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Thread: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

  1. Link to Post #161
    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Here's an interesting, beautifully written and moving article, published in one of the Ecuador Sunday papers this morning. It was written by a lifelong friend of his for 50 years, who also feels sure he must now have died.
    Here's my slight clean-up of a Google translation. Wilson's friend stated that he was asked not to go alone, two weeks ago today, but he set off anyway because he was so confident.

    Haunted mountains

    Hola. Aló, Wilson... Hola, Chico, what have you done? You never answer, you never answer.

    You went to the mountains. And who did you leave with? You went alone. How crazy. Then you get lost. And remember: I will not go looking for you.

    How come? I never get lost. That's true, and this time Wilson wasn't lost either. He knew exactly what he was doing. His goal was to hike through the Cajas on the edge of El Tablón to the coast. But in his plans he never counted on the impressive slope of descent with an inaccessible, humid montane primary forest full of abysses with dreadful cliffs, creepy ravines, impenetrable rocks.

    On Sunday 5 August, two weeks ago, his friends told him not to set off alone. But Wilson left without respecting the mountain, fully trusting in his knowledge and in his extraordinary power of orientation. Instead, he found a madness of forest. It's impossible to walk in it, and in my estimation, he accidentally went off his route.

    Wilson Serrano was my lifelong friend. Every since we were young, fifty years ago, we went to the mountains together. So many routes, so many peaks, so many landscapes, so many dazzling dawns, so many laughs, so many tears.

    Other mountaineers have aged with us. But the ice axes, the walking poles, the ropes, the backpacks, the tents are always waiting for us there for a new adventure. If Wilson is already ahead of us, I do not want us to find him because it would be nice for him to rest forever in the mountains that we both love so much.

    When driving to Cuenca on the road from Guayaquil, from Molleturo we see imposing mountains on the left. We see Santa Rosa at 3850 meters, El Tablón at 4025 meters. Both really beautiful, they're like watchtowers at the western foot.

    Then below that, hostile, impenetrable forest, ferocious as he alone descended almost vertically to the towns of Huigra, Arquillo and San Antonio at 1800 meters above sea level, almost on the coast, behind a dozen lagoons of the Cajas National Park where the Pampeadas, the Enchanted Lagoons, Las Chorreras and La Negra all stand out. This is truly an overwhelming, very cold zone.

    Wilson Serrano took part in many rescues, and found many people. He loved to hike alone because he knew the Cajas, and all these mountains of the south-central Andes, like the palm of his hand.

    About a year ago, we were both alone on Chimborazo. He was a simple man, with an immense and noble heart, good, kind, and as a teacher he was a friend of hundreds of students. When they went to the mountains with him, they never got lost. He never needed GPS. He had great physical strength, and a deep knowledge of the mountains.

    Today is the fifteenth day of his loss. Deepak Chopra says that matter is a captive moment of space in time, that the body is like a river that flows in the processes of life. This world that teaches us to believe, shows us a life full of experiences and tells us that the ultimate limit of human life is death and that behind it shines a clear perception of immortality in this world in which we live every day full of activity governed by everyday thought and emotions.

    The spirit transcends, full of peace and joy, and now Wilson is perhaps in that timeless world, with space open to the spirit, in a now-permanent dialogue with the mountains.

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  3. Link to Post #162
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    21 days after Wilson Serrano disappeared, they've now brought in Zeus, a search-and-rescue dog.

    It seems hard to understand why this hadn't been done much earlier. But Zeus is from Quito, 10 hours drive away, and I presume they have no local dogs with that experience. (But even Mara would find an injured person pretty quickly if she happened to be anywhere close.)

    Rescue teams hold regular meetings to coordinate Wilson Serrano's search.

    On Cerro Arquillo in Cajas National Park, search efforts have been extended for climber Wilson Serrano, who remains lost in the area after 21 days.

    The Fire Department of Cuenca reported that yesterday morning the Canine Unit of the Fire Department of Quito joined the search with a German Shepherd dog named Zeus, trained to locate missing people in large areas.

    David Durango, firefighter from Quito, reported that they will try to get a trace of the missing person, or identify a place on the mountain where the climber could be.

    He explained that Zeus specializes in locating people lost in the mountains. Their new search starts from the Rancho de los Hermanos Prado, in El Cajas.

    Joining them were the Fire Department of Cuenca, the Fire Department of Quito, the Sangay Mountaineering Club, and the Group of Intervention and Rescue (GIR) of the National Police.

    Patricio Lucero, head of the Fire Department of Cuenca, said that everyone involved in the search is monitored for safety from the command vehicle located at the top of Cerro Santa Rosa, in Molleturo. They meet regularly with Serrano's relatives to inform them of the progress of the search.

    Some 500 people have participated in the search, combing through more than 50,000 hectares — 200 square miles — of páramo (high altitude, treeless tundra), and in areas of pajonal (wetlands with reeds and cattails), chaparro (low bush and shrubland), dense forest, rocks, streams, rivers, and zones bordering the different lagoons. Nothing has been found.

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  5. Link to Post #163
    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Well, today they called off the search. 664 people had searched an area of 200 square miles for a month. Not the slightest trace of Wilson Serrano was found.

    The search for Wilson Serrano has been called off.


    Rescuers descended cliffs, and other areas that were difficult to access; but they found no trace of Wilson Serrano.

    Today is one month since mountaineer Wilson Serrano, 68, became lost in ​​El Cajas. The institutions in charge of the search, despite great efforts, were unable to locate him. They have made the decision to suspend the search. His relatives expressed their gratitude to all the groups and individuals who collaborated in the difficult and dangerous attempt at rescue.

    Julio Rosendo Solís Prado, resident of the Gülag sector of Sayausí, recalls that on Sunday, August 5, at about 9 am, he saw Wilson Serrano for the last time. "He was heading to El Cajas on his motorcycle, and when he saw me he stopped to say hello. He was my great friend," he said.

    Then he said goodbye, and continued his journey.

    Solis regrets that he could not join the search because at the time of the disappearance he'd suffered a fall from a horse, which left him with some difficulty in mobility. "I cried for my friend. I lost hope of finding him alive," he said.

    It's known that Wilson arrived in the area of ​​El Cajas, parked his motorcycle, secured it with a chain, and walked into the mountains.

    Climber Nicanor Merchán, who also went to the search, had a conversation with Pablo Pulla, a person who was camping in El Cajas that Sunday. Around noon, he met Wilson Serrano when he was walking along the path of the Pampleadas lagoons.

    Wilson inquired: "What are you doing?"

    Pablo answered: "We're camping here. Where are you going?"

    "I'm not heading in any special direction," Serrano told him.

    In the same conversation, they discussed that bad weather was on the way, and it was going to be very cold.

    Without much more delay, Wilson continued walking; but he didn't head for ​​the lagoons of Playas Encantadas. Apparently he took the path leading to El Tablón, a high mountain in the area. That was the last time he was seen.

    Later that evening, Wilson used his cellphone to try to communicate with his nephew Nicolás Astudillo, with whom he lived and is closest. The call was diverted to voicemail. His message said: "I'm looking way down at a road, and I'm sleeping in a cave. Early tomorrow I'll be at the road, so there's no problem. I can see lights on the road right now."

    However, in a second message he revealed that the situation was more complicated. He said: "I'm going further down the mountainside to Molleturo. I'll just keep going." Nothing more is known.



    The search

    Sixto Heras and Felipe Camacho, both from the Fire Department, emphasized that the rescue effort was carried out 100% professionally. The search was conducted by 664 people for 27 days.

    Jorge Serrano and Nicolás Astudillo, representing Wilson Serrano's family, expressed gratitude to all those who participated in and supported the search. They stressed that it had been a very difficult time for the family, combining continual anxiety at the same time as unshakable hope of finding Wilson alive — or at least locating his body.

    The rescuers

    Juan Apolo, member of the High Mountain Search and Rescue Unit of the Cuenca Fire Department, explained that in the 27 days he combed some 50,000 hectares. "Everything humanly possible was done," he said, expressing regret at the failure of the search.

    For the work in El Cajas, search techniques known as parallel patterns (straight line trekking) and circular patterns (surrounding the mountains) were used, taking into account the saying: "Before shooting, it's best to circle the target" — since the whole area is one of difficult access and high altitude.

    The rescuers moved through inhospitable places to areas with thick vegetation, where from the ground only the tops of the trees are observed. On the way they found traces of pumas and spectacled bears.

    The brigades reached the summit known as Diablos Cocha, at 4,400 meters [14,450 ft] above sea level, where the Atlantic wind currents meet those from the Pacific. The area is characterized by hurricane winds with speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour, which can easily lift a person.

    The search teams formed triangles of search from the edge of El Tablón, where they descended to Arquillo and San Antonio, areas bordering Molleturo, and also other trails that lead to the Coast, such as Chacanceo.

    The massif of El Cajas has steep ravines and rock walls of an altitude of 4,400 meters above sea level, that descend to 2,500 meters with rough vegetation and humid subtropical forest. On that descent, there are many completely impenetrable areas along the cliffs, through the ravines and the primary forest.



    Groups of climbers from Cuenca and Quito descended with ropes through the rock walls to the bottom of the ravines to try to find Serrano, but they found absolutely no trace. Likewise, Ernesto Arbeláez with his drones searched in the deepest part of the river gorges... finding nothing.

    Not one of the 664 searchers, in 27 days, found a single clue that might start to explain what had happened to Wilson Serrano.
    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 5th September 2018 at 19:28.

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  7. Link to Post #164
    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    A little more on the story of the total disappearance of Wilson Serrano, reported in some detail in the posts above.

    Yesterday I went up there myself... but not to where he vanished, but to the other side of the valley where there was a spectacular viewpoint way up high on a small dirt road. I was able to take this panorama photo, one the Ecuador media never had or ever showed. It's the best possible illustration of the area, and what occurred.



    A high resolution image is here. With no trails anywhere, you can see what the searchers were up against.
    I'm pretty sure I know what happened. He left two phone messages very late on the evening of his planned one-day hike, way after dark. In the first, he said that he was fine, but was "going to spend the night in a cave". In his second message, he said he'd seen the lights of a road, so he was going to keep going down.

    No-one saw or heard from him again.

    As many experienced hikers and mountaineers reading this will understand, he made a literally fatal mistake. There are no trails up there, and the maps are non-existent or very poor. He was skilled and confident, and he knew the area "like the palm of his hand". But it's still really easy to get disoriented in the dark, especially if you're in rain or fog and the visibility is low.

    The #1 rule for anyone who gets caught out at night in the mountains, unless you know exactly where you are and are on a good trail (or are wet through, have no shelter, and it's below freezing) — is to STOP.

    You might have an uncomfortable sleepless night to remember for all the wrong reasons, but you'll make it through to sunrise. Then, even if you're hungry and tired, you have a whole fresh day ahead of you to figure everything out and get down slowly and safely.

    Wilson didn't do that. He kept on going in the dark — and then hit a really serious problem: maybe a fall over steep rocks, and/or a broken leg. And the lights he said he saw may have been something quite different, or a different road entirely in a different direction.

    On the photo above, the road he said he saw was to the west, where the rescuers focused their search. But if he was disoriented and had no compass (it's actually unknown whether he had one with him or not), he could have headed to the north (away from the camera viewpoint) or even to the east.

    He didn't mean a real 'cave', of course. He'd have meant some kind of person-sized shelter under a large rock, like this one here. (I took the photo yesterday; there are many around, all over the place.) Something like that would be quite adequate to protect yourself from wind and rain. You'd curl up in there, safe and dry, and maybe make a kind of big nest from grass and vegetation.

    Hardly a Five Star hotel, but you'd get through the night just fine and might even snatch an hour of sleep. I've done this myself in the past, after a similar misjudgment. And I'm still here with the memories, which, paradoxically, become happy ones years later.



    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 27th September 2018 at 13:20.

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    I truly am reluctant to touch a nerve here, but is everyone suggesting that which may not have been said publicly? That is, that Wilson has moved on to the next phase of life after physical death.

    Is it possible for any person, Wilson or otherwise, to survive out there for a month with, as I understand it, no water, no adequate shelter and clothing, and no food to speak of?

    If he has passed, my sincere condolences to his family, loved ones and friends.

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Quote Posted by Satori (here)
    I truly am reluctant to touch a nerve here, but is everyone suggesting that which may not have been said publicly? That is, that Wilson has moved on to the next phase of life after physical death.
    664 people searched 200 square miles for a whole month, the biggest mountain rescue ever attempted in Ecuador. It was a major thing here, as Wilson was very well-known and extremely well-liked. They didn't find a trace of him, and in the end they just had to draw it all to a close. It's VERY wild and remote up there, and his body, wherever it is, is unlikely ever to be found.

    My next trip, though, will be to the area where he was last seen. It's called 'The Haunted Lakes' (Las Lagunas Encantadas), which has been known for generations for weird happenings, ghostly sightings, and even a UFO appearing out of one of the lakes. I've never been there, and it promises to be an interesting experience.
    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 26th September 2018 at 19:50.

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    Quote Posted by Satori (here)
    I truly am reluctant to touch a nerve here, but is everyone suggesting that which may not have been said publicly? That is, that Wilson has moved on to the next phase of life after physical death.
    664 people searched 200 square miles for a whole month, the biggest mountain rescue ever attempted in Ecuador. It was a major thing here, as Wilson was very well-known and extremely well-liked. They didn't find a trace of him, and in the end they just had to draw it all to a close. It's VERY wild and remote up there, and his body, wherever it is, is unlikely ever be found.

    My next trip, though, will be to the area where he was last seen. It's called 'The Haunted Lakes' (Las Lagunas Encantadas), which has been known for generations for weird happenings, ghostly sightings, and even a UFO appearing out of one of the lakes. I've never been there, and it promises to be an interesting experience.

    An experienced dowser or kinesiologist may be of help to locate Wilson but I suspect that has already been tried.
    Last edited by Ron Mauer Sr; 26th September 2018 at 19:32.

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    To happier things: yesterday Mara and I climbed Cerro Arquitectos, the highest peak in the area. I'd been up there before, but this time I set out to make a little 5 minute video. It's not very fancy! But you'll get the idea of what it's like up there — and what it takes to get there, too.


    The YouTube text:
    Mara (my dog) and I climbed Cerro Arquitectos on 25 Sept 2018. At 14,600 ft, it's the highest peak in the Cajas National Park in Ecuador. It's quite a little expedition even to get near there, picking our way for an hour along a precipitous 4x4 dirt road.

    We'd been up there several times before, but this was the best and brightest day... though the wind was HOWLING, as you can hear, and it was just as cold as it sounds. The highlight (not very well captured on video!) is just after the half way mark, when I had to do a short rock climb (one-handed, holding the camera), to reach the summit. Mara of course was already there... she has four legs and a low center of gravity, so for her it was all considerably easier. Enjoy!

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Now that sounds Interesting! I did a hike like Wilson not long ago. It wasn't that remote though. The moral of that story is don't overestimate your abilities and always factor in the age factor.

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Thanks for taking us "to the top"!!

    Good you could get out & "blow the stink off", as my Mother used to say!

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    * crackerjack = expert
    Last edited by RunningDeer; 27th September 2018 at 16:20.

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)


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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Thank you Paula. I noticed the shoe and so loved the video. But, I confess, my favorite part aside from the gorgeous terrain was Mara. She is just so happy and alert. She just made me smile. Queen of the world.

    Bill, wouldn't a hiking person bring along a lighter or something which they could build a fire with, in order to alert a search party to their presence? I am NOT a hiker and no little about those kinds of survival skills.
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone when we are uncool." From the movie "Almost Famous""l "Let yourself stand cool and composed before a million universes." Walt Whitman

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  27. Link to Post #174
    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Quote Posted by Valerie Villars (here)
    Bill, wouldn't a hiking person bring along a lighter or something which they could build a fire with, in order to alert a search party to their presence? I am NOT a hiker and no little about those kinds of survival skills.
    Well, that particular area is way above the treeline (though there are hardy grasses and shrubs), and in bad weather a fire is a tough proposition. But in theory, yes, a lighter only weighs an ounce and has to be worth carrying. A whistle works better for attracting attention, though. (And never goes out!)

    For anyone who's interested (and who might care about my well-being!), I personally always carry
    • A weatherproof survival bag that reflects 90% of body heat
    • A fleece sleeping bag liner
    • Spare wool socks
    • Warm gloves + waterproof overmittens
    • A stormproof mountain jacket
    • Two insulating foam sleeping mats
    • Two hats (my leather hat + a warm beanie)
    • Fleece salopettes and jacket that are warm when wet
    • I also always take a knife, cord, plastic bags, elastic strapping (for knees/ankles), safety pins, iodine, suncream, bandaids, toilet roll, compass, whistle, emergency energy drink, headlamp, phone, water bottle, spare food, ID card, blood group card, and camera.
    • And a dog.
    • No maps. There aren't any. (But I always leave my route details on the Avalon server each time, and never vary from the plan.)
    All that (apart from the dog!) weighs a featherweight 13 lbs, including the backpack and a liter of water but excluding the salopettes which I wear whether it's hot or cold. I always aim to travel fast and light, but I'm confident I'd be just fine if I was stuck somewhere up high for a couple of days and nights.

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  29. Link to Post #175
    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Quote Posted by RunningDeer (here)
    Lovely.

    Not quite a Crackerjack Shoe!



    They're a VERY old pair of Columbia training shoes, that are super-light to wear — because there's not much of them actually left.

    Here's the last time (of many!) that I re-glued them. They may yet last another few months. The contraption you see is thick elastic wrapped round it all while the epoxy glue sets, all held in place by honey jars. Winnie-the-Pooh would approve.




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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    *crackerjack = expert
    Last edited by RunningDeer; 27th September 2018 at 16:21.

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    664 people searched 200 square miles for a whole month, the biggest mountain rescue ever attempted in Ecuador. It was a major thing here, as Wilson was very well-known and extremely well-liked. They didn't find a trace of him, and in the end they just had to draw it all to a close. It's VERY wild and remote up there, and his body, wherever it is, is unlikely ever to be found.

    My next trip, though, will be to the area where he was last seen. It's called 'The Haunted Lakes' (Las Lagunas Encantadas), which has been known for generations for weird happenings, ghostly sightings, and even a UFO appearing out of one of the lakes. I've never been there, and it promises to be an interesting experience.

    This had my eyebrows rising. And then I read your other entry.



    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    Here's the Google Earth image for The Enchanted Lakes, the area where Wilson disappeared and where Mara and I will head up to as soon as the weather looks stable. The co-ordinates are 2°46'6.35"S, 79°17'39.16"W. (Just paste exactly that into the search bar.)

    Interestingly, they're known as 'The Enchanted Lakes' because the locals claim there's a tradition in that area of strange experiences and weird phenomena, even (apparently) a UFO once seen to appear out of the largest lake. The locals call these kinds of apparitions las brujitas, which translates as 'little witches'.

    There have been many of them over the years, all over the region. Combine that with the Wawa Grande, the topic of this thread, and this entire mountain range becomes very interesting indeed.



    WaWa Grandes and UFOs cause my eyebrows to rise even further. A lot of the same stuff is said about Mt. Shasta and this is of course is a Missing 411 cluster. I'm sure the lost hiker must have just lost his way, and this is a damn shame because no one should have to die like that.
    Dying from the elements is not a pleasant way to go.

    Are disappearances something that happen in the "haunted lakes" often?

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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Bill, that is all a beautiful adventure! Mara certainly looks content! I know you are a very experienced climber! And you are well equipped! Just worry if you had a fall! I know you like your seclusion, but if you had friends in the area to go with you, that would be nice! I know you have taken several people with you on your trips! Just say'n!

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  37. Link to Post #179
    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Here's the best (and only possible!) telephoto image of the Haunted Lakes area. The lakes themselves can't be seen, but they're nestled in the valley floor there. My next goal is to see if I can climb the prominent peak overlooking them. My provisional plan is to go there on Monday.



    Quote Posted by DNA (here)
    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    My next trip, though, will be to the area where he was last seen. It's called 'The Haunted Lakes' (Las Lagunas Encantadas), which has been known for generations for weird happenings, ghostly sightings, and even a UFO appearing out of one of the lakes. I've never been there, and it promises to be an interesting experience.
    This had my eyebrows rising.
    I am interested in the Haunted Lakes — Wawa Grande connection. As I mentioned here, I've now explored a large part of the area within the Cajas National Park which is (a) remote and (b) over 4,000 meters/13,000 ft high. There's not the tiniest sign of a large hominid creature like that (lots of mud near wherever there's water, but not even a big toe print)... and almost nothing up there for them to eat. It's a paradox.

    But the 'Haunted Lakes' aren't actually within the formally defined park boundary, so it's entirely possible that all the Wawa Grande reports have come from there. My plan is to make a dawn start to give myself a ton of time, I'll be well-equipped, and I'll spend the whole day filming.

    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 28th September 2018 at 16:17.

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  39. Link to Post #180
    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another vicarious adventure, and another Avalon Cairn (for the Wawa Grande, this time)

    Quote Posted by DNA (here)
    Are disappearances something that happen in the "haunted lakes" often?
    I really don't know: local web articles are only in Spanish, so that leaves me rather handicapped, even when trying to search intelligently.

    But I did discover this, just a few minutes ago. One of the mountains overlooking the Haunted Lakes is known locally as Cerro Diabloscocha, which translates as The Devil's Pool or The Devil's Swamp. Dave Paulides would be pretty interested in that.

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