Tied into a life of adventure.

Planning and logistics pay off: my itinerary from Aconcagua to Patagonia.

My backcountry
ski season started strong in November, but I haven’t gotten out to
the mountains much in December. The weather’s been wet and
stormy, city life and the holidays have called, and I’ve been
working on logistics for the expedition. I’ve grown restless
and moody in the City, lethargic and impatient for one chapter to
close and another to open. Logistics, gear purchasing,
finishing up work and saying goodbye to friends and family are all
sedentary, yet necessary. At the same time, I feel like I
need to be training as much as possible. It’s a tough and
impossible balance to find, but I take heart in the years of
experience and countless trips into the mountains that I have under
my belt. Those experiences are the years of training
necessary. Training for a marathon from scratch in 4 weeks is
impossible and so too is prepping to climb a nearly 7000 meter
peak. The closer and closer I get to 1/11/11, my departure date to
Santiago, the more and more I realize that so much of this trip
does not take place while I’m in South America, but that it began
when I made the decision to cut the cord, gather forces with the
team and go for it. Since then, the trip has changed and
grown. My past travels had taught me this, but as with every
trip, I learn something new each time. For one, I thought I my
departure date was 1/13 for weeks until my girlfriend said, “um,
Steve, you’re itinerary says 1/11/11.” Huh… I wonder
why I was so focused on the 13th. Maybe straight 1’s is good
luck? Along with this change, I’m starting to get a vague
outline of how things will go. Here’s a sketch: 1/11/11: San
Francisco to Santiago 1/14/11: Santiago to Mendoza and rendevous
with the team 1/16/11ish: The team heads to the Cordon del Plata for a week of high
altitude training and prep for Aconcagua. We’ll climb
successively higher peaks, hopefully topping out at 18-19k on Cerro Vallecitos or Cerro Plata. I climbed in the
area back in April of 2005 and suffered acute mountain sickness for
3-4 days. Hopefully more training and planning will bode
better in 2011. 1/23/11–1/25/11: The team returns to Mendoza
from the Cordon del Plata where we’ll rest up, review our systems,
acquire our permits and buy provisions for the big mountain.
1/25/11–2/8/11: Climb Aconcagua, highest mountain in the
world outside of the Himalaya and hopefully my first of the Seven
Summits. The maximum amount of time we have is 20 days,
although we would like to be off the mountain in no more than
15. All of this is weather and acclimatization dependent.
After the team gets off the mountain, we’ll celebrate over wine and
beef in Mendoza, then head South–maybe together or maybe solo. To
get to Patagonia I will be making my way down Argentine route 40
along the Eastern side of the Andes. Imagine highway 395 on
the Eastside of the Sierra, but with far larger mountains and it’s
undeveloped. The further south the 40 winds, the
less-maintained it becomes and eventually turns into a windswept,
dirt road, flanked by glaciated volcanoes and the Cordillera to the
West. Apparently the hitch hiking is good here, so if I can
avoid taking a bus, I’ll catch as many free rides and conversations
as possible. I anticipate climbing where ever and whenever
possible. Just like the pavement of the 40 erodes as it goes
south, so too will dates and specific schedules… I want to make
fairly good time south from Mendoza to Patagonia. When I
reach the town of Perito Moreno, I’ll turn West and cross into
Chile where I’ll meet up with Conservacion Patagonica, an
organization founded by North Face and Patagonia executives that
works to turn tracts of largely untouched patagonian wilderness
into permanent preservation as national parks. This year they
will be finishing up their greatest project yet, Patagonia National
Park in the Chacabuco Valley near Balmaceda, Chile. I’ll hang
out there with a crew tearing down old sheep herding fences and
learning about the process of modern-day national park
creation. Who knows what will happen there, but I’m
excited to get to work and better understand my greatest
preservation question: How does one effectively communicate the
message of wilderness preservation of unique areas of the world to
cultures that may be unfamiliar to the North American ethic of
conservation? From
Conservacion Patagonica
, I’ll cross the Patagonia Andes
again until I reach the hamlet of El Chalten, nestled at the base
of iconic peaks Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy. Depending on time,
I’ll hang out there to climb and explore before meeting up with my
girlfriend, Jen, in El Calafate on 3/17/11. We’ll hang out
together in Patagonia, then jet up to Buenos Aires for a few days
of city time with friends and family before returning to San
Francisco. Once I’m in the City another adventure will kick off:
finding a new job more in line with my passion.

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2 responses

  1. DEL

    Sounds like a great itinerary.

    It also sounds that, if you have not done so already, you might want to get in touch with Jonathan Leidich who is based in Puerto Bertand. He is an American by birth but a Patagonian at heart and has been very active in many conservation efforts including fighting the proposed dams in the Aysen District. He has great ties to, and a great understanding of, the local people.

    December 29, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    • Thanks for the comment and kudos. Is Jonathan involved with any specific groups like Rios Libres? If so, could you shoot me a link to check him out? I’m sure he’s probably been in touch with the Tompkins too. Thanks again for reading and the name.

      December 30, 2010 at 1:52 PM

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