Friday, May 13, 2011

Out for a little clamber

The boys have had a pretty good run this week. On Friday we got down to Paloma (the other site) where we got to ride some of the best trails I have ever had the privilege to awkwardly bluff my way through (more on this later, and pictures here).

The weather was stunning then and beautiful the next day when we worked to make up the day riding, and it was flawless again today. So despite an already big week a bunch of the lads went on a mission we had been talking about for a little while. It turned out to be a pretty big day. If you’ve been looking at the photos I have been flooding the internet with you may have noticed an abundance of high peaks around the site. Today we went and conquered the most accessible specimen, located to the South of the lodge.

We kicked off at about 10am. Six hardy gents left the lodge determined to reach the top. Immediately we split into two groups; four of us rode to the helipad and walked from there while another two decided to take a more direct route on foot. The climb was cold and icy as we waited for the sun to come into the valley. After about an hour we had wound our way up to the Helipad, battling icy track conditions the entire way up.

From here the sun was high enough to do its thing and the day proceeded with magnificence. We headed straight up from the helipad with the goal of reaching the top of the hill (sort of a range adjacent to the main peak) and meeting up with the other boys before pushing on to the main peak. This part of the walk was fairly steep and went through lots of prickly scrub which had me thinking lustily of gators pretty quickly. We scrambled up towards a wee grove of trees that I had wanted to explore for a little while.

The boys relaxed in the sun while I went for a little poke around the autumn foliage. The bush had an inviting feel to it as the trees were widely spaced and sunlight freely penetrated the branches and leaves above me. I couldn’t help but think that it would be great to run some singletrack through there, although building a climb to it would be an ordeal. When I popped out of the trees the boys on foot had caught up and we smashed back some food.

Soon we were back at it and the terrain soon changed to something very similar to alpine New Zealand. There was lots of little scrubby and tussocky plant life growing closely to the ground, which was becoming increasingly rocky. Also, patches of unmelted snow had started to appear. The group stated to split up a bit as some were pushing hard to get to the top while others (like myself) took a pretty indirect line to maximise sightseeing opportunities. A whole bunch of other peaks had become available for our viewing pleasure as our sightline was no longer obscured by hills as it had been lower down.

As we got a bit higher we started to face rock and scree pretty exclusively. Although we had come a long way the top was still off in the distance a fair way, and it was getting steeper. I didn’t really enjoy this part of the outing so stopped at a biggish patch of snow and got some snaps of myself taken. The top section was very loose and I spent as much time sliding backwards as I did going forwards. But soon I was at the top (I was last by a bit at this stage as I had been off with the camera) and admiring the remarkable view.

From where we were there was a line of vicious-looking snowcapped peaks for a full 360 degrees. Also visible were Lago Azul and Lago Paloma filling the large valley down to the East of us. The day was mostly still (I only noticed a breeze at the summit and even then it was light), resulting in deep blue glassy lakes reflecting the surrounding hills. All in all, it was a pretty good place to eat a well-earned sandwich or two.

Afterwards we got into the photo taking and I made the call that I needed to get naked and drink the victory beer I had carted up from the lodge. While I was naked with my sculpted torso matching the snow for both whiteness and splendour the lads couldn’t resist unleashing with the snowballs. Luckily they all have a pretty rubbish aim so I didn’t get the pelting I deserved. Bedy then gave some convenient rocks a good rolling, which is always a fun time.

It was pretty chilly up there and we were soon on the mission back home, skreeing down the piles of small rocks. The walk home was kind of a drag as we’d been out and about for a fair few hours at this stage and the steepness of the hill was hard on the muscles and joints. We were much faster down than up (unsurprisingly) and it wasn’t too long before we were back to the bikes.

I was looking forward to the ride down as I was knocking off a track I had never ridden (the last one I had left to knock off at Desierto) but when the time came to ride it I had an absolute nightmare. As the track is named Night Terrors this was kind of appropriate. When the track ended I headed to more familiar pastures and got into the zone a bit more. The boys had all taken different ways down but we all arrived at the lodge at similar times. Soon we were sitting down to a late lunch which was an ideal conclusion to an eventful day.

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