messed up due to el niƱo, very wet even in usually stable areas like bariloche.

erick and i did hike our camping gear up. it was really windy (30 mph winds with 50 mph gusts) for the 2 days. got up there to a few inches of snow. spent a cold and windy and rainy day sitting in the refugio. erick went to check on the tent and it didn't look good, the stakes were pulled up from the wind and the tent was held down by rocks. so Erick moved the tent and built up the rock wall wind break.

came down and met don. forecast was windy and rainy for a few more days. decided it wouldn't be fun sitting up there in rain and heavy wind for a few days. spent a couple days in bariloche eating lots of ice cream and drinking beer. then headed down to el bolson for 2 nights, a cute laid back town a couple hours south of here. went on a hike and ate a lot.

came back to bariloche, forecast looked good. hiked up the food and gear. miraculously our tent was still intact despite the constant 30 mph winds and gusts for the 4 days we were gone. good tent. weather cleared and we got in 2 days of climbing on 3 different spires. fun climbing and nice summits. unfortunately we were going to climb this morning before we hiked out but it was cloudy and windy and people told us it was forecast to rain. so we slowly packed up and right when we started hiking out the skies cleared and it was beautiful. we continued down.

so 2 days of climbing out of 6 planned days. guess that's patagonian weather. don's meeting another friend here. erick and i will stay a couple nights then take an overnight bus to Mendoza and make our way to aranales in search of more climbing with hopefully good weather.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

photos, finally

bought a new card reader and finally posted pictures through this past week.

pics at http://picasaweb.google.com/robin.h.liu

we're in bariloche now, hiked up a load of camping gear to refugio frey. unfortunately the weather is horrible, 40+ mph wind gusts, our tent stakes were pulled out. supposed to rain and continue being windy, but we met up with don and will hike up tomorrow and hope the weather will break so we can get a little climbing in...

Monday, February 01, 2010

some new photos

posted some new photos through the first part of bolivia (la paz, sorata, amor de dios). having problems with my card reader and can´t transfer the newer photos onto my flash drive, which is very frustrating...

http://picasaweb.google.com/robin.h.liu

Sunday, January 31, 2010

cochamo

we just got back from 8 days in cochamo valley. quite an adventure and not too much climbing.

the hike in is brutal, a mud waller. most of the trail is in the forest/jungle since the place is a rain forest. horses are used by many to pack in gear, so the trail us very rutted and eroded and full of horse crap. we hiked in after a few days of sun still half the time were going through mud puddles, bogs, streams. what made the hike in worse, besides carrying almost double the normal weight with camping, climbing gear, and food for 8 days was we couldn't get a ride from town to the trailhead and had to hike an extra 3 hours on the road. it took us 9 1/2 hours to hike in.

the valley is beautiful with tons of waterfalls and huge granite walls. the refugio is amazing with a zip line and cart across to it. all the approaches and hikes are long, boggy, and wet through the jungle. on one approach i ended up knee deep in mud and Erick had to help me get out. views from the peaks (we did a day hike up to arco iris) were amazing.

we lucked out with 5 days of sun and only 2 days of rain. got in 4 days of climbing. we had limited gear and only one rope so were limited to short routes. plus we're really out of climbing shape. routes were very dirty, spent one day cleaning a small crag with brushes and nut tools that had just been bolted (we got to do the first ascents after the bolting), found lots of dirty and flaring cracks. did one 2-pitch route with a 5-star splitter crack for the second pitch. that made the trip worth it. met some nice climbers as well.

the area is beautiful but we think yosemite is more striking. climbing wasn't that great, rock quality varied a lot and many cracks were flaring. really glad we went and saw it and climbed a little, it was a fun trip but i doubt we'll ever return.

will try to post pictures from the past month soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

valparaiso

we spent a couple days in valparaiso to break up the long bus journeys from northern chile down to puerto montt. valparaiso is a nice town, very hilly next to the ocean. the coolest thing about the town is that there's about 10 active funniculars, most about 100 years old, to go up the hills.

we'll head to puerto montt tonight on another long bus ride (15 hours) spend a night there then head to cochamo valley. it's supposed to be like yosemite valley without the tourists but just as much granite and tons of climbing route potential, splitter cracks, big walls. hopefully the weather will be good and we can stay there a week or so before heading to bariloche to meet don.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

atacama desert and toconao climbing

we arrived in san pedro de atacama located in the driest desert in the world. it's hot here. we did the must do touron attraction, sunset in valle de la luna. the company we went with had these huge trucks, like the dragoman overland vehicles. we hiked a little in valle de la meurte including running down big sand dunes, then ended up watching the sunset in the lunar landscape of valle de la luna.

while walking around looking for tours we discovered there's climbing areas nearby. we had a free day before our 24 hour busride to valparaiso so we decided to check it out.

took the bus about 45 minutes south to the next town, toconao. there's a gorge there with a few toprope anchors. found an anchor, set up our rope. met a local climber from san pedro in the gorge who joined us for a bit. climb turned out to be really fun. volcanic rock with a blocky start and the second half of the climb was a splitter hand crack reminicent of indian creek. even out of shape we had to do laps on the crack.

toproped another climb that was also fun, offwidth start to hand stacks to hands to an easy roof. quality. unfortunately we had to go catch the bus back. there's so much potential there, if it was in the US there'd be about 100 climbs developed in the area, many with splitter cracks.

uyuni salt flat tour

from la paz we took an overnight bus to uyuni where we started a 3-day tour of the 1st or 2nd (we heard differing info) largest salt lake in the world.

in our land cruiser was a driver, donatello, and 4 brazilian guys (2 groups of 2). only one spoke english and they mainly spoke portuguese, so we understood very little.

being off-season we were shocked at the number of tours going out. at one point we counted 60 land cruisers at one of the sights! and these tours go out every day. crazy.

first two days saw the salt lake, isla pescadero (island with lots of old cacti in middle of salt lake), colorful lagunas with many flamingos, laguna colorada which is red.

third day we were ready to leave at 5 am except this family in their own range rover who were following our driver couldn't start their car. combination of cold and altitude (14,000 ft). they kept flooding the engine and finally got it started after 45 minutes. there ended up being a big disagreement an hour later and we parted ways with the family.

after that entertainment we went and saw some geysers, stopped at a hot spring where the others went in, and saw laguna verde. the driver then dropped me and erick off at the chilean border.

so ended our time in bolivia and our chilean journey began in san pedro de atacama. we really liked bolivia and wish we could've stayed there longer to hike and climb but rainy season got in the way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

amor de dios

we decided we should at least attempt to get into climbing shape before we get to bariloche and meet don to climb in a month and also to justify carrying around all this heavy gear. we heard about a crag close to la paz and yesterday went to the local club andino to find out more info.

that visit in itself was an adventure. the office was a closet manned by a 70-something year old man who was the first bolivian to summit aconcagua 50 years ago. he didn't speak any english. after an hour talking with him and two english-speaking guides he called and found, we got the name of the crag, amor de dios, 20 minutes outside the center.

this morning was sunny and clear, so we took a taxi there. it's a small rock, about 40 ft tall with 15 routes are so. we ended up climbing about 6 routes and were exhausted after. met a couple nice bolivian guys who were very friendly and let us climb on their rope. also met a german man in his 50s who hasn't climbed in 5 years and put us to shame. all in all, a very fun and good day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

dos lagunas trek

from sorata we found a guide (or actually a guide found us) to do the 3 day dos lagunas (2 lakes) trek up into the mountains below the second and third highest peaks in bolivia, illampu and anchohuma.

the first day we hiked up out of sorata to laguna chillata, about 6 miles and 4,900 ft elevation gain. luckily the guide, willy, provided a pack mule to carry our packs. it would've been a brutal hike with so much elevation gain at that altitude. we got to camp just in time, set up our tent before the daily summer thunderstorm. it poured rain for over an hour. that evening due to user error of the camelbak on my part, i managed to drain half a liter of water onto erick's sleeping bag and over my stuff. erick had to deal with the wet down bag for the next two nights.

the next morning we woke up to clear skies and beautiful views of the mountains, which were obscured by fog and clouds the night before. set out on a dayhike to laguna glacial at 16,500 ft (5,028 m). about an hour after we set out the clouds started coming in. after 3 hours of hiking and 2,200 ft elevation gain, we were still an hour and a half from the lake. the weather was turning and the trail was getting more sketchy, lots of slab and exposed rock. i wussed out and decided to turn around because i knew i wouldn't be able to make it to the lake and back to camp before the afternoon thunderstorms came and i didn't want to downclimb the slick slabs in the rain. erick decided to turn around as well. it started sprinkling when we got close to camp. shortly after it started raining for 5 1/2 hours then on and off the rest of the night.

third day we set out after breakfast with the mule for the 3 1/2 hour, 4,900 ft descent back down to sorata. painful on the knees.

it was a nice trek even if we didn't make it to laguna glacial. our guide was really good and we somehow managed to somewhat communicate in spanish. nice views when the sun was out.

lima, la paz, lake titicaca

we made it to south america after four flights and a night layover in lima. we didn't do anything in Lima except stay in a hostel near the airport. nice hostel though.

flight to la paz was a bit exciting. got to fly through a thunderstorm and thunderheads landing in santa cruz, bolivia. unfortuanately the landing at la paz, the world's highest commercial airport and one of two that requires special training was very average and not exciting. landing in paro, bhutan was much, much better.

spent a couple days in la paz figuring things out and trying to get acclimated. flying from sea level to 12,000 ft is tough. erick acclimated much faster than i did.

from la paz we went up to lake titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake at ~12,500 ft. we took a boat from the town of copacabana to isla del sol and walked down the island, about 4 hours. we lucked out, the weather was beautiful, no rain. only bad part is erick got pretty good sun burns on his arms, neck, and forehead, where he deemed it wasn't neccessary to put sunscreen.

from copacabana we headed to sorata, which is in the cordierlla real and a good base for trekking. it's at 8,800 ft and almost seems tropical. we went on a three day trek, which i'll post in a separate post.

so far Bolivia is very nice, after acclimating. virtually no one speaks english and our spanish skills are basic at best, but we're getting around okay. of course in planning to come here we didn't check the seasons. i just assumed that summer here is like patagonia and dry season. instead it's wet season here, raining everyday for a couple hours. makes outdoor activities difficult and some travel impossible with washed out roads. we'll have to come back in bolivian winter someday, dry season.