One of the most difficult parts of climbing is having the ability to chill and wait out bad weather. My friend Sonnie is a master at the art of hanging out. He can switch off the anxiety, sleep for a dozen hours at a time, watch movies, and stay absolutely blissfully content. And, when the sun finally breaks through the clouds, he can hit the rocks without skipping a beat. I envy him big time in this regard.
I am in Boulder right now, slowly losing my mind. Today Matt Segal and I went climbing at the Rincon Wall in Eldorado Canyon. Matt tried to convince me that it wasn't a good idea- the temperature in Boulder was hovering around 0 degrees celcius and Eldorado is substantially colder than town. Still, we hiked up there. I couldn't feel my hands at all, let alone muster the psyche to drop the hammer on sketchy 5.13. So it was back to the car, back to waiting...
Soon I'll be in Patagonia, a land that fosters cabin fever like no other. Month long stints of solid bad weather are commonplace. It is an area that can "turn even the most mellow hombres into cajey lunatics," as Kevin Thaw pointed out. A week of subzero temps in Boulder is merely a warm up for the serious chilling I'm about to do down south.
The last couple years of Patagonia have involved endless sessions passing the mate gourd, sipping Quilmes, tinkering on the local boulders and talking about the pressure. Is it going up? Going down? The most successful Patagonia climbers can chill like sedated turtles, then crank up the psyche at the first hint of good weather and make it happen in the 'pine. It's not easy. Patagonia beats you up. But the peaks and walls down there are so beautiful that I am hopelessly in love.
Paul McSorely, Andrew Querner and I are about to head down to Turbio, a mostly unexplored valley somewhere south of Bariloche, close to the Chilean border. To get things started, we have to raft across a lake then hike about 50 kms into the middle of nowhere. With any luck, we'll be surrounded by some sweeping big walls. In Patagonia, it's always a gamble with the weather. But if you gotta roll the dice to win...
Friday, January 23, 2009
I left Vancouver ten days ago. Matt Segal, John Dickey and Matt's friend Robert picked Sarah Watson and I up at the El Paso airport. From there, we drove 7 hours south of the border to Pinoles, a deserted bouldering area ripe for first ascents. We spent 5 days climbing and exploring. It's the sort of area where you can do whatever you want, whatever suits your fancy. For me the highlight was seeking out proud lines, ones that called to me.
It's a cool creative process. Wandering the desert, eyeballing features, assessing the hazards, and eventually bucking up to give it a try. For me, first ascents are rarely about sheer difficulty. It's all about aesthetics- swooping cracks, triangular faces, big boulders. I can't explain it, but it's all about beautiful lines.
Ermanno Salvaterra, Italian alpinist, once compared Cerro Torre and her "sisters" to women. Having made countless trips to Patagonia, Salvaterra had clearly fallen in love with these peaks. Clearly obsessed, Salvaterra won't let those mountains alone.
Climbers, by nature, are obsessive people. On this trip I realized that I am very susceptible to the draw of beautiful lines.