I woke up to the sound of rain on the tent. That sound did not reassure me. Fortunately though, it was not rain, it was snow—it was still below freezing. I thought: better today than yesterday, but breaking camp will be fun. Still, I would rather snow to rain and 34°.
Packing up in the snow wasn't too bad, much better than rain. It had pretty much stopped by the time we started to hike out. I had on my fleece pants under the soft shell and gators, which was way too much. As we hiked, the sun would appear and disappear. We put on our sunglasses, and eventually I put on some sun goop. I hike slower than most, and I was stopping to take pictures, so I ended up hiking by myself.
I missed an ill-marked turn and continued on the obvious trail. Eventually a guide behind me whistled and got my attention. They had tried earlier, but apparently I hadn't heard. So I hiked back, and he pointed out the area I was supposed to go to. He then hurried on to catch another person ahead of me. I couldn't see any real trail, so I bushwhacked down to another guide, and together we hiked down to the road.
At the road, there was no bus. Apparently it couldn't deal with the snow, and had stopped up the road a ways. So we started hiking down the road. At some point I took off my down and just had on my two tees and heavy fleece.
At one point, the bus came past me, but it didn't stop so I continued walking. Around the bend I came across the lead guide, who was sitting across from a hut that had been at least mostly built but never used.
He explained that the bus (with most of the people) had gone down so that the mules wouldn't have to go so far (and because the snow on the road had melted). While we were waiting I took off my fleece pants and my gators. Then we went down to check out the hut. There, we saw that the bus was not too far down the road, so we hiked down to it. I got there just as they were finishing loading things on the roof and taking off the ladder. I got on and we drove off shortly.
At one point, there was a bang outside the bus, and one of the guys who was very out-going and colorful, and who had just returned from Afghanistan with the Marines, started babbling about IED's. I wasn't sure if he was having flashbacks, or if he was joking around.
About another 10 to 15 min. down the road we stopped, got out, and had salteñas for lunch. These were sort of like empañadas and were wonderful. I think we got them from a local we picked up on the side of the road.
I started to nod off, figuring that I would wake up when we left the dirt road and picked up the paved road back to La Paz, but when I came to, we will already in El Alto. There is apparently a really big street market there every Thursday and Sunday. I was told you could buy anything there from chickens to horses, from paint to cars.
We got to the hotel, checked in, and got our stuff that we had left there.
The first thing I did was filter some tap water and brush my teeth. Then I uploaded the camera flash and started charging the batteries. Next, I took a shower and put on clean clothes. I watched the end of Lord of the Rings while doing some laundry in the sink. The movie had been dubbed into Spanish, but the SAP (Separate Audio Program) had the original sound-track in English.
We went out to eat at an Argentinian place a block away. I ended up with a slab of beef the size of a 6 inch long 2x4. It was huge! It wasn't the best steak I've ever had, but it was good. It came with the ubiquitous French fries and a salad bar.
I decided that I definitely liked living in a hotel and eating in restaurants rather than a tent in the middle of the mountains.
At dinner, we got the run-down of the plan for the next few days. I thought that the climb up Huayna sounded very promising. The next day we would leave around 2pm and get to the base hut around 4. We would settle in and spend a quiet rest of the day. The next day we would hike up about two hours to the high camp (another hut), with us carrying our day packs and with porters carrying our climbing gear. This would be on dirt rather than snow. We would hit the sack early, and then leave high camp for the summit around midnight. The climb should take us 5-7 hours.
It sounded very similar to Mount Rainier, except that the food at high camp should be better (at Rainier we just had hot water for freeze-dried meals), and we should have a lighter load on the way to high camp.
After the meal (and writing up my diary), I was rather tired. (They seem to eat dinner a lot later than I was used to.) Since we weren’t leaving until 2pm, I left my stuff strewn all over the floor, figuring that I would pack my stuff the next day.