Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We get by with a little help from our friends!

Sunset at Piedra Negra. Jens Holsten photo!

Sunrise on Gorra Blanca.

Jens Holsten photo. Approaching Pier Giogio.

Steep schrund climbing. Mountains 1. Dirtbags 0. Jens Holsten photo.

Fitz Roy!

Yeah for Powerbar GU and Fitz Roy!

Sunny Rock Climbing!!!

Guillomet's Brenner Ridge.

Jens doing what he does best. A bit of verglass kept it interesting.

Jens leading the wideness.

Cumbre! I have climbed 7 times on Guillomet and it's been pure fun every time. This is the first time either of us completed the boulder problem in order to stand on top. It's possible to put your hand higher than the summit without doing the boulder problem. However, there are some that think that it's nescisary to press up above the summit in order for it to count...

Cumbre Alfajore!

Traveling to the End of the Earth is rarely a smooth ride. However, friends make it all possible. My friend Jason put me on the plane in Los Angelos and is keeping the Subaru happy (loading it with surf boards) during my 4 month vacation.

Adversity builds character and is most easily overcome by deep breathing and a healthy dose of help from Amigos. This year, a volcanic fissure in Chile emitted an ash cloud that obscured the flightpath from Houston, TX to Buenos Aires, AR. While in Texas, a state that I've never been in before, I received lots of messages from friends encouraging and comforting me. Fortunately, the wind direction in BA changed and I hopped on the same flight the next day.

Once in BA I transferred airports and in doing so missed the flight to El Calafate. The Continental representative in the U.S. had informed me that there were three more flight to the same destination that day that I would surely be able to get a seat on. The reality of the situation was that all these flights were full, I didn't have a ticket, LAN didn't have any more flight to the destination until the following Saturday, and Aerolineas had a seat on a flight the next day they would sell me for 2000USD. Fortunately, A nice gentleman at LAN gave me the number for the U.S. continental office and I spent 40 minutes and 35 pesos securing a flight to Rio Gallegos.

The flight left at 2230 and landed in Gallegos at 0230. I gave into the first cab driver that said, "Taxi!" and spent 55 pesos driving to the Hospital ("No, yo querro un Hostel, not Hospital."), knocking on the door of a hostel with no room, and finally sleeping in the bus station with some friendly Bolivian workers...

The bus from Rio Gallegos to El Calafate was 3 hours long. I boarded the bus, put earplugs in and passed out. I woke to someone shaking me. When I pulled out the ear plugs and looked around, I realized that the bus was empty. We had arrived in El Calafate and I had slept the whole way. There was a couple hour layover in El Calafate where I bought some empinadas from a street vendor, made a new friend with an Argentine climber headed the same way, and gave a carabiner to a police officer who asked if I had any (he was psyched!)

Another three hour bus ride, during which I slept the whole way again, and I woke to the lower part of Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy Dominating the bus's windshield. First stop was at the Parque Nationales for the Leave No Trace speach, which I've heard no less than 7 times, and during which I saw my friend and park ranger (I do have friends that wear green pants, just not in North America), Kappa. The first friendly face in 10,000 miles of traveling. I hadn't seen anyone I knew since Jason put me on the plane in LA. How comforting to see someone who knows me!!

I put the two 51 lb. duffels on the longboard that Jason gave me a few years ago and rolled on over to a friends house where I dropped the bags. I was just starting my second lap around town on the longboard when I saw Jens. Jens had left the States a day after me and we arrived within an hour of each other...

Meeting Jens made everything better. We ate great food prepared by our friends at La Senyera and retired to the tent at Del Lago Hostel for some much needed rest. The next day was spent purchasing food, gas, and a pocket knife in preparation for heading into the mountains. I could hardly walk a block without seeing beaming familiar faces. Everyone asked, "Where is Neil?"

The weather was getting good and in Patagonia that means we go into the mountains. However, before we can head up, we have to deal with life stuff like where to put our gear that isn't headed up. Our friend Matheas stepped up huge and offered to store our duffels in his trailer. Another Amigo making our lives easier so we can do what we do best, go climbing!

We split the taxi with Rob and Jen and had a great time reliving memories on our hike into Piedra del Fraille. Jens and I opted to walk around the Estancia where we learned that they are now charging 75 pesos to cross their land. Not having the fee to pay the trolls to cross the bridge, we climbed through dense brush and crossed a couple treacherous washouts to meet up with Jen and Rob who paid.

A skinny kitten followed them the whole way up the hill to Piedra Negra where we set up the first light and they continued on toward the Supercanaleta. Jens and I woke at 0230 and made a few strong cups of coffee (our adventures in the mountains together are largely fueled by cafe and lots of psyche). We quickly dispatched of Paso Quadrado and descended to the Fitz Roy Norte glacier where the throngs of Supercanaleta bound hopefuls had kicked in a nice track. A few big holes where folks had punched in reminded us that this was indeed a large glacier.

Before the final climb to the supercan base we turned 90degrees right and took a bead on Pier Giorgio. The frozen crust on the snow supported our weight at times. When a bulge in the glacier changed the aspect that we were walking on, we punched through the crust up the the top of our boots. An hour past like this and we took turns breaking the crust.

Just before crossing under the Cerro Pollone ice cliff, we stopped for a quick Powergel and some water. Jens had been out in front for a while and I took over moving as fast as possible under the blue ice of the serac. We proceeded to slingshot/relieve each other as we passed under another serac before arriving at the Pier Giorgio schrund.

Jens belayed me as I placed a couple screws and began excavating for some purchase. A snow picket protected the final bit as I trenched in the slightly overhanging mass of unconsolidated snow. After a half hour of digging and no upward progress, I called it and came back down. Mountains 1, dirtbags 0.

The temperature went right through the roof and snow conditions on the glacier deteriorated on our walk down the Fitz Norte glacier. We found a flat rock to regroup and contemplated the next move. It was too late in the window to climb Afanasief even though that's what we really wanted to do.

The climb back to Paso Quadrado was hot... We spent the next day resting and dove into the tent on multiple occasions as rain squalls passed through. We woke at 2300 on Friday with the intention of climbing the Whillians route on Poincenot. Cafe again fueled the alpine start and we were on top of the Guillomet col at 0100 Saturday morning.

We descended onto a trackless Fitzroy East glacier and found a breakable crust over unconsolidated snow. Ryan and Peter's headlamps winked at us as they left Passo Superior a kilometer away. After an hour of slogging, the snow conditions proved too much and we retreated to Passo Guillomet where we had stashed a pair of rock shoes and a pair of Ganda approach shoes.

We brewed multiple cups of hot chocolate and waited for the sun. When it hit, we droped layers, ice tools, crampons, gloves, and the stove in preparation for a light ascent of the Brenner Ridge on Guillomet. A party the previous day had cleared most of the ice from the cracks and we enjoyed mostly warm rock and clean hand jams on the route.

We summited, both of us completing the boulder problem topout, around noon and descended the Amy Coulour. A freeze-dried meal of Thia Peanut noodles back at the pass fueled us to Piedra Negra where we ate the last package of Fruity Grans, packed the kit, and descended.

We made it to the road and were thumbing it by 2130. At around 2200 a cab pulled into El Pilar, dropped it's load of two gringos, and returned to pick us up. Jens and I were sitting on the side of the unpaved road in the dirt when the cab stopped and the driver, a beautiful young Argentine girl emerged. We were beside ourselves as we loaded the packs in the trunk and got in. In broken English, the girl asked what we had been up to. She said she was honored to give us a ride after we told her of our adventures. We were equally appreciative of her generosity. We talked about our favorite ice cream flavors and did our best to describe what Ben & Jerry's meant to us. The ice cream at Domo Blanco is still our favorite in the world! Thanks to our new friend, we made it back to town just in time to catch dinner at La Senyera. Jens and I had 41 pesos between us and split a bowl of fries and a huge hamberger. The total was 41 pesos and we vowed to return with the tip the next day. This is how we get by with a little help from our friends!!! HUGE thanks to everyone who is making this possible!!!


- said...

congrats you guys! nicely written joel and way to go on your first send of the season. Here's hoping you two find many more, and say hello to Daniel if you see him.

Ben Newberry said...

Wow. Looks like you've been killing it for the past ten years or so. Good for you, man. We're moving to Utah (SLC) in April, look me up if you're passing through.