Working in the Dirty Devil River region on a twenty four day technical canyon course is probably not the best way to get in shape for a Patagonian climbing expedition. None the less that is how I spent the month of November this year. Trying to open the bus window on the way home made me realize I left all my grip strength in the last slot canyon we tackled. I am not in better climbing shape then I was when I left Lander a month ago. On the plus side however, I have gained more practice carrying heavy loads, stemming, down-climbing chimneys, and hanging out in frosty cold temperatures. Some of that should be good for something.
Before leaving for the red rock of the Colorado Plateau, I tried getting as many ducks in a row as possible, but ducks by nature are flighty creatures, always moving around and such. Regardless, the plane ticket was purchased, things were ordered, lists were made, gear was sorted and debated about and emails sent. With only a handful of days in Lander before heading out to more southern climes and then New Hampshire for Christmas, hopefully I can regather any of the unruly ducks. A lot of those are people plans as I figure out how and when to get from point Lander to point Chile.
After showering at the Shady Acres RV Park in Green River, UT, I fished out my iPad and waded into my email account. Somewhere deep in my inbox I found an email from Dave. A feeling of déjà vu swept over me as I read the subject line: “I hope they have a rainy December”. I could not help but harken back to that wet morning at the horquetas of the Rio Turbio almost six years ago. Deep in the Patagonian bush, Dave, Josh and I woke up to English speaking voices, climbers even, descending from Valle Piritas. We had been scooped. The three Canadians had gotten in and put up two new routes on our objective only a couple of weeks, days even, before we arrived. Now that feeling was back. The Brits were heading back for some unfinished business and that unfinished business was the South Avellano Tower. We knew of their unsuccessful attempt last year, aborted because of time and route finding issues, but did not know they were planning on heading back. So, we will see what time brings…
I quickly wrote Dave an off the cuff email, likening the situation to the Turbio incident. “Well” he responds, “their photos show more excellent rock and lots of route options. Plus,” he continues “climbers don’t travel halfway around the world if the rock sucked.” I like his positive spin.
Then, elsewhere in my inbox I find another email from Dave, this subject line touting good news. Indeed, the Skinner Foundation accepted our grant proposal and offered us some money to support our venture. Heck yeah. Thanks for the hard work on that Dave. Combined with a previously awarded grant from the Alpinist and a little IDF money from NOLS, the funding for this expedition will come primarily from outside sources and not so much from our pockets.
Finishing most courses is usually bittersweet and this exit up the Angel Point Trail was no different. The backcountry of the Colorado Plateau has been absent from my life for too long. The course brought feelings, memories, and dreams back with a vengeance and as I ride north on I-15, the strings of my heart are being stretched. I want nothing more than to stay, explore and climb, yet know that the draw of my other love, the one that pulls alpinists to the far reaches of South America from all around the world, will ultimately win this battle. It is good to know though, that the Colorado Plateau still has a pretty good dog in the fight, even after all the years away.
So as Dave’s emails pull me toward the future, I take the good news with the bad and get excited about herding a few more ducks into the right places.