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Alejandro, Ignacio, Sebastián, and Nancy on the first day of the crossing from Punta de Vacas to Tunuyan
Alejandro, Ignacio, Sebastián, and Nancy on the first day of the crossing from Punta de Vacas to Tunuyan | Photo courtesy of Nancy Giovagnola

First known woman in Argentina makes treacherous hike at 54-years-old

At times, danger lurks around the corner. During one such incident, I clung to some stones. Beneath me lay a great void. Thank God I was not the last person in line. Alejandro came behind me and grabbed my hand. “You have to lift your lefts,” he said. The weight of my backpack pulled me down. I had no strength.

Nancy Giovagnola
Subject Information
Nancy Giovagnola, 55, of Santa Rose de Calamuchcita, Argentina, achieved an amazing athletic feat after having never engaged in sports until late in life. At 47, she moved from Lincoln, a province in Buenos Aires, to Santa Rosa de Calamuchita where she started training in sports. She began with swimming, moved on to running, and finally opted to buy a bike so she could cross-train and work different muscles. At the age of 54, with a group of three men, she became the first known woman to make the crossing from Punta de Vacas to Tunuyán. They were the first group to do it in 40 years.
Background Information
Because the pass between Punta de Vacas and Tunuyán is not a marked or known trail, little history or documentation on it exists. The author communicated with different companies to verify Nancy is the only known woman to make the journey, highlighted by “Only mountains.” Other companies in the region confirmed “not knowing of any women who have carried out this activity,” and in the company’s publications, Nancy is recognized as a well-known hiker.

SANTA ROSE DE CALAMUCHITA, Argentina ꟷ As a housewife, mother of four boys, and merchant, I never even played sports. Then, at 54 years old, I became the first known woman to make the treacherous hike from Punta de Vacas to Tunuyán.

I began training at 47 for the crossing, which had not been achieved in 40 years. Alongside my trainer Alejandro, I prepared for the unmarked trails and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My accomplishment surprised me.

Hiker hangs on to rocks to avoid a dangerous fall

I always dreamed of living in the mountains and in my late forties, decided to move from Lincoln in the Buenos Aires province to Santa Rose de Calamuchita. My passion for nature made me feel something – like we have a place on this planet. I always wanted to swim across a lake, so I began training. There, I found a colleague who encouraged me to train for racing, and I bought a bike.

Nancy and her companions photographed a map marking their journey since no one has made the trip in 40 years | Photo courtesy of Nancy Giovagnola

Through cross training, the opportunity for a great adventure arose. When I agreed to train for the crossing from Punta de Vacas to Tunuyán, I innocently underestimated the task. I could not imagine how complicated it would be, but my lack of mountaineering did not stop me.

Every day on the journey we faced difficult challenges. One day, we went up to Portezuelo. We ran out of water from 3:00 p.m. until 10:00 a.m. the next morning. At half past ten we found water to make breakfast. We had not eaten since the day before. The hunger became eclipsed by the indescribable thirst. Yet, the constant adrenaline rush moves you. You do not stop the body or the mind. The sensations you feel and the wonders you see seem immense.

At times, danger lurks around the corner. I recall ugly and dangerous falls. During one such incident, I clung to some stones. Beneath me lay a great void. Thank God I was not the last person in line. Alejandro came behind me and grabbed my hand. “You have to lift your lefts,” he said. Hanging there already proved challenging, but the weight of my backpack pulled me down. I had no strength.

“Let me rest for a minute and I’ll make the effort,” I responded. I stayed there, holding on to the rocks, asking God to give me the strength to life my legs. I did it and moved to safety. It was a very moving moment for me.

Beauty mixed with desperation leads to the finish line

The environment often appeared hostile. Walking an unmarked path, any wrong step could cause you to slip and lead to misfortune. Yet, other moments left me in awe, like the immensity of waterfalls and the magical sound they made.

Nature, at every corner, invaded my body. The flowers and smells were like nothing you find anywhere else in the world. Still, the journey challenged me. The road became frustrating at times.

Fatigue and dehydration sometimes seemed fatal. At night, the cold increased so much, we took off only our boots, sleeping with all of our clothing and our jackets on.

On the last days of the trip, I felt incredible frustration and desperation. Though we saw the end in sight, getting there proved difficult. Time felt longer. I began making all kinds of concessions with the sky.

Yet me made it. I lost three and a half kilos (nearly eight pounds) in eight days, but I did it. I completed a hike that had not been done in 40 years. Without being a climber or having ever played sports, I became the first known woman to achieve the task.

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Carolina A. Leguizamón is a social communicator. She currently works professionally in a portal in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina; developing as an SEO consultant in a portal of the Province of Buenos Aires; and in management of social networks in a private agency in the Federal Capital.