Cordon del Plata
From Mendoza, we climbed 2,000m on the bikes to the ski resort of Vallecitos. There we left our bikes and set off up the main valley for a week to try and scramble up some of the peaks in the area.
1) Cerro Stepanek (4,114m)
During our first night of camping in the valley, at Las Veguitas (3,220m), our tent was nearly destroyed by katabatic winds which appeared out of nowhere. Luckily they only lasted half an hour, and our tent survived with just one very bent pole.
The next day we spent 6 hours walking from Las Veguitas, up the couloir between Stepanek (the peak above our tent in the centre of the photo) and Adolfo Calle (the peak to the left), then climbing both of these peaks.
The way up to Stepanek was a bit rough, with lots of loose rock, and our progress wasn’t helped by 3 dogs that followed us for 2 days from Vallecitos. They were much quicker climbers than us, and we were constantly on the lookout to avoid small rocks that they were sending down on us!
This photo is of Haz on the summit of Stepanek, with Rincon (5,318m) the flat peak above her in the background.
2) Cerro Adolfo Calle (4,269m)
The climb up to Adolfo Calle was much more simple, on an easy angled path, and from the summit we had great views up the Vallecitos valley to Cerro Vallecitos (5,461m – on the right of the photo) and Pico Plata.
After moving our camp up valley to Piedra Grande (at 3,570m) and then to El Salto (4,280m) we planned on climbing Cerro Vallecitos prior to Cerro Plata. However on the day we’d marked for the summit of Vallecitos the weather was cloudy and windy, so we settled instead for an acclimatization walk up to the Pico Plata/Lomas Amarillas col at 4,920m.
3) Cerro Plata (5,962m)
We set off to try and climb Cerro Plata from El Salto at 05:30 – it was -10C in our tent, and whenever one of us touched the roof we were both showered with snow which had condensed during the night. Fortunately there was no wind for the first 2 hours of the climb, but just before dawn we were at 5,000m and the temperature was around -15C.
The day was clear and the sun warmed us for a while, until we climbed to the Pico Plata/Vallecitos ridge at 5,200m where we encountered a strong and cold headwind.
From here there was a good path, that climbed gently to about 5,500m, then rose more steeply to the summit. As we weren’t that well acclimatized we found ourselves having to stop regularly on this final part of the climb as we quickly became out of breath. Shortly before the summit we came across a crashed helicopter – one of 2 (or maybe 3 – the locals told us slightly differing stories) which lie near the top of the mountain. From the summit there were great views of the surrounding mountains, and to Aconcagua and Mercedario further in the distance. Though it wasn’t cold on the top we didn’t stay long as Haz really began to feel the altitude. The descent took half the 6 hours we’d taken to ascend, and by the time we made it back to camp we were knackered, having walked 14kms and climbed/desecended 1,700m that day.
Some GPS points
|Vallecitos ski resort||32.98043 S||69.35452 W||2,788m|
|Las Veguitas camp||32.97642 S||69.37100 W||3,220m|
|Stepanek Summit||32.96914 S||69.39412 W||4,114m|
|Adolfo Calle Summit||32.97315 S||69.40024 W||4,269m|
|Piedra Grande camp||32.98131 S||69.38917 W||3,567m|
|El Salto camp||32.97952 S||69.41468 W||4,282m|
|Cerro Plata Summit||33.01594 S||69.45501 W||5,962m|