Part 8: Mendoza to Aconcagua (Part 2)


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The Trip

We continued up RN-7 toward the border with Chile.  Our plan was to get "close" to the border and see Aconcagua, the tallest peak in the Americas.  At approximately 22,000 feet this is a formidable challenge for even the most seasoned climbers.  Many people die each year attempting this peak because they underestimate the difficulty of the ascent.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

As the highway continued toward the Chilean border, the canyon revealed a multitude of different strata beneath the peaks.  Bands, stripes, subtle hues due to mineralization and volcanic outcrops became visible.

In the bright sun, subtle colors in the rocks were visible.

High up on the side of the cliff were outcrops of lighter materials.  Below, were volcanic outcrops.

The old road was visible across the canyon.  Big portions of the road were washed away by landslides and falling scree.  Above, the road has been co-opted by mountain bikers, the path clearly visible.  Also visible is a new water course that runs through the scree.  How the scree has been displaced up and over to the side is a mystery.  The scree slopes are nearly impossible to walk up, but easy to go down if you don't mind being chased by a few falling boulders and a million tons of sliding material.

The colors in this cliff were fantastic.

More examples of large, steep cliffs with huge scree fans at their base.  The Trans-Andean power lines are visible in the photo above.

The weather was totally clear resulting in a brilliant, azure sky.  Note the red colors on the skyline at the left of the photo above.

We are getting closer to the Chilean border; the old railroad tracks are visible along side of the current highway.

The tracks on the mountainside are part of the Penitente ski area.

Every new turn in the highway revealed massive rugged cliffs.  Note that the left peak in the photo above is of dark colored rock, likely volcanic.

At the Penitente ski area we spotted this Thor clone, only much newer.  Unlike my Mercedes 1017A, this is a 1725A: 17 metric tons GVW and 250 horsepower.  Or perhaps 250 kW (which would be about 325 horsepower)

This is a well-built rig used for shuttling folks around the back-country.

Rugged cliffs and huge alluvial fans.

Layers of limestone were exposed further up the canyon.

Our first view of Aconcagua.

Aconcagua peak is within a Argentine provincial park.  To get past the marker, a permit was required.  The parking area was at about 10,000 feet.

We parked in the parking lot (no permit required) and walked to the nearby viewpoint to get a better view of Aconcagua.  Note the huge cornices just waiting to slide onto unsuspecting victims.

I normally don't take photos of myself, but Kathleen insisted on memorializing the moment.

What comes around, goes around so I got a photo of Kathleen facing Aconcagua.  Note the white material exposed on the upper peaks.  Recall that we are at 10,000 feet, so these peaks are way higher.

We turned around at the park as the Chilean border was only 5 km away.  Because we had a rental car, crossing the border was impossible so it was easier to just turn around.  On the downhill path, we spotted these awesome cliffs, curtains and spires on the south side of the canyon.

The odd white structure is some kind of religious site.

The sun illuminated the multi-colored strata: volcanic below, lighter material above and still more material on top of that.  These are huge peaks.

Another view of the Rio Mendoza valley.  We are still high in the Andes.

The Andes Mountains have had a tortured past.  The range has suffered warping, folding, uplifting and volcanism due to the proximity to a crustal boundary and associated subduction zone.  Note the angle of the up-turned bedding in the photo above.

Because no journey of ours is complete until we see a Unimog, we spotted this soft top 416 along the abandoned railroad track.  Because of the quality of construction of the house, I assume it was part of the railroad system and has now been taken over by squatters who use the mog as their transport vehicle.  Or, it could be part of the Argentine Army who had multiple bases along the highway due to the proximity of the border with Chile.

We continued down the canyon to a small town called Uspallata and found a hotel for the night. With the exception of Iguazu Falls, this day trip has been the highlight of our visit here in Argentina.  We have about 2 weeks left, so there is plenty of time left to surpass this awesome experience.

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