Thetford

Getting back to normal after Aconcagua… Spent Sat night visiting Lauren in Norwich, which translates to a heavy night out.

To justify this we decided to meet John half way from Cambridge to Norwich (Thetford) and do a walk to stretch our legs. I was short of inspiration when planning it, so the walk was actually fairly dull. We started in Thetford town centre (once Carmel had found a shop selling tea to wake her up) and then spent a few hours walking along roads and fields before returning. And only once managing to get lost.

I thought it would be a good idea to take my new 16-35mm lens out for the walk, but this turned out to be a daft plan as the sun pretty much never came out and the views, particularly in winter, were just dreary. One thing I did notice about the camera and lens was that the combo is annoyingly heavy to carry around for 5 hours.

Straight path, between fields. Very East Anglia.

A big heavy camera bag…

Back in Thetford, only superficially wet from the last bit of rain.

Duration 4:40 hours
Distance 13.1 miles
Path (Google Earth)

Aconcagua – photos, maps & stats

Even though I managed to lose my camera on the last day on the mountain I was able to take a copy of the photos from each group member’s camera before leaving Mendoza. This resulted in almost 3,000 photos, but ensures that I now have some great photos of the mountain.

There are so many photos to share that it makes sense not to put them all on this blog, so here’s a link to Picasa Web instead.

Aconcagua photos on Picasa Web

I also put together some video footage of the trip and posted it to YouTube.

Aconcagua video on YouTube

I can’t quite decide on my favourite shot of the mountain itself, possibly one of these three which were all taken by Simon at Base Camp:

Sunrise:

Day:

Sunset:

I did take my GPS to Aconcagua, and this has supplied with numerous maps and statistics. Here are the tracks we walked laid out over a Google Earth background:

The Google Earth paths can be downloaded directly if you want a closer examination of where we walked. Here’s a summary table of the individual walks we did.

Track Start time Time Miles Height (m)
Penitentes acclimatisation 13 Jan 15:33 2:53 3.9 2650-3250
Park entrance to Confluencia 14 Jan 10:39 3:20 4.7 2950-3390
Confluencia acclimatisation (Mirador) 15 Jan 9:12 6:23 9.6 3390-4100
Confluencia to Plaza de Mulas 16 Jan 8:23 8:40 11.5 3390-4350
Plaza de Mulas acclimatisation (Bonete Peak) 18 Jan 9:47 6:07 5.2 4350-4950
Plaza de Mulas acclimatisation (Canada) 19 Jan 9:50 4:43 3.0 4350-5050
Plaza de Mulas to Canada 21 Jan 13:14 3:49 1.7 4350-5050
Canada to Nido de Condores 22 Jan 11:22 4:09 1.9 5050-5560
Nido de Condores acclimatisation (Berlin) 23 Jan 10:40 3:19 1.9 5560-5930
Nido de Condores to Berlin 24 Jan 10:58 3:23 1.2 5560-5930
Berlin to summit (not inc. return) 26 Jan 4:58 9:00 2.0 5930-6962
Berlin to Plaza de Mulas 27 Jan 12:17 3:55 3.2 5930-4350
Plaza de Mulas to park entrance 28 Jan 9:41 8:26 15.8 4350-2950
2d 20:07 65.6

Over the few weeks we did walk 65 miles, none of which was on the flat. And in total we also walked for 2 days and 20 hours – which sounds like a lot! The longest day was summit day which took 9 hours to get from Camp 3 to the summit (the return leg is missing from this data  but took another 4 hours or so). This was a very long day and seemed much longer than the 13 hours.

Aconcagua – flight home

There was no rush to leave the hotel since our flight from Mendoza to Buenos Aires was not until 2pm. This game us the chance to have a good sleep and a relaxed breakfast  before spending a short time squeezing the last of our clothes into our bags.

Carmel and I decided to postpone most of our packing until the morning and this ensured a fairly stressful time following breakfast. We had rammed in our perfectly folded clothes and equipment into our bags back in the UK and were not overly surprised that the now dirty and unpackaged items would not all fit back inside. In the end, some dirty clothes and some toiletries had to be left behind.

Most of our clothes were really quite smelly after 3 weeks on the mountain, so we hoped that we didn’t have to open our main bags at the airport.

At the same time as packing I was finishing off copying everyone’s photos onto my memory stick – an activity that had taken me many hours over the last few days. The shared computers in reception were slow things that had seen better days. Files took an age to copy via a cheap little USB memory card reader I had bought.

At 11am we met in reception and piled our belongings into our minibus and set off for the airport. We had paid extra for the hotel as we had spent longer in the hotel than the trip had forecast. The trip had planned for a few contingency days on the mountain and we had only needed to use one of these days. For the summiting group there were two extra days to pay for. However for the group that descended prematurely and had not camped at Camp 3 there were a few more days to pay for. The hotel was not expensive in British Sterling so this wasn’t really a problem for anyone.

At the airport we found out our flight was delayed. The delay was about 6 hours so we found a very standard airport cafe (that could have been at home in any airport in the world) and made ourselves comfortable. The delay gave us time to buy various mementos of our trip,including books and maps of Aconcagua. Carmel bought a large poster describing in Spanish the many recognised aromas of wine to help us remember our wineries tour.

During this time we said goodbye to Simon and his wife Josephine who were on a flight one hour before ours, also to Buenos Aires.

After being bored silly in the bland cafe, our flight was eventually called and we made our way to Buenos Aires.

However, in Buenos Aires we found our transatlantic flight to Madrid was also delayed. We found another cafe and ate more junk food. The flight was only delayed by a few hours but this concerned us as we did not have too much leeway time in Madrid before our UK flight was due to leave.

During the transatlantic leg I don’t believe any of us watched the films. We had learnt our lesson on the way over and the terrible sequence of two or three B-movies being shown on the little TVs overhanging the aisles did not appeal.

Arriving in Madrid our UK flight was not delayed, which almost was a shame as we now had to rush to get our plane. The airport was expecting us and we were asked to disembark the jumbo before other passengers so that we could make our London connections. This meant squeezing past the frowning 350 people standing in the aisles on the jumbo.

There were about 15 of us trying to make the Gatwick connection and we were met by an airport official as soon as we set foot in the terminal. The girl rushed us across half of the airport and forced us to go through security again, but in the end we did make our connection – but only with seconds to spare.

Of course, with us having run across the airport and the plane closing its doors as soon as we had got on, we had low expectations of seeing our hold baggage when we arrived in London. We were correct and none of our hold bags travelled with us on the final leg of the journey. At Gatwick we all filled out lost baggage forms.

And then after 3.5 weeks together it was time for us to part our ways and say goodbye. We were all travelling to different parts of the UK and after a few embraces we set off home and wondered how easy it would be to rejoin society again.

Our bags all arrived with us over the next 3 days.

My camera was never seen again.