National Geographic : 1967 Jan
into deep canyons and narrow, sterile defiles. The grassless earth had not changed since San Martin's day, but our route differed as the railroad led us through dark tunnels. We climbed through thinning air to 13,000 feet, and Mary said wanly, "I feel as though we've crossed the continent by covered wagon." At last we viewed Mount Aconcagua, at 22,834 feet the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere (above). Then we descended to Portillo, Chile-a mere 9,400 feet. Our daughter Lucy had urged us not to miss Portillo. A skiing enthusiast, she had come here three times; during the Northern Hemisphere's summer, Portillo is the ski capi- tal of the world. We found engineers and car penters busily refurbishing more than two miles of lifts for the world ski championships. Half an hour from the hotel stands a land mark more famous than the skiing: the Christ of the Andes, a statue raised after Chile and Argentina settled their long-standing border dispute at the turn of the century. By sunrise, our expedition found an icy panorama. The sun's first rays strike Aconcagua itself. Grad ually, the rosy glow spreads downward until it lights an inscription at the foot of the Christ: "These mountains will fall before the people of Argentina and Chile break the peace sworn at the feet of Christ the Redeemer."