Wednesday 18 June 2014

Day 40: Sairecabur The Bleak

The flat caldera of Sairecabur with Licancabur standing
imposing beyond its rim.
Are you getting bored of Volcanos yet?
Climbing volcanoes is quick and easy work, right?  We established that on Volcan Toco, on the third day of our Atacama 'road' trip.  So today we headed north to pay Sairecabur a quick visit, at 5,970m.

Well, climbing the volcano may be easy, but driving to it certainly isn't.  The turn-off to the mountain quickly led us into a bumping, jolting, precipitous and generally shit-scary world which we survived for about ten kilometres and no more.  At 4,900m, we abandoned our four-wheeled home and set out on foot.  This was not in the script.  The road was supposed to take us to 5,500m from where we could nip up to the summit in a few hours.  We now had an extra 600m to climb and no spare time to climb it in.  Bother.

Nonetheless we plodded up the 'road' until we reached a shoulder of the mountain, adorned with one of the Atacama's many telescopes and fine views across to - guess which volcano? - yes, Licancabur.  The wind whipped around us; Susan's toes, as usual, froze.  And the mountain above us looked like a pile of choss.  We were only 200m from the summit but somehow it looked a long and bleak distance.  Compounding our troubles, we were reaching our pre-agreed turnaround time and driving back down the track in the dark was not an appealing option.  Time to take a photo of Licancabur (not for the last time) and retreat.  Perhaps climbing 6,000m volcanoes isn't so easy after all.  In Thomas the Tank Engine terms, Susan and Guy were now sadder and wiser engines.

At least the day ended on a positive note when we found a beautiful camping spot by a lagoon and treated a flock of vicunas (a bit like small llamas) to their first lesson in English roots music, played on Guy's iPhone.  After a life of listening to the ice crack and the wind howl, surely they enjoyed the change?

Virc unias... timid creatures to photograph with a big telephoto!
Volcan Colorado in the evening sun.

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