Climbing and Camping at Los Gigantes

This past week, I went with the high school seniors, my English students, on their annual climbing trip–La Escalada 2015.
It’s a time for them to spend some time together as a class, away from school, before they graduate in December. And it was awesome.

This Escalada was different than past ones because instead of sunny skies the weather was freezing and raining! So, sadly, we weren’t able to reach the summit of the range–Los Gigantes. It’s times like those when you realize how relentless Mother Nature can be.

Still, I think I speak for everyone when I say that we had the best time.

Between drinking mate in the grass beneath the hills, playing card games and singing/playing the guitar every night I am left wishing only to return to that small cabin in the hills, even if only for another few hours…

Here’s a brief recap of our trip, with a few photos of course:

This was my view from our van on the drive to our refugio, or small cabin. The plants show how windy it was!

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Finally, we made it to our site and began unloading supplies and getting settled in. This is our eating area, which also served as card playing area and guitar playing/singing area. (And for the other teachers, this was also their shared bedroom!)

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This was our mountain guide for the trip who goes by lagarto which means lizard in spanish. Aside being a pretty cool dude, he used to be an avid climber back in the day which is how he got his nickname. Here he is turning on the gas stove so we could heat up some water for mate.

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Part of the tradition of the Escalada is bringing a cross that each senior class places in the hills somewhere, symbolizing their devotion to their faith. This was the cross to be used for this trip.

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Another tradition is taking a photo of the senior class on the summit of the mountain. Here is my host dad, Jorge, taking a look at photos of past senior classes.

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Our refugio was straight out of a book. The building itselt was made of stone, there was wood piled up against the walls and there was no electricity/heating! It also had photos on the walls inside, like the ones here in this picture. This is the gear-hanging area, which later was full of backpacks and jackets.

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This is Los Gigantes itself, the range we would be climbing. They call it that because the hills seem to form a figure of a giant sleeping on his back. Do you see it?

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After getting settled in, we bundled up, got our mates ready and headed outside to enjoy the day.

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Our first day there, we rappelled off the side of a hill! Super fun once you get passed how cold it was. Here are a few shots of me, my host dad and some others rappelling down.

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Lots of selfies were taken…

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And we even had a canine friend who helped keep us warm.

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We spent hours outside, enjoying being nestled in the hills around us. Here is my host mom, Maria Andrea, drinking mate and relaxing.

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Each day we prepared sandwiches (ham and cheese) for lunch…

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And had oranges for dessert.

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There was no water in the water tanks when we were there, so we drank the fresh water from the small river nearby. Talk about being one with nature! I loved it.

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In the region, there are these beautiful birds with red breasts. Every now and then they would get just close enough for a photo.

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The next day, we set out to hike Los Gigantes. Because of the inclement weather, I didn’t bring my camera. But after about 3 hours or so of hiking, we decided to turn back–the freezing rain and wind left us all with wet clothes and muddy boots (and left me with a slight fever and a sore throat).

That night, we sat in the refugio and sang folkloric songs to the sound of the guitar. Some of the students even did some traditional folkloric dances! It was incredible, and because I was too busy living in the moment (and recovering from being sick) I didn’t take any photos…which I now regret. I guess those memories will have to remain in my mind and written about in my diary.

Gracias al Promo 2015 por invitarme a la Escalada, Maria Andrea y Cristina Lerda por cuidarme cuando estaba enferma, Lagarto por hacer un te natural para mi garganta, Jorge y los hombres/chicos que hicieron un lechon riquisimo, y Paolo por organizar un viaje tan bueno! 

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