Aconcagua: the dream takes shape.
When I made the decision to leave my job and head down to South America to climb and ramble, I thought I’d be alone. Returning to the “Cono sur” has been my goal for years, but pretty much mine alone.
After college, my friend Adam and I talked about a “Great and Final Journey” in which we’d quit our jobs and then ride our bikes from Quito to Ushuaia. (We chose an overly dramatic name in jest, thinking that it might be the final journey of our 20’s.) We were going to do that in ’08. 2008 became ’09, then the idea faded into our separate lives. Adam lives in Japan where he is pursuing a career. I could never save the money that I wanted to make the trip happen as I wanted. I also found a job I loved, friends that I couldn’t leave and I could not resist spending my salary on weekly trips to the Sierra where I found weekly enlightenment.
My skills built. Gym climbing in Berkeley on the weeknights became outdoor top ropes in Yosemite on the weekends. Top ropes became multipitch Valley climbs that I would clean and follow. Then I began leading trad, building a rack and pushing ever further into the mountains to pursue my own moderate Sierra alpine climbs.
Winters didn’t stop me either. After one year with a season pass at a resort in South Lake Tahoe, I tired of lapping the same runs over and over. So, I picked up a pair of snowshoes, enlisted a partner and went out to climb a peak near Carson Pass, Round Top. Being in the backcountry in winter hooked me immediately, but snowshoes didn’t seem very efficient. The next fall, I bought some used AT skis, got my Avy I cert. and started backcountry skiing, often alone. Not many people understand the pleasure of skiing UP a mountain. On bad days I’d stick close to the road in the trees. I would relax sore muscles with pints of beer in South Lake and sleep in my car if I had no where to go. Monday, I would roll into work tired, sunburnt and happy as hell.
The money and focus to do the “Great Journey” got lost to my passion for the now in the Sierra. Yet, the option always remained as an eject button just in case I lost my way. When I finally got close to pressing it this year, I hadn’t lost my way, but I felt like it was time to seek another challenge, something bigger. Even so, I thought I was alone. Adam has his life, I created mine and I couldn’t expect my new family of friends to drop everything to climb with me halfway around the world.
Just before purchasing my flights for this year’s journey, I sent an email to my closest climbing friends with the title “Partner Needed: Aconcagua/Patagonia”. I love my friends, but I didn’t expect anyone to join me, although I had some hope for at least one bite. “Worst case scenario,” I thought, “I’ll head to Mendoza and find a partner in a hostel.” No biggie.
Within a week, I found myself with five responses and four partners, all with firm commitments to climb Aconcagua. Wow… Awesome. It’s on!
Suddenly I am expedition leader of the “Aconcaguan” portion of the trip, a role I didn’t quite expect. All the same, it’s a blast. Hopes, fears, expectations, gear choices, food, mules, training, spirited conversations are now all part of the game. It could be stressful–and at times it is–but I love it. I’m getting to focus my energy on something I’ve dreamt of since I was a kid. The concern isn’t paperwork, spreadsheets, never-ending emails or ringing phones. It’s building a team to accomplish a shared goal in a remarkable place.
I never expected my dream to materialize like this, not even a month ago. But then again, I never really put expectations on it or plans for how it would turn out. What I’m beginning to see, though, is that the adventure doesn’t begin on the mountain, or even when I leave the house to SFO. It started when I made the commitment to myself to make this trip happen.