Thursday, December 25, 2008

El Chalten, Patagonia

Quality tent time in the Torre Valley...

Feliz Navidad from El Chalten, Argentina! Joel and I have been in this small town under the Fitz Roy massif in southern Argentina for nearly two weeks. As the national epicenter for Patagonia trekking, the town has seen many recent developments catering to international tourism; there is a new atm, paved streets, and a bus terminal on the way. It´s always hard to see a small place developing so quickly, however, the tourism industry allows for a high standard of living for the town´s many seasonal residents who operate small panaderias (bakeries) and restaurants, as well as local guide services taking people on glacier treks. Overall the town vibe is warm, friendly, and very positive! There has been no high mountain activity to report on other than our first hike to advanced base camp under Cerro Torre to stash gear about a week ago. We arrived at high camp under full on wind and rain conditions, Vive la Patagonia! Fortunately, El Chalten is on the edge of the mountains and recieves more sun than rain and clouds, however, there is always the viento (wind). Good sport climbing in town as well as a plethora of bouldering keeps us strong and occupied. We´ve also met many new friends in this small community, Argentine and others from all over the World! Our spirits remain high as we await the good weather window; we hope to climb a few smaller towers first, el Mocho, and Media Luna, formations below Cerro Torre. One of our larger objectives is Last Gringos Standing, a superb crack climb put up last year on St. Exuprey...we´ll see what happens. In the mean time we are enjoying the summer here in the southern hemisphere. Last night we had a great time with our Argentine friends who gathered for a traditional asado, a barbeque with pleny of carne and winos! After that we went to an awesome local bar ´Aires Patagonicos´where about a hundred people packed in for dancing and Navidad celebration. The Argentines party hard here and typically don´t start until 2am, lasting until the morning!
Until next time, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year filled with fun, friends, and great memories! Hasta leugo amigos!!

Joel and Neil at high camp under...
Fitz Roy, Poincenot, Rafael Juarez, and Exuprey

The view from our camp in town!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Rappelling off Cerro Principal
Lago Toncek and Refugio Frey behind

Completing the Clemenzo route (6a=5.10a) marked the end of our five day tutelage in the valley of Frey. We learned more about how to work together as an effective team. Pulling down on the granite is only part of the Journey. The friendships gained in the mountains are more important than the actual routes. After all, climbing is just another conduit for exploring inside oneself.
The difficulties encountered while climbing bring us out of our comfort zone and into character building mode. How we react to these challenges defines who we are. More importantly, what we learn from the experiences can be applied to the next, greater challenge. -Joel

Spires everywhere!!

The spires of the valley of Frey are formed by the erosion of a granite monolithe. Similar to the Bugaboos in Canada on a smaller scale, the surrounding rock is not granite. Not to be confused with Batholithe, which would be much larger intrusion.
Geologic time is now! We were reminded of this when an Argentine climber pulled a large block onto his belayer on the South Face of Torre Principal while we were on the East Face climbing Clemenzo. The Refugio caretakers associated with Club Andino de Bariloche conducted a commendable rescue. The climber was flown by helicopter to the hospital in Bariloche. The entire rescue took approx. 4 hours.

Looking across the Andes to Chile
Tronodor is the grande strato volcano! 3478m

This scene reminds me of the North Cascades of Washington. Tronodor has many of the same characteristics of the volcanoes we work and play on in the US.

Torre Principal Summit
The Biggest Spire Around...sick views!!!

La Vieja

Torre Principal Summit 2400m

Mini summit of Cerro M2

We climbed Del Diedro (5 plus, aprrox. 5.9 plus), a single pitch of finger locks and the occasional hand jam. Real ¨feel good¨ climbing. Once in a while it´s good for the psyche to climb something easy, especially in a new area. We found the crack grades to be close to the equivalent Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). However, it was hard to decipher just how runout the face climbing between, presumably hand drilled on lead bolts and pins, would be.

The weather in Bariloche Argentina has been amazing for the last week; we´ve been climbing in the Frey and soaking up the Sol! Frey is an awesome alpine zone with dozens of beautiful granite spires and very exciting climbing. Having not face climbed in a long time, the runout 6b (5.10) granite faces get your attention pretty quick! The rock is reminiscent of the City of Rocks ID, with lots of excellent cracks and golden patina...and every climb has a super summit! The climbing scene at Frey is very social, and we met people from all over the world; Brazil, France, Israel, US. There is a wonderful Refugio on the lake, a stone building with kitchen, dining room, and beds upstairs.
Bail! We got out just in time, today is rainy...we bought bus tickets to El Chalten, Southern Patagonia, leaving tomorrow night and traveling for 32 hours!!! We plan on staying there for 4-8 weeks waiting for the fickle Torre weather windows...wish us luck!!!
Hasta leugo amigos!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bariloche, Northern Patagonia, Argentina

Neil and I arrived in Bariloche after traveling for three days. We have been relaxing and storing energy for climbing. Tomorrow we head into the Frey for a week of Granite climbing before heading to the Torre Valley for the ultimate test. Buenos suerte amigos.