Aconcagua towers 9,000 feet above our current lunching spot at a scrawny elevation of 13,000 feet. The sheer magnitude of the mountain is hard for us to grasp. Our best attempt at comprehending exactly what 22,841 feet is is to break the south face currently staring at us into 1,000 foot sections. Even then we still can’t quite wrap our heads around the number (this could also be a side-effect of our current lack of oxygen). We sit in awe, in the middle of this stunning valley, surrounded by vibrantly colored rock patterns streaking the shark-tooth-ridged 16,000 foot plus peaks on all sides, next to a multi-kilometer long meringue-peaked glacier, while this 22,000 foot “melting Oreo ice cream cake” monster of a mountain silences us with its power. Behind us, the scree flows down the majestic mountains like a dripping watercolor painting, beckoning us to return to camp. So goes our lunch break on just another Saturday in South America. 
Not only was our three day trek around the south face of Aconcagua about breathtaking views (literally), but it was also about enjoying the company of our new travel partners, Trinity’s sisters, Electra and Sonnet, and the guardaparque who generously offered us maté when we were chilled at the brisk hour of dusk and had an asado for our Saturday night entertainment (in actuality, it was most likely for their entertainment). If the Tres Chicas Locas are a hilarious handful, the five of us bring a quite impressive amount of in-your-face women-power.
After staring one of the “seven summits” in the face, what better way to recover and enjoy time with our temporary guests than three days spent in a cabaña outside of Mendoza? We ultra-lounged, spending the days laying out by the pool and watching Pretty WomanFlash Dance, and a plethora of good ol´ American TV shows (i.e. Modern Family!). Not forgetting that we were in the heart of Argentina’s wine country, we spent a day biking the must-do bodega tour. This may have been the most dangerous thing we have done thus far, but at least we had head protection!!  
Still packing the five-female punch, we headed up to Cordoba where we then hiked from Villa General Belgrano, a heavily German influenced Disney-esque town, to La Cumbrecita, a pedestrian only village that felt more like a Renaissance fair than a town in Argentina. We trekked roadside through rolling, lush hills while battling the sticky air and beating sun. Humidity is a new climate change for us, so we found our reprieve through drinking ice cold beers, eating refreshing streusel flavored ice cream, and sleeping under the bright full moon. Apparently summer is not quite over (although horsefly season is!!). The familiarity of rolly-pollies, fireflies, and cicadas propelled us into a longing for those peaceful summer nights of childhood and home. 

We have now said our goodbyes to Electra (Sonnet is staying for another 2 months) and are in to Chilecito where we met our Futaleufu-rafting-guide-turned (crazy-for-wanting-to-hike-with-four-women) -friend, Josh, who will be hiking with us for about two weeks.  Heading out of Chilecito it is looking to be an incredible four weeks of intense hiking to the Bolivian border. We can’t wait! 

As high as 22,000 feet:

  • Sending fresh mountain air from Aconcagua to friends and family back home
  • Sitting outside listening to the sounds of summer 
  • Maté lesson from Electra’s cousin (from when she was an exchange student here)
  • Receiving awesome new gear from Sierra Designs and Isis!!
  • Several bunnies running free around the lawns at the cabaña
  • The Ludwig sisters enjoyed a relaxing afternoon horseback ride
  • Getting to enjoy Trinity’s dad’s famous “butt cake” – Electra and Sonnet carried the 10lb hunk of deliciousness all the way from the States, and we savored every last morsel! 
  • Clif Builder Bars, peanut butter, Wheat Thins, Triscuits and Ovaltine! Much appreciated American food brought to us from Electra and Sonnet
  • Our hostel breakfast in Villa General Belgrano included homemade yogurt, hot fresh cow’s milk, and about 10 varieties of homemade jams 
  • Shelley, not suffering from altitude sickness, played a few games of volleyball with the guardaparques and other base camp workers 
  • We were required to get medical checks before being able to hike to Plaza Francia – so fancy!  
  • Being able to send souvenirs back with Electra

As low as sea level:

  • High humidity and mosquitoes – two things about summer we aren’t so readily welcoming 
  • Arriving to La Cumbrecita (the pedestrian only town) and having to move off the cobblestone and dirt roads for cars….and seeing cars all over the town. Liars. 
  • Getting nasty headaches from the altitude. We have all hiked over 14,000 feet and are usually accustomed to high altitudes so this came as a surprise (although we should have anticipated it since we have spent the last 5 months at close to sea level)
  • Realizing the night-time humidity has its drawbacks – the dew accumulation was quite significant! 
  • Waking up at 5am to roosters, parrots and cows – quite the cacophonous animal chorus
  • Realizing that it won’t be just the Tres Chicas Locas again until the end of June! 
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