30 January 2014–There are no rest days in El Chalten. There are only waiting days. Sooner or later the weather improves and forecasts look good. The climbers come down from their boulders and sport climbs, shake themselves out of drunken stuppors and lace up boots and approach shoes. They head off to the mountains. Rumors and whispers spread around town. The prepared sit back and casually watch it all happen while the unprepared get set to lug gear and food to the high camps.
The weather report looks grim. There is a glint of hope at the far end of the meteorogram but we all know that beyond three days is fantasy. There is talk around the bunk-beds of La Cima’s room four of pulling caches out of the mountains and extending tickets. It is six days out, but for Rainbow and Anne, there is a bit of a feeling of cashing it in. Sure hope remains, but Cesar Maestri once said that hope is a weapon of the weak. So we walk, we talk, we sit and we check the weather. And we hope.
Now I want “just” one more shot, much like an alcoholic wants just one more drink. Just a small window, an opportunity to go climb something. To go try something. Our previous attempt on De l’S’ west side seems like a poor note to end on. It does not seem like it will happen in Rainbow and Anne’s time here. So I try to wrap my head around this loss while simultaneously hoping for a window of good weather with friends. Otherwise the days will pass, blending into one another, all indistinguishable as drops of cheap wine, blended and swirled in a glass.
The waiting days seem to fly by. The details will vary but the events quite often are the same. We always check the weather. Usually several times a day. Then we talk about it. Then we wait. Invariably, around four PM or so, someone asks “where’d the day go?” Yeah we rest too but that is a byproduct of the waiting, for if there was good weather we wouldn’t rest. We take walks. We look to see if we can see the mountains. We have a lot of advantages over our predecessors in this range, the least of which is not that with the advent of reliable forecasts we can relax more. We can have an idea of what might happen.
We ascend boulders and the occasional sport route. We talk about plans and peruse the guidebook. We check the email and we repair gear. We wait.
So today as usual, I sit at the table in La Cima’s dining area. I look out at the gray sky and grey cliffs and see the rain spit from the clouds. There is a power outage and the generator across the street has gone quiet. The wind pushes the drops around and the wires still flop in the wind. Rain splattered dirt and mud coat the bottom of the window, as if it rained hard last night. Maybe it did, but I did not hear it. A white, pleather table covering lays across the table and my tea cup and iPad Mini are its only occupants. The two other tables are set with plates and mugs and silverwares, articles designed for guest paying more than us.
When I am out there it is so easy to say I want to see a meteorogram filled with green. Knowing that I can return to town and rest momentarily is reassuring. Sitting in here though, in the comfort and safety of El Chalten, of course I want just the opposite, to go out and fight the good fight just one more time. In either case Metallica’s King Nothing comes to mind: careful what you wish, careful what you say, careful what you wish you may regret it, careful what you wish you just might get it.
Seemingly the wind blows the time away. As a window approaches though and the winds die the lead in my stomach gets heavier, almost as if the heavy winds blew it away and now the dying winds aren’t strong enough to keep it out. Its added weight makes me glad my pack is light and that I cached gear earlier.
So we wait and we engage in our time killers: Scrabble, Robinson Crusoe, Game of Thrones, License to Kill, Settlers of Catan, Jason Bourne and Solitaire. We drink gallons of wine and talk shit. We wait. The nerves bundle up and tighten. Tom Petty had it right, the waiting is the hardest part.