We made it to the travel agency and collected our things we had left over night with them, loaded up in our little taxi with one other american guy who was headed out to do some bouldering and got on our way.
When we made it to the refuge we claimed our beds in the dorm upstairs , and unpacked our food into one of the big rubbermaid bins down stairs in the kitchen / dining area. We met the people running the lodge, which was about an hour and a half from any signs of civilization, besides a few wayward indigenous people who were grazing their cattle.
Having never climbed with ropes and a harness before, I hired an argentine guy and by default his girlfriend too to take me out and teach me the ropes, literally. after learning the Figure 8 knot the climber uses to tie into the rope I got to climb my first real rock route. We were on the Placa Verde sector which is one of the closest sites to the Refuge, you can actually see the refuge off in the distance from the Placa Verde. I was set up to climb the route called Chuchuwasi Power, a 5, which isnt that tough of a climb, just to see how I did. I was fine with being 22 meters or 70 feet in teh air with only a rope to hold me if I slipped. I was enjoying looking back and down on the refuge and the surounding mountains. I was already 4,200 meters above sea level and my additional hight above everyone and the serenity of the area left only room for majesty and peace. a few mves before reaching the top it started to snow and a snow flake hit me right in the eyeball as others spotted up my glasses. I hollered down to be lowered down from the climb satisfied with what i had acomplished but ready to learn more.
When I came down we hid from the snow and waited it out. When it cleared up It was my turn to belay or be the person at the botom responsible for assuring that the person climbing was safe. I was instructed on how to work a Gri-Gri and then Fer went up a ways. he hollered back down that he was going to fall so I could feel what it was like to catch a climber who slips. I assuered him I was ready and he let ho of the wall. I was slightly unweighted and then I let him down. teh last thing i really wanted to learn was to lead a climb. This consists of as you might guess, being the first to climb a route and setting the safety gear so that the people who come behind you have a safer climb. lead climbers run the risk of potentially falling a few feet before the rope is able to do its job. It’s also tricky because it requires that you use one hand or both to attach gear and pull up rope to clip in. I was taken to a really easy route just to get the feel for it.
we climbed a route or two more and called it a day since it was pretty chilly and the possibility of rain was looming.
After spending the night with everyone talking around a tiny wood burning stove talking or reading we could not stay awake anylonger and since there was no electricity there was nothing to do but sleep. The following day Belen as hired to work at the refuge so my climbing partner was now occupied with domestic chores to keep the place running smooth. Luckilly the night before I made friends with a couple Toby and Jenny and they were awesome and let me climb with them for the day. We did quite a few routes before I got worn out and I just watched them for a while.
Later, after coming in for lunch, I met two girls who just arrived, Hana (USA) and Pei (Australia) who were working for some project climbing mountains and taking air water and earth samples for research. They were taking a few days just to hang out , camp and climb. later on during dinner I met Isabella and her father and his friend (South Africa) the three girls said they were going out for a night climb. I didnt trust that at all but figured I would go watch but bring my gear just in case.
We had our head lamps and headed back to the placa verde. They chose the easy rout I led on my first day so I figured it should be fun at night and not too dangerous. Pei Climbed first and reached for a hold and nearly threw herself down off teh wall when a bat flew out at her. Hana went next and thought it would be fun to try climbing only by feel so she told us all to turn off our head lamps and she felt her way along , up the rock, which i tried for a few moves when it was my turn. it was cool to climb to teh top and only be able to see the little bit of light coming from the little solar electricity left at the refuge and a guge blanket of stars.
On our way back we kept seeing field mice scurry off of teh path to avoid our lights. around one aclock. just before laying down i went outside to use teh restrooms. with teh fog of my breath illuminated by my head lamp I looked down to see that ice had formed on the grass since we had come in.
The following day there was time for a few climbs with the girls and time to check out the Pre-Inca archeological site that is not guarded , fenced in or even really known, then I had to pack my things and say good bye to Belen and the others. Pei and Hana were left a while before us planning on walking a few hours to the highway to wait for a potential ride by hitchhiking. We passed them a while later and they flagged us down and jumped in.