11 August 2008

Cerro Manchón

A great day for climbing around in the Andes--fairly cool, a high cloud ceiling, and a slight breeze--but a lousy day for pictures.

My dictionary says that manchón means "a large stain or spot." I'll admit that it's not the most aesthetic chunk of rock in the neighborhood, nor is it the highest. It's neighborhood, known as the Grupo Plomo, contains some hefty and very aesthetic chunks of rock: Cerros Plomo, La Paloma, Leonara, Parva, Pintor, Altar, Altar Falso, and Bismark, among many others. So the competition is heavily weighted. But a stain or spot?

At any rate, at about 3,700 meters (12,150 feet), an elevation gain of about 1,700 meters (5,500 feet) from the trail head at Villa Paulina, and, most importantly, just slightly over an hour outside of the city, Cerro Manchón makes for a good, long day in the mountains.

We're still in need of some more lower elevation snow but once you've beat through a bit of brush and busted a shin or two on a slightly covered rock it's smooth sailing up the main ridge.

Not quite visible from the bottom are all the other gullies available for skiing and all the other rocks and holes for rabbits to hide.

Looking down one of the options on the way up.

Ok, I lied. Apparently I didn't make it quite to the summit. The true summit is a couple hundred meters or so higher and another hour or so around the horseshoe ridge. And heading that way would also open up at least two more systems of gullies and bowls and short chutes. Both Cerro Altar and Altar Falso (directly in front of the higher Altar) are in the far right background.

My planned exit for the day. After the distinct rollover, the gully turns directly down canyon for a nice, long run out. The village of Farellones, the base of La Parva, and El Colorado are all visible in the background.

The last stretch of not-so-skin-able scrambling to the top. Santiago is somewhere down there, too.

The support crew at about the halfway mark.

Close to the bottom the gully narrowed and the snow thinned a little too much to ski. So in the waning hours of daylight it was back to brush beating and shin banging.

Always on the go and ready for that one last chance at a rabbit or mouse, the dogs beat me back to Villa Paulina.

The biggest surprise of the day was seeing and then meeting two skiers who followed my skin track partway up before running out of time and turning back down. They said they saw me ski from the top and then sent me a picture as proof. Thanks for the picture, Carlos, but where am I?

Update: Carlos resent the photo with me and the pooches circled. Thanks again, Carlos! I once was lost but now I'm found!