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JOINT SINGAPORE AND LATIN AMERICAN TEAM TACKLE CHILEAN VOLCANOES

Members of the Singapore Latin American Everest Expedition 2001 are to be reunited in Chile during the Expedition’s major warm-up climb prior to the Everest climb in 2001.

The joint team comprises:

Gil Piekarz ( Brazil )
Jorge Cambiaso ( Argentina )
David Lim ( Singapore )
Wong Ting Sern ( Singapore )

The main objectives of the Chile climb are:
- create greater team rapport prior to the Everest climb
- field test the Canon digital cameras , Apple laptops and NERA satellite telephone and email and weather linkups (provided by Meteorological Service Singapore)
- climb at least 2 Chilean summits including Ojos Del Salado , 6880m, a major South American peak

Other team members Tok Beng Cheong and Mohd Rozani were unable to secure leave to join the expedition to Chile.


The mountains that we are attempting are…

CERRO PLOMO

Can be seen from Santiago as a curving ice-cap. Height is 5,424m, and normally takes 4 days to climb. It makes a fine acclimatisation ascent with easy access. The summit was reached by the Incas. A mummy was found buried near the summit in 1954 – the first such discovery.

OJOS DEL SALADO
Ojos del Salado (“The source of the salt river”) is the highest mountain in Chile and also the highest active volcano in the world, with active fumaroles in the crater SW of the summit. It is also the second highest in the Americas (after Aconcagua).

It lies 240 km East of Capiapo (which is 800km North of Santiago). The summit is at 6864m and normally takes 6 days to ascend and descend. We will only attempt this major South American peak only after we are well acclimatised because it is possible to start the climb at an altitude of 5200m.

Right at the top of the summit is a 60m high rock tower which must be climbed with care – the wind and altitude plays havoc with judgement.


Chile Expedition Reports:

1 January 2001

Chilean team taken in Santiago Hotel.
From L to R – Gil, Jorge, Ting Sern & David

Reporting from Santiago, the team assembles.

David writes…
Breakfast, glorious breakfast! It seems to be the best meal after an epic 30 hour flight. Having cleared 2 sets of customs with a heap of gear and food, today was spent getting re-acquainted with Gil and Jorge. By Brazilian standards , it seems sparse but the sliced salami, cheese, butter, jam and warm bread goes down well.

Language is , of course, a big challenge – getting Spanish and Portuguese speakers together. It’s a good thing Gil’s English is cool and my Spanish creaky – we can get our thoughts across.

A recce to the Maipo Canyon failed today since all of Santiago seemed to have also the same idea and the single carriageway was backed for miles. The Chileans are terribly friendly and last night’s New Year celebrations was a reflection of their passionate, latin character. Whole families lined the roads watching the fireworks and every car was happily tooting away to mark the REAL millennium. A Chilean at a stop sign passed us some fizzy to celebrate – a great night of festivities.

This afternoon was spent watching a group of paragliders do their thing over the hills near Santiago. Tomorrow, we hit the supermarkets for the rest of our food and will head to either the Maipo Valley (again) for Cerro Plomo (c. 5450m) or the volcano San Jose (c 5800m) for some acclimatisation climbs. We have all our gear and are ready to hit the hills. From Santiago, we get some cool views of the higher ranges to our east.

It’s midnight now – time for supper. We’re still jet lagged but Ting Sern always seems to be able to get some sleep somewhere.

Ciao

David


Gil writes…
Jorge and I left Curitiba jan/29 at 4:30am by car, crossing south Brazil and entering Argentina. After 1,400km we stopped at Federal City, 1.400km from Curitiba. Next day we drove 1.200 km to Mendoza in 14 hours. We arrived in Mendoza, very tired due the distance and the hot weather in Argentina. I remenber the landscape of Argentina…first the complete flat terrain with much livestock, and then Mendoza with its vineyards and the beautiful view of the Andes – our target….It was a contrasting landscape.

Sunday, the last day of the year, we crossed the Andes to Santiago. We stopped at Puente del Inca, thinking of Aconcagua and the climb we made last year. (Read about the Aconcagua Expedition)

At Santiago, we waited for David and Ting Sern at airport….. we crossed the new year inside my car with all our equipment inside and seeing the majestic new year party in central Santiago.

Ciao,
Gil + Jorge


Ting Sern writes….
We left Singapore by MH (Malaysian Airlines) to KL at 9:30pm on 30/12/2000. After transiting at KLIA, we boarded the MH 201 flight bound for Buenos Aires at 1am. We arrived, dead as dogs, at 3:30pm (local Argentinian time) after flying for slightly more than 24 hours. On board that flight, while nearing the South American coast, its NEW YEAR back in Singapore. So, its hurrah from both of us.

David didn’t want spend all his time at the airport waiting for the connecting flight to Santiago – so we took a short but expensive trip from the airport to downtown Buenos Aires for a very fast dinner – because we had only 1 hour spare after deducting the travelling time.Dinner was a yummy South American “pasta” – can’t find the taste back home.

We landed at Santiago airport at 11:20pm (local Chilean time). Our South American friends (Gil and Jorge) were there at the airport waiting for us (having driven 3000km from Curitiba in southeastern Brazil to Santiago). “We arrived at Santiago at about 6am”, said Gil. By then, I was so dead tired after this marathon flight I could think of nothing except sleep …

However, the next challenge was to drive from the Airport to downtown Santiago. The highway from the airport was full of cars at some points. As it turned out, the crowd had gathered on the highway to watch fireworks – to celebrate the New Year (again). Downtown Santiago was worse – most major roads were jammed and it took us nearly 1.5 hours to find our hotel. Along the way, people was cheering,, dancing, etc … even on the roads. Finally, we arrived. After the exchange of gifts for one another, the bed looks too enticing and it was really nice sleeping flat again.

Since Monday is a holiday, all shops are closed – we will buy some stable food tomorrow. We hope to depart for Cerro Plomo on Wednesday morning and spend 6 days on the mountain.

Ting Sernnnnnn…. zzzz….zzz…z…z.z. zz

4 January 2001

Teamwork Rules!

David writes…
Jan 3: After an uneventful night at the Chilean ski zone of La Parva (2800m), the team left for the attempt on Cerro (is Mount in Spanish) Plomo (5,450m) today. With the exception of Ting Sern (a lighter pack), we were all hefting 25kg+loads. This part of Chile is really dry with rugged peaks of volcanic origin. Our plan was to acclimatise prior to the major objective of Ojos del Salado (6,885m) 800km north of us in the Atacama Desert. The team of Gil Piekarz (Brazil), Jorge Cambiaso (Argentina) and the two of us from Singapore are warming up to each other. Language barriers are both a hindrance and a challenge.

Some real team work was displayed as the day wore on. Gil dropped his rucksack twice to double back over tricky terrain to help Ting Sern. At these altitudes of around 3,400m+, it was no mean feat. Ting Sern, as you might recall , has mild cerebal palsy from birth but this has not deterred him from being a contributing member. His balance and coordination dictates that a team with him has to provide some additional assistance over certain kinds of terain.Though he would not be climbing wiith us on Everest, his role as technical office is invaluable.

Here , in Chile, he’s in the unusual position as being part of a self-sufficent expedition: carrying al it’s fuel, food, clothing and climbing gear. We camped at about 3,500m, after an exhausting 6-7 hours going up and down several valleys. To perk us up that evening, we enjoyed some dehydrated Brands Essence of Chicken (Gil like that quite a bit, surp…) and some spicy noodles. Ting Sern was really knackered but game for the next day’s approach march

Jan 4: A river crossing which would have been dangerous for Ting Sern was resolved again by some doubling back and getting his hefty pack across first. Jorge is playing sweeper on this trip. Just getting our Nera Worldphone and Apple Powerbook here is amazing enough. We’ve also received a weather report, courtesy of Meteorological Service Singapore (thanks!). We’re camped at 3,700m, just above a raging glacial river with Cerro Bismarck (4,785m) overlooking us.

Cerro Plomo remains elusive but we hope to set eyes on it tomorrow as we head to our summit camp at 4,200m. In the meantime, we hope to get some digital pictures to you of the approach trek to the climb, taken with a Canon IXUS with an all-weather casing.

With good acclimatisation, a summit bid is planned for the 6th of January.

Cheerio,
David


Gil writes… (in Portuguese)
Hoje eh o nosso terceiro dia nos Andes chilenos. O tempo estah maravilhoso, azul e muito agradavel. Estamos escalando o Cerro el Plomo com 5.440m de altitude nas cercanias de Santiago, proximo aos centros de Ski La Parva, Farellones e Vale Nevado. Basicamente o primeiro dia foi de translado de Santiago a La Parva com o meu corsa – tive que fazer duas viagens devido ao volume do equipamento. Dormimos em La Parva e ontem comecamos a caminhada propriamente dito em direcao a montanha. Juntos conosco estao quatro chilenos – dois casais, e um italiano que esta viajando pela America do Sul.

O que imaginavamos um dia mais tranquilo de caminhada foi na realidade bastante duro. Caminhamos cerca de 6:30 hs e chegamos cansados no primeiro acampamento a 3.400m de altitude. Mas, a noite com a Lua em crescente e sem vento compensou o cansaco. Um bom chimarrao, uma belo jantar e uma boa noite de sono nos refez completamente.

O dia de hoje, 04 de janeiro, foi mais tranquilo, caminhamos cerca de 4 horas ate uma altitude de 3,700m. Podiamos chegar aos 4.200m, mas como nosso objetivo aqui e fazer uma boa aclimatacao resolvemos estacionar por aqui mesmo e aproveitar para descansar e escrever um pouco. Amanha vamos a 4.200m, La Holla, e depois de amanha para o cume do Cerro el Plomo.

Ciao!


(rough translation)
Today was our third day of climbing in Chile. The weather was wonderful, blue skies and very pleasant. We are climbing Cerro el Plomo (5,440m) just in Santiago’s outskirts, close to the ski centres of Ski La Parva. The first day was spent moving equipment from Santiago to the Ski Centre. We slept in La Parva and yesterday we began the walk in direction the mountain. Together with us were four Chilean – two couples, and an Italian traveling through South America.

What I imagined to be a calm day of walking turned out to be quite a tough day. We walked about 6:30 hrs and we arrived tired at the first camp, 3,400m. But, the cool windless night with a crescent moon compensates for the fatigue. A good maté, a beautiful dinner and a good night sleep recharged us completely.

Today, January 04, was easier, we walked about 4 hours to an altitude of 3,700m. Our aim here was acclimatization and we decided to take advantage of the situation, took an early rest and to write a little. Tomorrow we are going to aim to reach 4,200m, La Holla, and the day after tomorrow for the summit of the Cerro el Plomo.

8 January 2001

Acclimatisation, just another workout!!

The team at La Olla, 4,200m. The final summit camp for Cerro Plomo At the summit of Cerro Plomo, the team stops for picture taking. From left: Jorge, David and Gil. Ting Sern’s taking the photo

10 January 2001

On the road from Santiago to…

We’re on the Ruta 5 or the Pan American Higway… eating up the road in our pickup. The conversation flickers as we race into the evening. The warm glare of the late afternoon gives way to softening light as sunset approaches. The CD player cranks out Pink Floyd’s “Decibel” album.

Suddenly, the Pacific Ocean comes to view, complete with breakers. The colour of the sea is lead and the sky slowly turns molten. “I’ve never seen the sun set over the pacific,” says Gil. In Curitiba, Brazil, I only see the sun rise over the Atlantic.”

The video camera rolls and Gil flashes his pearly teeth from time to time. The moment is too good to pass up and we stop for that photo opportunity. The sun sets and the last pinprick of light fades into an after glow… twilight’s last gleaming… my favourite time of the day.

Our headlights gathers up the tarmac as we drive into the evening. Four dudes, a pickup, a ton of gear . Who knows where we’ll stop tonight. By now strains of the Eagles fill the darkened interior of the cab.

11 January 2001

Welcome to Atacama…

The most interesting feature on the Pan American Highway are these small doll houses by the road side. At times, they take the form of a small house of bricks, no larger than a kennel. Plastic flowers dance from side to side and the occasional mini Chilean flag flutters wildly as we roar past. These are memorials to those killed in road accidents. Inside, inscriptions of the names of those killed adorn the tiny walls. Strangers to us, they were once a brother, sister or father perhaps to a family.

We spent last night in the small, tidy town of Ovalle. Today, we drove through La Serena, a gorgeous, ‘happening’ beach resort. Chile, so far, has exceeded expectations – a rich, historical and varied land. Even as I write this in the dusty courtyard of a residencial guesthouse in Copiaipo, I am marvelling at the rugged beauty of the desert surrounding us.

Welcome to the Atacama, the sign reads. Indeed. Tomorrrow, we will be arranging for transport and probably doing a recce to a nearby refuge in the mountains. We may be out of touch of while. we luck, we’ll be going for Ojos Del Salado’s summit in about 5 days’ time.

It’s hot here and the shower calls. Ciao.

3 busted tyres and stuck in the desert

Report from Laguna Verde, 4200m, Saturday.

Thursday night.

The stunning ochres, mustards and yellow shades of the Atacama faded into a dark mud colour as the sunset apporached. Our plan to travel to the Maricunga flats and do an acclimatisation climb from there seemed to be going well. Then, 5 km off the metalled road, we had a flat tyre. Once this was fixed, it was decided that it was too risky to continue without a spare. The return to Copiapo was not even 5 mins old when our other rear tire went bust. Out came the Nera Worldphone and a call was patched to a local mechanic cum mountain guide who turned up at 10.30pm with extra tyres.

We decided to press on after this, fortified with an impromptu dinner fixed by the roadside and 2 spare tyres. The eventful night ended at the carabineros’ outpost where we bivvied for the night. The following morning (Friday) the front left tyre was almost flat. 2 hours was need to rig up an airhose and nozzle so that we could inflate long enough to get to Laguna Verde (the Green Lake). The ride through the desert, to be brief, was impressive – scrublands, small dunes, salt flats and occasional white-topped peaks at a distance.

We pulled in at Laguna Verde at about 1.30pm. The stunning turquoise colour of the waters are due to the high mineral content. At 4,200m and miles into the Atacama, this must surely be one of Chile’s best kept secrets. Geothermal springs feed the lake and som e hotwater has been sluiced into a shed – a hot mineral bath at 4200m – what luck! Ting Sern has been having a tummy bug but will probably shake that off by tomorrow. He’s been perked up by an extra dose of Brands Essence of Chicken.

Saturday:

We head up to the Atacama hut at 5,200m tomorrow (Sunday) and after that the Tejos refuge (5,700m) before a summit climb on Ojos on Tuesday.

For now, the bright green lake and the 6,000m peaks around us keep us distracted. The Worldphone battery has conked out so we hope to send this mail directly powered by solar cells via a lead acid battery.

13 January 2001

Reflections from a truck…

Ting Sern writes…

Hi!!
Summit co-ord of Cerro Plomo is Lat South 33deg, 14mins, 13.1secs, Long West 70deg, 12mins, 50.0secs. Height = 5,426m.

The weather socked us in with 5m visibility on the descent from Plomo, and heavy cloud cover. The thing that saved our butts that day was my GPS – navigating in horrid weather and slippery terrain. It normally takes 1 minute or so to fix the GPS co-ords. Luckily, we managed to find the right road and direction to the car park in the nick of time. Anyway, my Contax is now sunning in the hot sun – hoping to drive out the water that has got inside. It is going to cost me $$$$ to fix the G1 (sob, sob).

My usual rate of acclimatisation is slower than most people. So, when David and Gil wanted to push from the carpark up on the first day, I practically went “ka-put”. (The carpark is at 2,880m). This explains why I needed Gil’s help (thanks Gil!) to carry my backpack uphill twice – there was no way I could climb under those conditions. Luckily, I was able to acclimatise in time for the return trip – from Cerro Plomo base camp back to carpark.

Right now, this place – Laguna Verde is 4,330m (GPS height) and I don’t have any more problems with altitude. Tomorrow (Sunday), we are going up to 5,200m (the highest drive-able campsite on Ojos del Salado. This will be my “base camp”.

My impressions of Gil – extremely friendly, helpful and very fit. He is easily the strongest of the lot. Jorge can be slightly more difficult – maybe the language barrier (he does not speak English). Overall, this is a nice bunch of people that I don’t mind working with.

Since this is my first “unsupported” expedition after 20 years of having it good and easy – it does bring back memories of the hardships of climbing Mt McKinley (Alaska) in 1981 and the Greenland & Ellesmere Island trip in 1980. Maybe that’s the reason why I said “no more unsupported trips !!!” But memories does fad with time.

Right now, I am sending this note inside the Mazda “truck” – using the solar panel as the sun shield, covering the windscreen. Pretty neat …

Signing off,
TS …zzzzz….zz

Looking at Laguna Verde from our campsite. In the distance is Cerro Laguna Verde, 5,872m

15 January 2001

Going for the top…

David writes…
We’re at the Atacama Refuge, a steel box at 5,200m under the shadow of Ojos Del Salado, our main objective. Sadly, much wind and snow meant few good photo opportunities. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we (Gil, Jorge and I) will climb up to the Tejos Refuge at 5700m. We are in the high desert, so an unusual part of the climb is that we have to carry all our water supplies. Tomorrow, 6 litres per person on top of our gear make up the loads we have to carry. It’s snowing heavily now so we don’t know if it’s a go tomorrow.

Ting Sern will be based at the Atacama refuge for 2 days – hopefully, the clouds will clear to present an opportunity to send some pics as well. We’ll be in touch with him with our Motorola GP68 radios.

Morale and health – good and 02 saturation levels are about 85% for Gil and about 82% for Jorge and myself at 5200m.

Our food packs for the summit push include Brands Essence of Chicken, cous-cous, sambal and All-Carbo Powdered carbohydrates.

See You Soon,
David


NB: The team did NOT make it. In deep and exhausting snow, Jorge turned back at 6300m, David at 6600m and Gil at 6700m ( the crater rim ). With no one else on the mountain to help share the task fo breaking trail, the team turned back at about 2pm; about 10 hours after leaving the refugio. Ojos remains unfinished business.

 


Gil writes… (in Portuguese)

Partindo de Copiapo a nossa intencao era passar dois dias na Laguna Santa Rosa mas, como o David jah explanou…furamos dois pneus e tivemos que vir direto a Laguna Verde. Um local simplesmente espetacular, uma Lagoa de cor verde esmeralda rodeadoa pelos vulcoes mais altos do Planeta. Ficamos 2 noites aqui. Ontem fizemos uma caminhada de aclimatacao ate mais ou menos 5.000m, na volta o Jorge e eu resolvemos entrar na Laguna Verde….brrrrr geladissima mas deu para dar umas nadadas. Sai da laguna e fui direto para a “banheira termica”. Sim, aqui tem aguas termais, mais ou menos 40 graus, que permitem tomar um delicioso banho diario. Todas as aguas que fluem para a Laguna sao quentes e super salinas.

Quando estava confortavelmente instalado na banheira apareceu o Canal 3 de Televisao de Copiapo….tive que voltar para a Laguna….brrrr de novo, e dar uma entrevista…voltei feito picoleh para a banheira….e nada de “plata” para mim :o )
(rough translation)

Our intention was to spend two days in the Santa Rosa Lagoon but, as the David explains… time lost due to the two flat tires meant that we had to come to Verde Laguna directly. A simply spectacular place, the lagoon has a green emerald colour. We spent 2 nights here. Yesterday, we made one acclimatisation walk to more or less 5,000m, on the way back, Jorge and I decided to jump into Verde Laguna… brrrrr it was cold but it was one good swim. Leaving the lagoon, I rushed for the ” termal bathtub “. Yes, there are hot springs here, at more or less 40 degrees, that allows us to take a delicious bath. Hot springs feed the Verde Laguna with its hot and “salty” waters. When I was comfortable in the hot spring bathtub, camera crew from Channel 3 of Televisao de Copiapo turned up!!! … gave them an interview of the pleasures of the hot springs.

Gil


Gil attempts to look cool in a hot spring bath. Notice that he is beginning to look a bit “lobster-ish”…

 

 

 


Chile Expedition Climbing in the Andes Photos

David walking up to La Olla, Cerro Plomo Base Camp. Cerro Plomo is 5,426m and served as the expedition’s acclimatisation climb. At the summit of Cerro Plomo, 5,426m (on Ting Sern’s GPS unit) David, Jorge and Gil stands with one of our sponsors flags The Atacama Refuge, 5,200m. Probably one of the strangest places you can find a steel container. It offers us some shelter and comfort before our attempt to climb Ojos del Salado.
On the descent down from Cerro Plomo, the weather got a bit misty and visibility drops significantly. Read Ting Sern’s report on this David (left) and Gil (rt) works on the powerbook, writing reports for our wrbsite, just before their attempt at Ojos del Salado’s summit. Ting Sern having a bit of the sun while communicating to the rest of the world through the Apple powerbook and the Nera worldphone. Ting Sern, our technical and communications man, was stationed at the Atacama Refuge while the rest of the team made a summit attempt.
300m from the summit of Ojos del Salado, David, Gil and Jorge turns back. Deep snow further on made climbing dangerous.