Our first day back after 25 hour bus ride (snow delay) from Buenos Aires. This is the view from the ‘plataforma’, which is reached after a short chairlift (new this year, last year you had to hike), then 5 minute T-bar ride, then a 20 minute hike. The peaks of cerro Perito Moreno are in the background, with a large back bowl in between.
A couple weeks ago the group who owns the little ski operation bought two new snowcats (‘pisanieves’) and they made corduroy roads deep up into the plataforma. Last year you needed snowshoes to get up here.
There are plans underway to create new infrastructure here, a gondola lift from the base that takes you all the way to the plataforma, with eventual development of these back bowls into runs similar to Cerro Catedral in Bariloche.
For the time being it’s quiet and deep powder conditions.
Peter Hartmann, activist leader, standing above massive rapids on the Rio Baker. “The biggest problem is that [the HidroAysén hydroelectric project] implies destroying everything, taking everything out of the region without leaving much behind…These projects are immense, on a scale that is absolutely unmanageable for this region. They’re unmanageable because this region is very fragile, ecologically, geologically as well as culturally. For example, in the area where they want to build the HidroAysén mega-project, there are as many people living there as the company is going to need to build the dams. So imagine what that means – practically doubling the area’s population.”
Please see more information on how this project basically shits on Chilean Patagonia.
And please also see more photos of what will be lost if the dams are constructed.
Micael: 4 months old now. Sick all last week. The antibodies built up so much he had this skin eruption. Still kept smiling mostly. Smiling with red splotches all over his face. Today in the shower I held him on my shoulder and we had a serious beat-boxing session. This kind of victory dance when you see and feel whatever sickness it is going away. Later putting him in the baby-carrier and walking out with Layla. A couple horses loose in the barrio. Should we go look at them nena? It’s a mare and her foal. They’re feeding on Adela’s fallen apples. They broke free, see? See that cut rope on the horse’s bridle? Layla stays back. She’s been scared since we were up on Piltri a week ago, ran into a small herd of cows, one approaching, mooing loudly, wanting us away from her calf. See their tails, all full of briers? They’ve been left out in fields. Nobody’s taking care of them. The way they flip the apples around with their lips. I approach the foal but she’s heads down in the apples, hungry. Working around the dead leaves. Later Micael will fall asleep as we walk in the woods near the airstrip. Layla and I take turns with her dolls, showing each other where they live, their houses in the rocks and brambles. 3:38 am now and I can’t sleep. Feeling this sickness coming on. Maybe Micael’s. Adela’s dogs barking outside my window. Probably at the horses, still feeding out there somewhere. The mare dragging along her rope.
I was trying to write something about the way people use sentences like “I arrived in Mexico thinking of only one thing: Tacos” and how that couldn’t be true.
ON – OFF DRIZZLE. The cairns and talus slopes just right there getting slicked. We decide to call it. We can finish breaking down camp and then hike out together, parting ways at the turnoff back to Hue Nain. More wind gusts, as if confirming the decision. We eat freeze dried bacon and eggs. Astronaut foil pouches. Kind of nasty liquidy runoff.
A break then. Temporary clearage. We finish camp breakdown and decide to just walk up into it. If it starts dumping we can always retreat. Up first into this boxed in section of waterfalls. All of it running down from the snowfields and glaciers up near the ridgeline. This massive bowl of all different sized talus. Purple and brown and white boulders with treeline tapering away in these little pockets of lenga forests. The water dripping through all of it in meltwater channels, some dropping straight down from snowfields 1000 feet vertical, turning into spray on the mountainside. Others streaming together to form Arroyo Teno. The walking sticks feeling good on the talus. Basic rockhopping. We stop and take a pic looking back from the waterfall (above).
Coming back down the L knee starting to feel it. But then there’s the flag, these other cairns leading up higher into the bowl. We decide to get a view from the next section of cairns. This feeling of moving fast and smooth but knowing on the way down you’ll pay for it. Each step adding another foot to the more than 3,000 ft of descent in the hike out. What do you think? Josh tells me we should head up another 10 minutes and re-evaluate.
We never planned to hike up to the glacier but at the pace we’re scrambling it’s as if this unspoken decision was made. This kind of nervous energy in the scramble now and I’m leaving Josh behind.
I peel off layers. I reach this mini-throne-rock. A massive view out from the pocket. Sitting up there waiting for Josh and just looking around. Up high enough to see layers of mountains back to the east and Piltriquitron. Home.
Falling water sound everywhere. Up above, another flag, maybe 150m, then a big turn where the route goes up steeper. No sight of Josh scrambling up yet. This feeling that right now the flow is just going back down. That this is the Apex. The turning back point. Not because I couldn’t easily make it to the top. Not because I’m really worried the hike out will be too long and I’ll be limping by the end (although that’s part of it.) I’m not sure why exactly but as I think about it, it occurs to me that whenever I’ve had these feelings I always tell myself I’ll come back.
A little sun-break opens and then quickly closes up. Josh will stay up here tonight. He’s still ‘up here’ while I’ve got a ‘travel day’ ahead. He gets to go on up to the glacier, to get that for the team. More falling water sound. If you could just keep hearing it always. If you could stay up here. If you could remember they’re all travel days.
This thought now that when he gets up here I’ve got to tell him that I’m heading back down, even though me busting away right now just below the final push for the glacier is incongruous with the unspoken flow we’ve locked in to this morning of just fucking going for it. But after a while he scrambles up and as soon as I say I’m rolling back there isn’t any feeling of judgment or worry or anything else but just a sudden sense that the part of this trip that led to this moment has already ended and his trip and mine are changing, morphing into something else, and I say “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a sick parting ways spot,” and on my way down and on Josh’s way up we both turn at various places on the mountainside and give each other a few victory arm raises from what’s quickly become thousands of feet across the bowl.
Took this while driving the last the 5 km into Cholila. There was another condor a few hundred meters higher. Cholila is famous for being where for Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Etta Place bought a ranch in 1901, and lived for the next several years. Their cabin is still there.
This was the only vehicle we saw parked in town. Note the water tank on top. There are no fatass American style RVs in Argentina. People convert old buses.
12 km west of Cholila is Villa Lago Rivadavia. It’s a small village of maybe 40 or so houses, a couple of super small mercados (‘dispensas’), and dozens and dozens of horses loose everywhere. There are ~6 cabañas, a couple of restaurants, and one hostel that runs fly fishing / float trips. We walked down a small wash to the Rio Carrileufu. It was very windy.
The Carrileufu drains Lago Cholila and flows into Lago Rivadavia in Parque Nacional Los Alerces. The area has minimal development / unpolluted water.
Around 8 km south of town is the entrance to PN Los Alerces. You can access the shoreline by pulling off 3 km after the park entrance.
Micael was asleep for most of the day. When he woke up in this place he seemed to be picking up on stoke levels.
I’ve lived here long enough to see retama seeds spitting out of their pods again. The hottest days, a crinkling sound when they’re ejected. All different ways to measure time. Julio’s starting to do the old dog sign for happiness.¹ Admiring his new ability to lie down and rest anywhere. I lowered Micael to him for a good sniff but he limped off behind the futon. It’s alright brother, we’re all relearning our places, always. The other night Lau and I fought until we realized we hadn’t actually talked in 24 hours. No need to mention laundry / diaper / sleepless-night cliches. After we shifted to just talking I realized there’s no word in English for that point in a fight where both people return to ground level and suddenly remember: what did we have to get done again for tomorrow?
The next morning Layla said something about a raton. I followed her out. Its body was in the crook of the wall. A long rat tail, no head. Muchacha got him; it’s just what cats do. They’re hunters. Felt grateful for shovels and soft ground. Layla saying chau chau lindo raton.
Later at the carpa we saw clowns from Buenos Aires. I went for seats up in the bleachers, somehow knew they’d be pulling people onstage. It had been raining all day but wasn’t then. I wanted it to hear rain on the circus tent. Micael looked up from the baby sling in hyperpresent-tense. Layla wanted to climb to the top row. Watch out baby it’s a long way down. I Put my arm around her and noticed someone had sharpie-d the word NOROESTE on an orange patch above our heads. The clowns were acting out Snow White. When they called for dwarfs the up front rows of kids rushed the stage. After they finished Layla ran down and sat with them. Whoever had written it had got it right: this was the Northwest side. Later, beerdrunk, I held Micael, told him I was trying buddy, you just came from there and for me it’s been a long time.
¹ pulling front paws slightly off ground in alternating / heavily-weighted-looking movement that coincides with slow tail wagging due to hindquarters being too stiff / sore to jump up anymore.