On to Ojos del Salado

After having to wait out the weekend in Copiapo we now have procured the required permits for Ojos del Salado. We also bought 40l of water as well as a 20l canister for gasoline before heading out into the Atacama desert up to the Laguna Verde, from where we will stage our 3-4 day attempt on Ojos.
We also bought spare batteries for the headlamps and GPS, as well as a detailed mountaineering map of the area. We received detailed instructions from the Aventurismo office here in Copiapo, so now we think we are sufficiently prepared for the Ojos climb.

Tonight I will activate the SPOT tracker (see Ojos tracking page) and send an OK message from the Laguna Verde.

Wish us luck for Ojos del Salado!

Add comment March 15th, 2010

The Peak Puzzle: What’s the best time of the year to climb?

As every mountaineer knows, there is usually a limited time in the year when you can climb high peaks. Depending on the hemisphere and local climate, this usually is in the summer (higher latitudes) or in the dry season (near equator). Climbing a 6000m peak in winter or in the rainy season is much more extreme, more risky, less rewarding (except perhaps to avoid crowds), and in general not really an option.

In the excellent book “Climbing: Expedition Planning” authors Clyde Soles and Phil Powers have listed the prime climbing seasons for all major mountain ranges world-wide. From this I was able to generate a pattern for the peaks along the Panamerican route as follows (grey bars represent good months):

Prime Climbing Season for Panamerican Peaks

Prime Climbing Season for Panamerican Peaks

I started planning. Beginning in the North in late spring / early summer and assuming a certain average daily distance on the bike and the time spent on the various mountains, I ended up with the following pattern (yellow = within 1 month of good time, red = bad time):

Peak climbing times with original itinerary

Peak climbing times with original itinerary

As you can see, while there were a few peaks that fit, two were borderline (Mexico’s Orizaba and Chile’s Ojos del Salado), and three were way outside the possible climbing season: Peru’s Huascaran, Bolivia’s Nevado Sajama and Argentina’s Aconcagua! No amount of tweaking the daily distance or start time or other parameters seemed to work within one year. I didn’t want to skip any mountain. I didn’t want to extend the trip beyond roughly 1 year. What to do? I was stuck.

After some thought I had a different idea: How about riding in the Northern summer from Alaska down to Central America for the first half year, and then in the Southern summer from Patagonia up to Central America for the second half year! While this is not the original all-in-one-direction bike route, it does solve the climbing season puzzle and allow for a much better fit. My current plan looks like this (bottom five rows in reverse order):

Peak climbing times with new itinerary

Peak climbing times with new itinerary

There are no red zones and both Canada’s Mt. Logan and Chile’s Ojos del Salado are close to the good season. So I should have a reasonable chance of possible weather conditions for most if not all peaks. Note that I also swapped Mt. Logan and Denali at the beginning. This decision was due to the scarcity of expeditions offered on Logan. The number of climbers on Denali is about 50-100 times higher than on Logan (Denali is part of the Seven Summits, Logan is not). Consequently, there are many expeditions every week for several months on Denali, while on Logan I only found this one in 2009!

Now purists might say: “This is not the classic Panamerican Highway ride, you need to fly from Central America down to Patagonia, and the sequence of peaks doesn’t match those of the countries on the map!” And guess what, they are right! But that’s the best I could come up with. After all, this project has never been done before, so there is no template or blueprint. Finding a solution for problems like this is part of the challenge. As long as I ride the entire distance (except for the Darien Gap) and make an attempt on all peaks I am satisfied. Perhaps others will find a better solution for the peak puzzle…

Add comment March 5th, 2009

Where are those Panamerican Peaks?

A few weeks ago I played with Microsoft Live Earth. This is a great app. If you like Google Earth, you’ll love this one, too. This free app allows you to locate pretty much any area and fly to it via a 3D animation. You can even record such flights. I created a video “hopping” from peak to peak, starting with Denali and Logan in the North, and then proceeding down to Central America, followed by the South American peaks in reverse order (from the bottom-up), as that’s going to be my ride-&-climb schedule.

YouTube video of simulated Live Earth flight from peak to peak

YouTube video of simulated Live Earth flight from peak to peak

The video is about 7 mins long and gives you an idea of where the peaks are and how far apart they are. My only complaint here is that on many peaks the video “dives” right into the ground and stay there for a few seconds before proceeding the flight to the next one. I imagine this has to do with Live Earth’s lack of proper altitude information and I don’t know of a way to compensate. So if you can tolerate this annoyance, here is the video:

Add comment March 4th, 2009


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