Patagonia. Leaning towards now.
I saw Patagonia for the first time in 2004. I didn’t own any clothing with the brand name–I actually thought it was a stupid brand that college kids bought to show off, ie. Patagucchi–they are actually an amazing example for sustainable business. When I went, I was blown away. The wind and the blue sky made me feel that I was at the end of the world. I sat, sipping mate in front of a glacier for 8 hours, then spent a few days hiking and admiring the view from just beneath Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. One day on a hike to the base of the glaciers flowing from Fitz Roy’s flanks, I saw ski and boot tracks. I wanted to touch the snow, climb higher and at least camp up there. Climbing would be ideal, but just touching glacier would satisfy a bit. I tried to convince my girlfriend of the time, but she reminded me that I was equipped as a day hiker and would need to come back for such an ordeal. She was also reeling from sunburn. In my haste to start the hike up, I forgot sunscreen. Woops… I pouted, but knew she was right. It’s for another time.
I returned to Buenos Aires for another semester of college abroad life. I started climbing at a gym and after calling a number posted on a message board, was invited on an expedition to the Cordon del Plata to climb Cerro Plata. I accepted and ran through the diesel-scented streets of Buenos Aires for the weeks preceding the climb. I was terribly out of shape and went hoping for good altitude luck. This doesn’t exist. I reached our 15k camp and spent 4 days in a trance of nightmares, dehydration and anxiety. The altitude kept me down. I did not summit, nor budge beyond my tent.
The Cordon is a subrange of the Andes that reaches over 20k, but is just a few miles East of Aconcagua. In Mendoza, the nearest town to the range, I met climbers prepping for Aconcagua. I asked about their plans, the logistics and their training and equipment transport. Many of the climbers were from the States and having lived for a bit in country I knew I could do it better and cheaper than them. “I can do this”, I thought. “I just need the right time and enough prep.”
Today while surfing, it occurred to me. I think that now it’s time. What if I asked for a sabbatical or leave of absence from my work? Not for something better with a competitor, not for the complete dedication to the mountains, but for a great, long trip. I could even do some work for my company while away in the South. The Bay Area is home, so why not go away for a bit and come home? There are offices of my company down in Chile and Argentina. I could work a few days there, do outreach and research, and then go about my way climbing and “sebbaticaling”. At the worst, I live off of my savings for a bit. Ok, I lived as a dirtbag on minimum wage with no savings or health care once living in a tent in Yosemite… I know how to cope. If needed, I could do this again.
So today, I’m not making any commitments, but rather, sketching plans and looking at my finances. This is what I’ve come up with:
January 15-March 15.
Flights to Santiago: 1100.
Flights to BSAS 1315
Head down the W. side through Chile to Puerto Montt.
Take ferry (maybe stop and volunteer at Conservacion Patagonica, http://www.conservacionpatagonica.org)
Eventually cross to Argentina and head to El Chalten of a month of climbing or skiing the S. Patagonian Icecap.
I think this seems like a reasonable loop. No, I’m not going to quit, sell everything and toss it to the wind. I could have done that at 23, but not now. I have too much to love in California. I’ve built too much. I know it could seem lame, but it’s just how it is. However, I need to leave and venture out for a few months, clear my head, challenge myself and gain these magnificent experiences that I dreamt about years ago as I passed through. Maybe it really is time…