To go or not to go, that is the question. Is it even a question though? Is it not preordained? The fact that I sit here and write these sentences tells me it is not a question. Maybe the real question is where to go, and more importantly, with whom.
The planning begins again, though now, writing this, I wonder if it ever stopped. I concoct an email with ideas and suggestions: valleys in northern Chilean Patagonia, Paine in southern Chile, the Avellanos again or even El Chalten. But what about Cochamo or Cerro Colorado? There are pros and cons to all of them. Some are harder work than others. Some have more likely outcomes. Risk versus reward comes to mind. I search the internet, I cut, copy and paste links into an email. “Just some ideas” I write. I tentatively hit send. I know I have experience but I worry that I am not the strongest climber; that I am not as driven as many others. I think about throwing a party and nobody showing up.
I have a short list of people and another short list of places. No long lists though. When it comes to partners, I know what I want. My time with Jake last year was wonderful, other partners on previous trips as well. I want nothing but more of the same: good, kind, fun people who enjoy my company and whose company I enjoy too. I want similar personalities. Expeditions and climbing trips are as much about climbing cool things as they are about being with good people. When hunkered down in a tent in poor weather, it is the personalities that matter.
Planning an expedition is formidable, so the allure of El Chalten is strong. Not much weight to carry or logistics to work out. Those that do have to be worked out, I have worked out before. Plane tickets and shuttle rides, that is about it. Being there is easy too; a steady diet of medialunas, Quilmes and empanadas is a foregone conclusion. For me there is so much new terrain to cover in Chalten’s massifs, a lifetime’s worth, that I will never have to repeat routes. I generally feel competent in that arena, plus I can usually walk away feeling rewarded and accomplished, even if the living in Chalten is not what it used to be.
While the pull of El Chalten is strong, lugging heavy packs over rough terrain, bushwacking through dense undergrowth and fording raging rivers all in the name of approaching a giant hunk of stone that may or may not be climbable has its merits too, however. Planning an expedition may be daunting, but it provides a challenge to my leadership and organizational skills. My trips into the remote Patagonian backcountry have been incredibly rewarding. I have tested my skills and occasionally found myself measuring up. To boldly go where no person has gone before is quickly becoming more challenging on this ever more crowded planet. To once again explore unexplored terrain is a desire I can’t ignore.
As I read through my past stuff and as I devise this post, I feel the urge building, resurfacing. I am awash with confusion. I think about the starkly contrasting emotions I know will come. I think about the love-hate relationship I have with climbing, with Patagonia. I think about how, much like field work for NOLS, Patagonia is a script I have written for myself. It is something that defines me. I think about what it would mean to not go, much like I think about what it would be like to not work in the field for NOLS. There is never a shortage of “you going back south this winter?” or “what are your Patagonia plans?” type of questions. There are just assumptions. It is who I have become. I think about how I love prepping for the expedition, hate the buildup of nerves, can’t stand the stress while I am there, and love the complete focus I get when I am moving across the rocks. I hate the fear, fear the unknown, but want the adventure.
So I send out an email and I await replies. In the meantime I try to decide what I want and hope someone will tell me.