Since we last spoke there have been a lot of buses, taxis, planes, and cars involved in my life. As well as some real deal rock climbing. In fact, my 4 days at Frey probably added up to almost as much rock climbing as two and half months in Chalten! Ok, not really, that was extreme hyperbole, I apologize. But nonetheless it was quite astounding to wake up everyday to warm, sunny weather and go climbing without regard to any ‘meteogram’ or ‘conditions’.
The campground and Refugio at Frey are also a super chill 10 kilometer hike in by way of a wide, well trodden and maintained trail. No endless uphill slogs, no moraines, no glacial river-jumping (actually pretty fun), and no dodging greedy landowners and their ill-imposed land crossing fees. Not only that, but the Refugio sells food, beer, and wine. Granted it is at absurdly inflated prices; in Argentina that amounts to around twelve US dollars for a bottle of wine and four bucks for a cold beer. I can – and did – manage.
I hiked up to Frey on my lonesome, my hopes of finding a climbing partner on-site buoyed by numerous assurances from gringo and Argentine friends before I left Chalten. As luck would have it, the Big Guy upstairs continued his things-always-work-out streak and after spending a day cragging with a rad couple from Canmore I ran into John Verbeck. John had also come up from Chalten, where he had spent his time putting up new routes on the Pier Giorgio massif with Crystal Davis-Robbins. Pier Giorgio is possibly the longest approach from Chalten, and is totally exposed to the hammering wind and weather coming off the ice cap. Suffice to say that John shared my enthusiasm for some relaxed, sunny rock climbing.
We did some things, including an accidental new (?) first pitch variation on La Voz de Silencio on Aguja la Vieja. Our final climb was a little adventure up the west face of Torre Principal’s Siniestro Total. It started off exciting when I began the first pitch in the wrong place and had to do a sketchy slab traverse to get back on. Then John accidentally followed a weakness around a corner and off route, which forced me to climb a corner til it petered out, then pendulum left to another system. We ended up on a bolted route and John led a pitch of solid 5.10/5.11 climbing on wayyyyy spaced out bolts. Oh well, at least I only had to follow it. Another 5.9 pitch and we regained Siniestro, tagged the summit, and rapped. Just when the adventure seemed over, I reached back to unclip my trail runners from my harness and found only one. Apparently the shoe lace it was clipped through busted at some point during the day and so I accidentally discarded some foot-smelly garbage on the mountain. Luckily our packs were a short scramble away, and mine contained my flip flops. I also forgot my helmet as we were packing up at the base. Meh. Hiking down the sand and scree in one flop in near darkness wasn’t as heinous as I expected, and the six mile trail back to town in both was actually quite delightful (aside from the resultan dirty black feet). Chaco flips are the shizz!
Another twenty two hour bus, seven hot and dizzying hours in Buenos Aires, and an overnight flight and I was back stateside. Quite surreal.
Patagonia is an incredible place, chock full of remarkable people. The mountains are truly magical and enchanting, and while the unstable weather makes ascents a fleeting endeavor it also sweetens the experience and adds depth and richness. There’s a reason that the Diamond of Long’s Peak sees 20+ climber days, while Cerro Torre sometimes goes a whole season without a successful ascent. I don’t head into the alpine to avoid people, but the harshness and isolation of more far-flung ranges definitely takes the experience to a whole other level. I don’t know what the future holds, but I yearn to return!