Two hours to Madrid, fourteen to Santiago. Thirty degree heat and a pisco sour, I find myself in Chile and about to embark on an epic journey south. Hills rise from the streets. A haze of smog below the Andes. Shade seekers somber the leafy plazas drinking cups of Mote. Welcome to Santiago!
Staying in the Bellas Artes area of Santiago I was in walking distance of two noteworthy green spaces. One was Cerro Santa Lucia, who’s garden climbs upto panoramas of the city. The other Parque Forestal, whose shady trees shadow the crowds below.
After a few lazy days in the parks and hills in the down town city, a sudden opportunity had occurred to join a small group of men to climb upto Glacier a la paloma at 2700 MASL north west of Santiago. Of course I jumped at the chance! With a few extra items of trekking gear purchased, I find myself ascending the andes, acclimatising to the altitude slowly.
Intense sun and brisk breeze. Swathes of shrubby Fabiana imbricata rub against laden rucksacks opening into drifts of Alstromeria, Loasa and Schizanthus hookerii.
Higher in altitude we climb. Shrub evolves to scrub. Greyness of rock overwhelms patches of green. Clung to pockets, alpines mound and meandering paths follow the stream. The wind bites as I step in a bog. The higher I climb, the plants embrace the rocks as a mother would her newborn.
We reached 3200 metres. Amongst the rocks and crevices camp was set up in ample time before dusk. Tents erected, we admired the glowing sky and the stars that followed. Head torches permitted us the use of our gas stoves and our high carbohydrate pasta combinations of tuna and tomato sauce.
Dawn aroused the senses of life and the eagerness to climb to the mirador of the glacier. Another 500 metre climb amongst sheets of ice and many dead end tracks. The use of a borrowed trekking pole kept you and the small day pack upright on the ice. The down jacket to keep you cosy and warm, the determination to keep you sane.
3516 MASL reached and break to admire the views. Silence. Awe. Joy. We had done it!