2015, Aisén, Avellanos

South by West and East

 

The Mojave desert is an unconventional place to prepare for an expedition to a remote Patagonian peak.  Joshua Tree National Park however, is where three of the four expedition members ended up during mid December.  It is true that before gaining popularity as a testing ground in its own right, J-Tree was seen as merely a training ground, a place where one could putz around, work on systems, boulder and generally practice for the big stone.  Now, despite earning its own standing as a destination crag, it is still a worthy training ground.

Genevieve Bartlam leading the first pitch of the Joshua Tree classic, Walk on the Wild Side (5.8)
Genevieve Bartlam leading the first pitch of the Joshua Tree classic, Walk on the Wild Side (5.8)

The weeks prior to my departure to the east coast found me climbing the cracks and slabs of the monzogranite domes that dot the Park while simultaneously trying to find a way to justify my easy living and short climbs.  The justifications did not come easy: it’s all climbing, carrying a heavy pack around desert talus (kinda like boulder hopping in the mountains), and hunkering out the weather in cafes and bars (oh wait, this won’t be Chalten…).  Then there is the one somewhat legit justification: slabs.  Rumor has it that the base of the South Avellano Tower is a large, low angle apron.  Maybe Joshua Tree’s plethora of runout, slabby faces would provide a decent justification.  The friction of the mojave’s stone is no doubt far superior to that of a glacially polished slab in Patagonia, but since I haven’t done much of the delicate art lately, it is probably as good a place as any to practice.  I must remember to offer a sincere thanks to my friend and climbing partner Genevieve for putting up with my desire to crimp and smear; partners that will humor my desire to climb slabs (or off-widths for that matter) are not easy to come by.

Dave, Ting Ting, Genevieve and I were able to meet up at the former couple’s J Tree house sitting locale and talk a little shop as well as just hang out. We learned through emails and internet searches, that the weather in the Avellanos has been dismal and a Spanish party that was climbing in the valley suffered the death of a member.

The bags on the living room floor.
The bags on the living room floor.

Now the 737s, busses, and shuttles have carted me away from the Mojave, across the country and to my childhood home.  It is time to celebrate Christmas with the family.  Although I have been here once already this year, it is a somewhat convenient stopping point before heading to Chile.  The bags are packed and ready to go.  I suppose I will unpack them a little bit, as there are things that I may want or need from them, but for the most part there they will sit, in my mother’s living room, until I drag them back out the door, down the steps and into my brother’s car and are once again, schlepped back to Concord, the bus station, Logan, and ultimately, Coyhaique and the Avellanos.  But that is still days away, so in the meantime I watch the internet staying tuned to the Brit’s blog and, of course, check the weather.