Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Patagonia...Round 5!

After one of the busiest guiding seasons in the Sierra that I have had, then transitioning into AMGA Exam mode and climbing for the month of October without much break, I packed up all my alpine gear and flew out of LAX to Bariloche, Argentina to guide some courses for the Outward Bound Patagonia program as well as take some personal time to get rad in El Chalten with the weather permitting.
I arrived only a couple days before the students, to prep the course.  The month long trip was the second phase of a larger semester that began in North Carolina and will continue in Florida after this phase.
Expedition style climbing and mountaineering was the name of the game, and we got in many awesome summits and locations working within the constraints of some very fierce Patagonian weather. 

This was the GOOD day at the Frey!
 Our week of rock climbing at the Frey was turned into a 4 hour top roping session near the hut on the last day we had after days of sleet and snow, though Craig and I managed to get in a quick lap on Sifuentes-Weber in 40 minutes while the students packed up!
Looking up at Tronador, the objective during the second phase of the trip

First we gotta get there though!  Plastics ain´t fun!

Too bad the scenery is so drab...

No Man´s Land, Chile-Argentine Border
 After resupplying in Pamapa Linda we headed up with heavy packs to climb Cerro Volcanico and traverse along a cornice filled ridge down to Maillin Chileno for another resupply before going back up to attempt a traverse on Monte Trondador.
Approaching Refugio Viejo on the flanks of Tronador

Teaching a lesson on self arrest and crampon techniques

 As soon as we got to the glaciar camp on Tronador however, and had covered all the requisite skills for the traverse across the glaciar to Refugio Meiling, the weather closed in and we waited out 3 days of nasty whiteout conditions with intense winds.  We ended up having to take a couple of the tents down and move into a snow cave to keep our tents from being shredded by the wind!  In the end we had to navigate down off the glaciar by GPS with 30 ft. visibility but the students had a very powerful experience regardless.

For the last several days of the trip, we let the students take more control over the navigation and management and let them plan and manage some summit climbs of Mar del Piedra, Mirador del Doctor, and Cerro Capitan.  By far the highlight of this section, and probably the whole trip (at least for me) was approaching Mirador del Doctor, which is an overlook which juts out above the fjord-like Lago Frey, and seeing a juvenile condor hanging out.  She let us watch her for a few minutes and then flew off, letting us take over the summit block while she came back and spent 20 minutes circling us as close as I have ever seen them.  There was a palpable magic in the air as we all sat there silently letting her circle us curiously, hearing the wind whip through the feathers on the tips of her wings.  

Tronador on the left, Mar del Piedra on the right

The mirador down below.

2 year old condor.  They live on average to 50 years. 

Holes made by the wind moving water in a circular motion for thousands of years.

Up close and personal.

Summit of Cerro Capitan, 30th Birthday

Wanda presents some delicious Dulce de Leche covered birthday cake!
 On November 27th, our group had a double birthday party- my 30th and one of the student´s 20th.  We made it memorable by summiting Capitan, then glissading down to a bivy next to a waterfall below Laguna Creton.  The pool was ice cold but we all got in and bivied under the stars for our last night out.
Crossing Laguna Creton on our way out of the mountains on our last day.
After descending from Creton and Laguna Azul we reached our pick-up and made it back to Bariloche for an incredible asado before the students left the country to continue their semester in Florida.  Now with a few days of rest and relaxation I make my way down to Chalten tomorrow to meet up with my friend Wagner for some alpine antics!  Keep checking back in for updates from the South as they come in...

1 comment:

VividReality said...

Dulce de Leche on mountaineering trips = living good!
Hope the weather gives you a chance to do something fun on your own time. Expect to see more rad photos!