January 11 2012 — To climb in the mountains outside of El Chalten is to be patient. The days of waiting out storms in male infested tents, behind rock windwalls, giant boulders, or tucked into lenga trees is over. The smart, savy and strong climbers alight into town, waiting out the fickle Patagonian weather nestled among the various hostels, campgrounds, restaurants, and homes of El Chalten. Their gear is neatly cached under random rocks and overhangs at strategic locations throughout Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. The Patagonia endured by Lionel Terry, Don Whillians, Jose Louis Fonrouge and so many others who came before is a harder more brutal world. The weather may not have changed and the mountains, they remain –some even getting harder– but the hardships off of the rock, they have softened with both technology and the growth of El Chalten.
So it is their spirit that I find myself sitting crosslegged on an empty backpack sheltered from the roaring elements by Matt´s small First Light tent. We are firmly entrenched at Niponimos at the base of Mochito under the cloud shrouded Cerro Torre. On the Fitz Roy massif to the east snow and clouds blow off the summits resembling the smouldering volcanoes for which the native Tehuelche christened El Chalten. The tinkle of precip on the golden walls of the tent, the roar of the wind and constant cascades of tumbling rocks, snow and ice provide the mountain soundtrack that is so noticeably lacking in El Chalten.
For some, either in town or in the mountains, the wind, the weather and the waiting is a release from worry. No longer do they need to worry about their friends up in the mountains, wondering if they are epicing or obliterated by rockslides. No longer do they need to worry about themselves and their own well being or if they or their friends will come back alive. For some the waiting makes the worry and nervousness grow. Endless questions. Will the route be dry? Will the ice be in? Will I perform, am I up to par? Still others jus wait. Superbly competent, calculated and cool, these folks know that it is nothing they haven´t done before. The mountains are as they are and worry does no good. They understand the risks and aren´t afraid of going up or backing down. They are the climbers whom, for when it clears, it is just another day at the office. Their teeth were cut long ago and they are in their element. They check the weather and wait.
I thrive in the mountains. I wither in town. In town distractions break my focus, erode away my resolve and drive. I am glad we have positioned ourselves here. I am in my element. Nobody camps better than we do. We endure, we wait and we dream.