Friday, January 4, 2008

the patagonia trip: Expectations

Many months ago, when the idea of this trip was born, the vision was of an epic voyage, traveling and climbing from peak to peak with only the supplies we could carry on our backs. Serious sacrifices were expected to be necessary. Perhaps we’d only be able to bring a couple pairs of underwear, a single set of clothes and simple, light-weight food would be all we could manage. We could realize an ideal of backcountry freedom by traveling so light.

I still subscribe to the ideal, but, as our planning for the trip progressed, the realities of our ambition to climb technical peaks in locations with large environmental extremes evolved our vision. We came to terms with the fact that we’d have to travel with a duffel in addition to our “only” pack when, on a weekend trip to the Adirondacks, our “only” packs were bursting with only a couple days worth of supplies. Speaking with our alpine hero, Jim Donini, on the phone didn’t help. He told us of the myriad things he brings on his own Patagonian expeditions, including large tents, good food and stoves.

The more we learned the more our equipment list swelled.Yesterday’s final pack and run to the airport was a stark reminder of how far we have come from our original concept.

I’m carrying two extra large duffels, weighing 70lbs each, and a filled day-pack on my back. Dave is also carrying two duffels, each weighing about 50lbs, and a larger day-pack. Together we’re lugging almost 300lbs worth of ropes, tents, stoves, climbing gear, clothes, toiletries, books, etc. and we haven’t even purchased food and fuel!

Soon we will land in Punta Arenas, find lodging where we can stow our gear and set off to secure bus transport to the park. In the morning we’ll shop for our food and then leave. I can’t wait for the absurdity of transporting in the realm of 400lbs of gear into the mountains of this foreign country. The vision has changed, but the ideal is still in there somewhere. I suppose that somewhere is going to have to be beyond our established base camp.

...We’ve completed our first our first day in Chile! We ferried our luggage through customs in Santiago, began attempting to speak the language, attained lodging in Punta Arenas, ordered an excellent meal with wine, recon’ed various tiendas we’ll need to hit tomorrow and reorganized all of our gear.

What has struck me the most about this land so far is its peculiar vegetation. There are many scrub bush type plants that hug the ground in sandy soil and trees that grow at an angle, oriented with the perpetual wind. If the whole tree isn’t slanted, often its branches are--all with the wind. Some trees that aren’t swept look like pines with bristling poles of needles radiating perfectly out, perpendicular from the trunk, as to form the overall shape of a cylinder. Another has branches that split from the trunk all at the same level, just over one’s head, where they shoot straight up in such number and density where you only see darkness when looking up through the canopy of a single tree in broad daylight.

We were also pleased to see that the sky remains bright until around 10:30pm here. That should work in our favor.

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