Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Journey Home

Welp, we're in Santiago, Chile at the airport. Waiting. For. The. Plane. Having some nice sentiments about our trip. I will leave you with some parting thoughts.

Here's a little list of things about this country we will miss...

Fruitigran. When it's cheaper to buy good red wine than coca cola. The flag. CCR. The products that rise from lack of building codes. Dread lock mullets. Dread lock mullets on children. Bags of olives for $1. No tax on food. Siesta (everyday 1:30-5:30). Dulce de leche. Vertical. Mate. Medialunas. 10% suggested tips. Empanadas. Knock off version of buffs called "stuff". Southern stars. Gauchos. "Buen provecho". Bob Marley everywhere. The outfits (I fit in). Hot water dispensers for mate at gas stations. Bum dogs. Patagonia. Kioskos. "Permiso." "Dale." Fitz Roy. Andes beer by the liter (ryan). Bite de chorizo (Ryan). Gelato. Fancy dinners in Mendoza.

And the things we won't ...

Steak flavored potato chips. White bread and sugar. Smoking inside. Table salt. Throwing used t.p. in the trash can. Knowing enough to know someone is talking about me but not enough to know what they're saying. Asados. Being a tourist. Leather placemats. Gallon bags of mayonnaise. Only decent vegetables at the supermarket sometimes. Full dead animals hanging spread eagle in restaurant windows. 28 hour bus rides. 18 hour bus rides. Bad movies dubbed in Spanish with bad english subtitles. Dinner at 10 or 11pm. " wPermiso". "Dale". Plastic bolcitos for everything. Long lines. Drivers having the right of way. Poorly behaved children. Bus terminals. Paying for t.p. in public bathroom (or opting for none). The heat.


Los Aranales

So we head back into the mountains for one last adventure before leaving. We left El Chalten in the midst of an epic weather window...12 days I heard. It wasn't easy leaving, but we knew if we stayed that we wouldn't get the chance to check out Los Aranales which came highly recommended from everyone who had been there.

Turns out that we fully got the cultural experience that we had been craving. Where to begin?

We purchased a guide book from a 'gear' type shop. We asked them how to get there. Some people sounded like they somewhat knew, but a series of translations and phone calls would reveal spotty information. So we dove in head first. We got on a bus to Tunuyan the next day, packs full for five days of climbing and camping. We had to hire a driver to Manzanos Historicos (something about some really old apple tree where the freedom of Argentina was announced...story got a little lost in translation.) once we were there, we were to ask around for the ex rock star who owns the only truck in the town. He would drive us the rest of the way up a 4wd road.

He was in the mountains for an undecided amount of town. Great. No phones. Now we're really in it. It was 6:30pm by this time so walking the 13+ km up the road to the Refugio was out of the question. Except for a gaucho, storefront owners and a couple of rasta-gypsie type locals, we were alone. Sitting underneath the 50ft Jesus on the cross, which was also the bus stop on the weekend, we were really at a loss.

Just then a kid in a van drove by and offered us a ride. Yes!

We got up there, set up our camp and proceeded to kick it. The  refugio was incredibly rustic here. Leaky, one window, no kitchen, up-kept by visitors and we hang the food from hooks suspended from the ceiling so the overstuffed mice didn't eat it. The cows and horses liked to hang out up there too and there was an incident of a cow eating a bunch of food suspended from a bolt on the rock. Our awesome friends from Portland (mike and Aileen) were there, knowingly. Besides them, just a few Argentines..the locals, and a few Brazilians.  There was a ton of rocks here. Holy crap. Again as with the rest of Argentina, the approaches are bigger than they look. Once up at the base of these formations...wowee! The rocks are hott!

Perfect quality granite. Again. Splitter as cuss. Sticky. Very inviting. It is spectacular climbing. Most formations are 300-400m tall, so not too big in comparison to other places we've been, but the quality trumps it. The views are also stellar. Right in the heart of the Andes. Quite spectacular.

We climbed pretty hard for four days. The weather was pretty much perfect everyday. Apparently it rained for like two weeks before we got there and the day we left was a horrendous thunderstorm (also really uncommon). So we kinda nailed that one, blindly. It was absolutely meant to be.

On our way out, we opted to walk the 13+km to H.M. We awoke that morning to a cow pooping next to our tent, turns out somebody wasn't actually throwing mud at our tent at 8am. We sold a bunch of gear to super grateful climbers, said our goodbyes and took off. Just as we left e Refugio, the sheets of rain hail and thunder began. So with heads down and spirits high from all the wonderful plotters we jammed our digits and limbs into, we made the trek. We passed some gauchos in action and hundreds of Argentines having their raging Sunday asado/day camp family parties.

We sat in the town and observed the locals celebrating life for quite a while before reporting to giant Jesus for our bus ride back to Mendoza. 12 hours after we left the Refugio we were eating at our favorite restaurant in Mendoza, starting our three days of chillaxin.

What a whirlwind!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The LoveHate Feelings Towards Traveling

I'm going to toot our horns on how well we've been choosing hostels and other accommodations. Until yesterday. I'm not generally snobby about where I stay, I live in my car four months out of the year, but grOSS! I take all the credit for this one. I picked it online, didn't read the reviews... Rookie mistake. I had a bad feeling about it when we rolled up. Maybe it was the chipped paint on the outside of the building, or the gypsie clothes hanging out the window but I just know right away that I made a mistake. After sitting on a nasty bus for 28 hours, the only thing you want to do is take a shower and I didn't even do that. Not even with my shoes on.

We just walked around for a few hours kind of trying to be light hearted in this situation. When I was looking at all of the other tourists i was picturing the, going to their really nice hotels and sleeping in clean sheets and taking a luxurious shower...jealous! Or when we walked back (I refuse to even call it home) I was looking inside the shops wishing we could just sleep inside any of those clean shops. At least this was the only gross place we'd stayed in two months. When we get to Mendoza, we ain't stayin in no nasty backpackers hostel. I thoroughly researched the place we will check in tomorrow morning.  It's going to be like 200* F up there so ac or at least a ceiling fan is a must.

Feels good to vent! On a happy note, since we unloaded a bunch of gear to super grateful climbers in El Chalten, we are now able to buy stuff! Yay! It's way more fun to be a tourist when you can buy the cute little artisan products! That's what Ryan thinks too, I'm sure :). Since Argentina is going through some massive political changes and in an effort to promote buying local, there are lots of handmade local artisan galleries. Very colorful. I would like one of each please. Unfortunately, on the contrary to shopping in any other south American country, its still kinda pricey.

Well that's it for today's rant. Thanks for tuning in!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ramble On

It's hard to believe that we're on the way back home. We've started the journey up north. 3hr bus to El Calafate, 28 hr bus to Bariloche, 18 hour bus to Mendoza...then we will climb in the Andes fora few days before we start the air portion of our journey home. It's deffinately bittersweet. We're having an amazing time, but missing our families, friends, skis and blender...Mmmmm smoothies...

A little recap on the El Calafate end of things...
We stayed there for about 3 weeks. It was delightful. We were a little worried that we were not prepared gear wise for climbing anything down there, that didn't seem to hold us back. We agreed that if we even got one big route in, we'd be psyched. So after the first route, anything else was a bonus.

For the next 10 days, the weather was pretty much a wash. Some rain, LOTS of wind and general low pressure which is just unreliable to plan any sort of big trip into the mountains. We still got to do lots of great sport climbing in town and some super bouldering. Then things started to change. So we made plans to go back into the mountains with Jonny, a friend from home with whom we had been bunking in a teeny trailer. (We are all very close now.)

Wow. We went for it. It was a dream come true, literally. Im not the type of person that gets obsessed with a particular line, I'm just psyched on the adventure. However, a friend had put a particular route in my mind back in August, and then it kept coming up in our travels down her via other sources. When we were discussing what we were psyched on, I of course had to say Chiaro di Luna. So, up we go. And up and up and up hand over hand rappelling, tyrollean crossing, navigating pretentious scree fields and glaciers. This redefined adventure. The three amigos kept on and on for countless hours. Sometimes we slept when it got dark, but mostly we moved right through it When we couldn't go up anymore, we started the journey down. When we were hungry, we didn't think about it and when we were really hungry, we allowed ourselves a small snack.

 Human beings are amazing creatures. We have so much potential when we put our minds to it. What we climbed had been the longest day of climbing I'd ever had, it made the grand traverse seem like child's play...or maybe I've just forgotten the pain of that too. When we arrived back in town, we started to hear what other people had climbed... our little route kept sounding smaller and smaller. There are some real inspiring, driven freaks of nature out there. Send!

Lessons learned; 1) don't compare yourself to anyone else because there's always going to be someone better than you 2) the right gear makes all the difference in the world, and yes every ounce will count (it's worth spending the dinero on the light expensive stuff) 3) I'm coming back next time with "muscles and money."

So hopefully our moms can rest now that we've safely made it past the most dangerous part of the trip! 


Saturday, January 5, 2013


First thing, Happy Birthday Evan!!!!! The Internet down here is REALLY slow, so I'm not sure that a message got through to you. So I hope you are having a gay day! Xxo lil bro!

We are in el chalten now. We arrived here on December 31 and the weather was the most beautiful day ever! I'm pretty sure that is as good as it gets here. So, we needed to take advantage. The next day would bring more of the same per the incredibly sophisticated weather prediction they have here. It's a pretty magnificent website that includes wind (direction and speed) , precip, temperature, and barometric pressure. It breaks it all down hourly for up to 196 hrs. It's pretty impressive, geeky and rather confusing but pretty spot on. So we knew that we had until January 2 at 1pm until the weather turned. We had to rally because once the weather changed, there may not be a break for a while.

The next day we hit the trail, 7hr with our full packs of climbing plus backpacking gear. It was such a beautiful hike! We got buzzed by a condor. The views are stellar. Right in the middle of all these massive glaciers, huge waterfalls and rivers. The wildflowers are peaking, and everything is radiant from all of the sun after weeks of rain. Not to mention, we were staring up at FitzRoy the whole time. It is a 1250m relief of vertical rock, beyond dreamy sights for a rock climber. As far as I'm concerned, it is the rock.

The route we would climb is on the same massif, but quite a bit smaller. Still a feat by all means, but it really gave me a perception of how big the big one is. Our route was 8 pitches of impeccable granite, it really is the best. The views from the route were even more spectacular. Surrounded on all sides by massive rock walls and endless glaciers, it made me realize how small we are as humans. It was a good experience for my ego. We finished the route at 12:22, right as the weather changed which was exactly as what was predicted between 12 and 1pm. Yes.

After rappelling, packing up gear, walking down the loose talus and glaciers, the wind had really picked up. I swore that day I would never complain about a windy day in Gunnison ever again. This is the kind of wind that blows you off your feet (no joke.) it's the kid of wind that cracks around the sides of rock faces so loud it sounds like thunder. The wind is so fierce that you can literally lean into it and it will support you. What a trip.

We arrived back at our camp, famished, chilled and I was completely ready for bed, at 330pm. The sun doesn't even set for another 7 + hours. Well I devised a clever plan to eat all of our food instead.  (I hindsight I'm very grateful we decided that was a bad idea.) We did however stuff our faces. Instant potatoes have never tasted so delicious.

During the time we were cooking, a friend from camp informed us that a British dude came by saying his homie broke his leg on FitzRoy. He was stable and waiting in his tent, dry and with food for someone to come get help. He was disappointed we weren't around so continued down to get help from the El Chalten SAR. We tossed around the idea of going out to help him, but there were a lot of red flags (Wasser and any other DarkSAR members following, we GARed this one out and were in the red by the 4th question.) We decided we would go at first light.

Just as we finished dinner, a Swiss party came by and the older, more experienced of the two insisted we go with to help carry the guy back to this camp. He was quite familiar with the terrain and was confident that where they were camped was less than an hour away. At the very least we would bring him some food and just check in on his condition. (3 EMTs in the mix) We were out of there in ten minutes. Carsten dumps all his gear in our tent and the five of us headed over the pass.

Once we approached where the patient was supposedly camped, we realized that the camp as a lot farther, more technical glacier terrain, the weather was definitely deteriorating, wind picking up, I was wet... A quick reassessment made me realize I may be into deep. I told Carsten I was uncomfortable and wanted to go back as we had no bivy gear. Ryan and I turned around and wished them good luck.

The wind on the hike back was absolutely horrendous. The rounding crystals on top of the glacier from the warm sun all day were being blown at us. It felt as though we were being ambushed by bebe guns. Wet, cold, blasted by painful wind, how had my psych level dropped so much from the high of climbing that beatiful route? Once we made it to the other side of the pass the wind was way less intense. We arrived back to camp before dark, once again a feast of powdered potatoes, we felt really good about our decision as we realized ther was no way those guys would be making it back that night.

Not much sleep due to wind, cold, and wondering what the five guys were doing in a two man tent.
The rescue team was at our camp at first light. The rest of them trickled up slowly. We sat and watched everyone come over the pass and geeked out hard on the SAR aspect. Pretty imoressive, ragtag group of folks...sound familiar?  There were 18 people who worked from 2am til 7pm to get homie out. A small follow up, he is ok. Fractured tib/ fib but on good spirits.

What an exciting first trip up to Patagonia! Pretty full value. Now, once again we will wait out th weather. Rainy day. Good day for siestas and empanadas!  I hope y'all are stayin warm up in the Gunnison Valley!mwe miss you guys! Xxo 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Building an Arc and Bringing Bum Dogs

This is an older post from right before Navidad that I forgot to publish...

It's still raining! We have had about 15 days in a row of rain. Not constant all day rain, but we don't leave the place without a goretex jacket. The weather changes so quickly too, one minute I'm about to have a heat stroke the next I'm complaining that I didn't bring enough layers. Bariloche would be a horrible place to go through menopause...from what I hear.
As we walked back from attempting some rock climbing, which ended up inside pullin on plaztek, Ryan wished aloud that a bum dog would follow us home as a rent-a-pet. The bum dogs down here are really good looking dogs. (I can't believe I'm saying this.) they are healthy looking, they don't beg, they don't get all up in your business and somehow they know how to poop in inconspicuous places. They tend to travel in groups.
So we begin our 5k walk back to the Green House. (best hostel ever btw.) All of a sudden, there are two dogs walking with us. One was a German Shepard mix and the other one looked like a chubby version of Rasta. (he even had a faint peace sign on his forehead.) we named them Rosco y Brutus respectively. We grew fond of Rosco over the next 3.5k, Brutus was somewhat of a loose cannon. He'd just randomly jump at oncoming traffic barking hysterically with one ear up and one down. Then trot big deal. We each had at least five heart attacks in that time.
Right around kilometer 4 a guy stopped us and told us that Rosco (Fico) was his neighbors dog and had been missing for five days.  Apparently they're not too attached to their dogs here. He had no idea who Brutus was. Brutus continued his kamikaze car chase game and we went back to the Green House.
The next day, on the way back from the supermercado, who should follow me home but the dog formerly known as Fico. No joke! He even stayed the night out in the rain! He was really attached to us and our hostel guy was not to psyched on that. So we had to ditch him back in town. It was heartbreaking, but we knew in the end it would be better this way. He would make a new family amongst the other bum dogs, or hopefully just find his original people again.
At least it was some good entertainment for a rainy day.

On the Road

It's been a bit since the last post, so this may be a long one, here goes...

The day after Christmas was absolutely beautiful weather, so we went back int the mountains. This time would only be a few days so our packs were quite a bit lighter. We gotta few pitches in that day as the days provide plenty of light this time of year! Next day was pretty big. We hiked out pretty far to a beautiful formation and climbed a nice long route. The rock quality was stellar and all the pitches were really great. To top it off, another beautiful day. Yes!

On the approach we crossed over all these little waterfalls that come directly from the snow melt. It is the clearest, best tasting water I've ever seen. It's so refreshing and energizing!

The next day, my birthday, I awoke to a perfect bluebird day. It was Colorado blue skies for the first time since we've been here. Sick, I knew it was going to be a great day for a birthday challenge. Ryan is a saint for belaying me all 28 pitches. He did get a few good ones in too, however I'm super grateful he was up for the challenge. It was suns out guns out all day! It was just the way I love to spend a day.

We had to make the bus from the base area at 8pm, which meant we had to leave no later than 6 to bang out the 10km hike. Doesn't seem like much, but after a big day, we were super worked. Luckily all we had to do the next day was sit. For 28hrs we were on a bus. Ew. Luckily the busses here are a few steps up from the trashy greyhound. It's even better than most airlines. The seats recline enough to get a few real winks of sleep in. They show movie after movie for 16 hrs straight. They're in English too, but with Spanish sub titles so it felt like we were getting a Spanish lesson.

Now we are in El Calafate for the night and will head to El Chalten tomorrow morning. It's a very small town where the Fitz Roy range is. This place is notoriously some of the best quality if rock climbing on our planet. Of course that does not go without cost...also some of the worst weather. People have spent months down here and climbed zilch. So we are prepared to just go see the beautiful mountains and not having high expectations of the weather. There's still plenty to do and see, if the weather allows we will get to climb some of those gorgeous rocks! Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Happy old year. Thanks 2012 for all the lessons we learned. Looking forward very much to a year full of peace, health, joy and an abundance of love.