2012, El Chalten

Gatherings

The stillness and calm have gone.  The palpable energy fueled by a good weather window has changed to feelings of success, happiness, sorrow, and release.  In those who remain these emotions will soon give way once again to impatience and desire.  For now though, the binge of climbing in the mountains has ended.  It is replaced by the binge of town.  Beer, meat, wine, sugar or whatever, seemingly endless supplies.  For some the body is weak, malnourished and overextended; it needs fuel.  While we satiate the body, the calling, the beckoning grows stronger once again.

Slowly the crowd gathers.  Boxes of meat, bread and veggies assemble on the table.  Pallets and old lumber are piled up beside the corrugated metal fire pit.  Stella, Quilmes, Trapiche, San Telmo, Heineken, Magnum and Signos all make multiple appearances on the table.  The crowd assembles and the pieces come together.  A fire is built and the grilling grate positioned to be burned off and cleaned.   Soon a pile of coals have formed and are scraped aside under the newly positioned grate.  The asador piles it up with sausage links and slabs of salted beef.  Papas, peppers and bread all frame el carne.  We munch on salad, bread and mayonnaise but mostly we indulge in the alcoholic libations, the litre bottles passed liberally among friends and strangers.  Wine is poured and shared, it being more deserving of the cup.  Slowly slabs of meat are pulled off the grate.  The asador knowing just when to flip and just when to serve.  It lands on a plate and his skilled hands adeptly slice through the delicacies with a Swiss Army knife, but only after replacing the meat with another hunk on the grate.  Hands reach in, grabbing the slices before they are off the knife.  There is no que; it is every man for himself.  Plain or between slabs of bread with mustard or mayonaise the meat is devoured and everyone eagerly awaits the next slab on the plate.

The fire grows brighter as the night settles in, the setting sun casting its final glows on the hillside, then on the lens shaped clouds hanging over the valley.  Eyes dance and sparkle with the reflecting firelight as stories are recounted.  Portuguese, spanish, english, and german are all spoken as the nations converge sharing in the joy and heart break of the mountains.  It is the calling that has gathered us here and we can all share, for success in the mountains knows no language barrier.  Success is to be here at the asado recounting trials and tribulations of our journeys; for in these hard unforgiving mountains, to succeed is is be there at the end and able to fight another day.

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