From Copiapo I headed inland, aiming for Paso SanFrancisco, and eventually into Argentina. I planned to spend a few days at the pass, acclimatising before heading into Argentina to climb.
The road up is spectacular -as all thing seem to be in the Andes. Winding up narrow gorges, past small green oases in the barrenness and into the grass covered high altitude climate. Vicuñas abound (a high altitude camelid, a close relative of the llama), seemingly eating dirt, but obviously healthy and their numbers increasing each year after hunting decimated them years ago.
I camped at laguna verde near the climbers’ hut. Very rough, but has a warm thermal pool in the back room, and it keeps the edge off the temperate of the lake when swimming. 4300m is now my swimming altitude record!
The days were hot in the strong sun, but a constant cool wind kept the temperature bearable. Nights were clear and freezing.
Ominously, the weather appeared little better this much further south – clear morning giving rise to thunderstorms, hail and sleet on the Argentinian side of the border, some 10kms away.