Time had come for the official shake down run for the van, and whilst we didn’t have every thing finished we would get an idea as to what worked and what didn’t. The outing we had chosen had some pretty rough roads and the place we were stopping was remote. We also planned on trying to climb Cerro Arenas, a 4,800m mountain that looked like an awesome ridge from the valley that we had been to for Cine en la Montaña a week before.
Barbara had got the maps from the military map shop in Santiago – or so we thought until discovering we did not have the sheet we needed, D’oh. Oh well we had a GPS and it was a ridge so we thought we would have a look anyways . At least it would be a nice trek around the mountains and it would be pretty hard to get lost as the approach was direct up a valley and the ridge was well defined.
We didn’t end up making the earliest of starts, but the plan was to bivvy on the ridge so it seemed like we would still be ok for time. Once we had headed up the mountain the relatively easy access to the ridge turned out not to be that straight forward. We were feeling the effects of the altitude , having climbed from 2,300m to 3,600m in a few hours so we decided to head down a bit to a good bivvy spot near running water. Barbara sorted the bivvy while I had a reccy further on up to try to figure out the way on to the ridge proper. I thought I had found a way, but it would take us a good couple of hours to get to the ascent on to the ridge.
We planned on a 3am start, until we found both our head torches were low on batteries and we had managed to leave the spare batteries behind. We thought we might be ok starting by moonlight as it had been pretty bright the night before. The alarm went off at 3am and it was actually really dark as the moon had not risen above the surrounding mountains and it was so cold we had frost on the inside of the bivvy bags, so like keen mountaineers we decided to wait for more light and conserve our head torch batteries.
Once we did get started we decided to leave all the bivvy gear and just work to a 1pm turn around time and see where we got to. We got quite a long way, but still not on the ridge. From this point we could see Arenas was in fact part of a big horseshoe ridge and we were at the end furthest away from the Arenas summit. Maps are really useful things! We had some lunch and started heading back down having had a good hike around the mountains, but still wanting to come back to climb Arenas.
At least it had been a good acclimatisation trek and we had got to test out some of the new bits of gear we had got for the trip. Everything passed the test apart from the button lock on my new Black Diamond headtorch, which still allows the torch to switch on in your sack leaving you with flat batteries. The only other failure was Barbaras knee which started to give her some real gyp on the way down, I ended up carrying her pack fo the last bit before we got back to Steve who was waiting with plenty of wood for a fire and some wine!
The shakedown run had been a success in that we had found some small things that needed changing to make the van more livable. However during our trip back to Santiago the van was not sounding or feeling so great, the vibration that it had when we bought it had worsened somewhat. I guess that is what shakedowns are for, basically to try and break the thing you just built, it seemed we may have succeeded.
When we arrived back at La Chimba Enzo from Pachamama by Bus was there and commented on the not so healthy noise. This was a bit worrying as he had had a bit of a look round the van a couple of weeks before and thought he was all good. Which had been reassuring as he runs a fleet of sprinters that have covered over 3m kilometres.
We had been planning to head north in the next few days, but we thought we should get the van looked at and Enzo pointed us in the direction of some good Sprinter mechanics.