2014, 2015, Avellanos, etc.

It Begins Again…

2 December 2013 — Patagonia called me back in 2015 before I even boarded my flight there for 2014.

The message came by Facebook. It was a Monday morning and I was lying next to Amy in our port-a-build at NOLS New Zealand. In my usual fashion I lay awake and watched the sunlight slowly brighten the boxy white interior. I reached down, picked up my iPad and set to checking my email and other inter-web things. I had just wrapped up three months of mountaineering courses in the southern alps and was looking forward to a month off before heading to El Chalten to throw myself at the mountains of that alpine arena. Dated fifteen days prior, Dave’s simple, one line message made my heart speed up, my palms moisten and stomach tighten. “Was I interested in a FA attempt in Chile in 2015?” Patagonia beckoned again. “Yes, tell me more” was my straightforward and non-hesitating reply.

An ariel view of the Avellano Towers Region of Chilean Patagonia.

Dave responded with a few pictures and a couple paragraphs about Ting-Ting and his plan to visit the Avellano Towers region, just south of Coyhaique, Chile in January or February of 2015. The email said a group of three or four would be good. “Was there anyone I would be interested in climbing with down there?” he asked. Without a moment’s hesitation my thoughts went to Matt. Dave and Ting-Ting seemed to agree with my idea of climbing with Matt and several more emails were exchanged.

Patagonia is a vast and expansive landscape. It spans two countries and is much more of an idea and ecological region than a political entity. Encompassing the southern tips of Chile and Argentina, folks will often assume that the moniker refers to a region of one country or the other. Stretching from Cordillera del Viento and the Rio Colorado in the north to Tierra Del Fuego/Cape Horn in the south, this remote portion of the world covers 1,043,076 square kilometers or roughly an area slightly smaller than that of California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon combined. It is the only significant landmass that juts below 45° degrees south latitude and receives its well deserved reputation of wet, inclement weather and harsh winds from its physical location between the South Pacific and South Atlantic. Despite this great extent of land with its immensely varied ecosystems of rain forest in the west, glaciers, ice fields and dry steppe and having explored various regions of Patagonia over the years, for me Patagonia has recently become synonymous with El Chalten, Argentina and the nearby peaks of the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre Ranges. The enormous amount of climbing in this area, coupled with the ease at which one can operate and live there has drawn me there again and again. Yet there is so much to be explored and I need to not loose that opportunity.

Patagonia has been synonymous with adventure as well and 2015 promises a much larger and different type of adventure than the wind battered spires of El Chalten offer. What began seven years ago as the adventure of a lifetime with Juan Carlos Queirolo and Rainbow Weinstock has drawn itself out into a series of trips and expeditions to the region and the prospect of a remote big wall in the Chilean Patagonian backcountry promises to be one of the biggest adventures yet. Although Dave visited the area in 2004 and did a small amount of climbing, there is little to no first hand knowledge of our objective. While this expedition will require that I forgo or at least shorten any trip to El Chalten, the trade off is worthy. The exploration of peaks and valleys, attempting new routes in a remote wilderness setting, and pushing my own physical and mental limits with friends and mentors is the essence of adventure. It is what drives every other aspect of climbing for me. It is the opportunity to see what El Chalten once was, a remote, wilderness experience.

A month later, as I lie awake in a bunk bed at Hosteria La Cima on El Chalten’s east side, I find a few unexpected congratulatory messages, once again, on Facebook. I dig a little deeper and discover that our expedition has received the financial support of a Mugs Stump Award. A year away suddenly seems so close. Should I even return to the States?

The facebook message invite and subsequent Mugs Stump notification

Living the dream in South America in 2015 will look a lot different than previous years. Wine, Quilmes, medialunas, meat and empanadas might be sorely lacking, but storms, hard work, and that knot in my stomach and snail eyed feeling I get when looking at something such as the South Avellano Tower will be the same. No matter where one goes in this region, when saddling up for a trip or expedition to Patagonia, it is important to expect to not be able to climb shit. That is no different.

So lying there in a bedroom, on a Monday, I felt it begin again.