Sunday, March 03, 2013

Climbing reconnaissance at Patagonia

I started learning about Patagonia when I got into rock climbing one year ago, and I started considering new climbing mecas to visit after starting to climb in Yosemite and reading about other places. I read mostly about the Fitz Roy area, and the descriptions were all similar: it is a meca, there is no other place like it and its weather was highly unpredictable and at times treacherous. With time a friend and I started toying with the idea of visiting, although I was thrilled of the idea of going I had read enough to know already that this was no place for beginner rock climbers like myself, and that weather conditions could be nefarious. My friend treks but I never had done long distance hikes, all I ever had done was a few small hikes (~8 miles) and a bit of trail running here and there, I certainly didn't have enough gear. I love trying new things though and trekking seemed like a good way to do what I like to personally call climbing reconnaissance work on an area: familiarizing yourself with the area, picking up topos (climbing guides), meeting local rock climbers, anything that can help for gaining confidence for a future trip. Its how I started rock climbing in Yosemite. Reconnaissance for me also means diving hard into the local history, getting an appreciation of effort required to really rock climb in the area. One can surely hire guides but its prohibitively expensive and where's the fun in that?

Climbing reconnaissance work may sound like a fucking joke to some but let me assure you that climbing outdoors is extremely different than indoors and that even approaches, just getting to the base of where you'll start climbing, can be a huge challenge in itself. I've lost myself before twice for over 1 hour in one approach in Yosemite that a guide books told me was just about 5-10 minutes from where you park. Its no fun if you don't have much time to climb and you spent most of your day just walking around with equipment. The Fitz Roy area I hoped would give me a broader sense of appreciation for what all those climbers wrote about, talked about and dreamed about, with a very different settings, one surrounded by Glaciers. Patagonia is also very big and just sticking to one area didn't make much sense for this trip. I wanted to appreciate every inch of Patagonia that I possibly could.

To my disbelief, with time the stars aligned with work, a bit of savings, and I finally booked my ticket. I frankly didn't plan much except buying two books both by Lonely Planet: a general Argentina guide, and Trekking in the Patagonian Andes, coordinating my flights around points of interest and ensuring I had enough gear and time from work to do this venture. I figured the rest would come along the way.
There is so much I'd like to write about Patagonia that I'll split up my Patagonia post into a few sections that should allow easier digestion. I also took a lot of pictures and got almost 6 GiB worth of video. I don't have time to edit these videos so I just threw them together into one huge mash up for each section. Choose wisely... or something.

I'm going to warn you -- the sections on trekking will have boat loads of information from a beginner rock climber's perspective, that's my focus after all. I will talk about the trekking but that was secondary to me ;)
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