Rest Day with a Hike to Salto Frio Falls . . . January 18, 2010
(see Google Earth Photo for Route from Base Camp to Salto Frio Falls)
We planned a good rest day to follow our trip to the summit of Ramada. We'd climbed 4000 feet from our high camp at 17k to the summit at 21k and then turned around and descended to our Base camp at a bit under 12k. Yes, a rest day was in order.
The night before, Celeste wanted to know what time we wanted to do breakfast and without a moment's hesitation, we answered in unison . . . 9 a.m. We slept in, at least until the sun hit the tents, and then were up and about, getting some water from a clear spot in the river and heading for the white dome to do a bit of breakfast. I cannot overstate how nice this white dome tent at the base made hanging out, be it day or night. Celeste and Manuel did their usual great job with the cooking and after pancakes and eggs, we were in no hurry to do much other than sit back in the sun and read or talk what came next on this trip where we pulled off the final goal of the trip a few days earlier than we really expected to.
So . . . we are sitting in the tent when the ground starts to move around in a kind of circular motion and we all look at one another. We don't experience a lot of seismic activity in Cheyenne so it took us a few moments to realize that the movement was an earthquake. Celeste and Manuel were soon in the tent talking about the quake as this area of Argentina is pretty active seismically and a bit over sixty years ago the town of San Juan, Argentina, was leveled by a major quake. Given that our camp was nestled in the boulders that had been dislodged from the cliff line above us, I was quite content with only a minor shake. (Upon arriving back in the U.S., I did check the U.S.G.S. web site as to the time and location of measured earthquakes. The quake we felt was measured to have a magnitude of 5.4 with an epicenter near . . . San Juan, Argentina.
After the brief but interesting morning event, we had lunch and decided to walk to the Salto Frio falls at the head of the valley. Of course the distance does not look to be that far off but I knew from my first rest day hike that it was a good ways to the falls and when we arrived the GPS told the true story. Our rest day hike was two miles in each direction and we gained 1000 feet in the process. As I noted, everything is out of proportion as the sheer bulk of these mountains makes a hike of two miles seem like a short distance to the eye.
The route to the falls was easy, walk up the alluvium filled valley, cross the glacial stream coming from the Italian Glacier up in the Valle Superior and then pick your way along mixed hiking and guanaco trails toward the falls. The trip up the valley also gave us the opportunity to gaze up the cleft leading to the Valle Superior where the red slopes outlined the bulk of Cerro de la Ramada. It was hard to believe that just a bit more than 24 hours before, we were on the summit of the peak we were looking up at.
We meandered up the undulating scree and talus slopes that led to the falls until we reached the last crest before the terrain fell toward the falls proper. The crest provided a fine view of the falls as well as the cut created sometime in the past when the drainage from the glaciers on the south face of Mercedario looked to have carved quite a path through the terminal moraine. Surely, there have been some interesting water flow events down through the Valle de Colorado. We sat down at the crest and ate the sandwiches and snacks that Manuel prepared and then Bob and I walked the rest of the way to the falls, a short jaunt that of course turned out to be a full half mile. We picked our way through the talus until we were within 100 yards of the falls where we were blocked by a stream, ending our approach.
Meanwhile, G took in the sun until we rejoined him to also sit among the warm rocks for an hour or so until some afternoon clouds took care of the sun, telling us it was time to hike the mile and half back to camp. Dinner was at the normal Argentine hour of no earlier than 8 p.m. and this was our summit celebration dinner. Celeste was making pizza and she outdid herself on this dinner. Sausage pizza. . . then egg pizza . . . then onion pizza and then repeat the cycle a few more times until you simply can eat no more. We ate our fill and then hit the tents, having covered another four miles and 1000 feet of up and a 1000 feet of down on our rest day.