With 30 cm of fresh snow in the last 48 hours, this reprise of a recon hike we did three weeks ago had much of the same elements, with the exception that visibility was much improved. Seven fit snowshoers started our trek at 9:30 am at the Zopkios rest area. We did not run into a single soul the entire day. What joy it was to have the pristine mountains all to ourselves!
Team trail-breaking started just after 2 km. Snow was deep and heavy and we reached the Zupjok-Zopkios Ridge saddle at noon with a strong team. After sliding down into the valley the task of navigating optimally towards Guanaco began. With many creeks, ravines, and a thick canopy the job was not always easy. With helpful inputs from everyone we managed to find a very good route towards the Vicuna-Guanaco col, bypassing any sidehilling, most of the heavy underbrushes and avalanche hazards.
The heavy slogging and continuous micro-navigations occupied most of our thoughts, and breaks for replenishments soon got lost in the shuffle, with most of us noticing a drop-off in energy as we approached the col at 3:45 pm. Malin and I decided to make the col our destination for the day. Irina, Chris, and Evgeny took a small break and pressed on for the remaining 1/2 km ridge scramble to Guanaco Peak.
We took many stunning photos, mesmerized by the gorgeous vista and endless strings of aesthetic mountains around us. Turning back around 5:15, we mostly followed our uptracks but managed to optimize certain descent sections by traversing down powdery slopes that we avoided on the way up.
With cumulative elevation gain pushing 1800 m for the day we finished just after 10 pm - a long and arduous day to be sure. Most team members I spoke with agreed that this was the most demanding snowshoe they have been on. Ah, but what a joyous and satisfying day!
On this trip, everyone contributed a great deal to the success of the hike. Seamless teamwork and different strengths coming together are beautiful to behold. A note of appreciation to Chris Morley for his yeoman's work and positive encouragement to everyone. And to Ahmad for his initial navigation to the saddle three weeks ago - without which this trip would have been harder to achieve.