Sunday, January 13, 2008

the patagonia trip: The Sweetest Recovery

There was no doubt about today being a rest day.  Stripped of my alpine action suit, I was startled to see my skin hanging from my muscle and bone much more loosely than I could remember.  We savored warm meals and tore through pats of butter with bread.  I also shot out a hasty email to everyone at home. I wonder what I wrote, since I didn't read it over in the end and I don't think I'm yet thinking clearly.  (message posted below)

Originally today was planned to be a day of action with Christian, but, considering our circumstances, he opted to return home for an added day with his family, and offered us a refund for the day.  This was a good outcome.

Sorry to have been out of contact. Connection is limited out here to the outside world. Right now I´m on a satellite internet connection, which is expensive, so this will be brief.

We arrived at the southern tip of south america at Punta Arenas, Chile, over a week ago. The town had a makeshift quality, with all the buidlings made of corrigated iron fand were doubtful of our abilities.or wind sturniness, that gave it a sort of outpost feel. We spent our first night reconoitering various stores we`d need to visit and getting dinner. The next day we bought food and fuel for two to three weeks and our bus tickets for getting to the Torres del Paine park the next day. Tavelling with around 350 lbs of gear and food, we made it to the park the following day and checked in with park administration to validate our climbing permit. Our first night there was surreal. The massif towered over the perfectly quiet campground and horses wandered in between the tents, chewing grass lazily. The next few days we spent transporting our loads of gear around 8 miles to the climbers camp, deep in a valley that penetrates the massif. These were exhausting days. The weather in these more lush parts of the park range from partly cloudy and breezey to rainy or snowy and harshly windy all within minutes. After a day of a rest we met with our mountain guide and went for an attempt on climbing the north tower of Paine at two in the morning. By the time we arrived at the base of the tower, the weather had deteriorated to a full tempest. Aborting, we spend the day familiarizing ourselves with our crampons and ice axes. Our supposed good weather day having been spent, we changed plans for the next couple days, to attempt a circumnavigation of the south tower, which would involve the full gambit of mountain travel, from mixed climbing to glacier travel and rappels. We left early in the morning, climbed slabs of granite in a windless ampitheatre of phantasmagorical proportions, continued through a snow field and then into a col after endless talus. Dropping down on the other side, we decended a steep couliour in the next valley. Seven pitches of climbing through developing snow and rain brought us to the top of a another col, where we realized we weren´t on the intended route, in fact we had just put up a first accent. A rappel down the other side and we sought a place to bivvuac. We fortinfied the side of a large boulder the best we could and bedding for the night, which saw gale force winds, rain and snow. Oddly, I had a great night sleep. The next morning we found more high winds, which would prevent the completion of our circumnavigation so we retreated down the valley, which took 6 hours to put us in a camp clear on the other side of the park as our basecamp. That´s we where are now, taking a couple rest days before good realatively good weather is supposed to roll in in a couple days. I´m pretty sure I´ve already dropped about ten pounds and it has only been a week! I´m not sure if I´ve ever worked this hard, physically. It feels great though. Sorry, no pics for now. Hopefully I can put together something more complete later. Ciao!

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