To the Mountains
Sunday morning I set out to have an adventure.
I had spent almost a week surrounded by awesome mountains of Patagonia and had yet to climb any of them, so I decided it was time. I packed up the cameras, some water and food, picked a road that looked like it went to a mountain and started walking.
About a mile from town I noticed a broken down fence. Beyond it was a trail leading off into the woods in the general direction of the mountain I wanted to climb. I figured that was as good of a sign as I was going to get.
The trail led me up the hillside below the mountain, winding through trees and farmland, climbing over or under fences. I had the feeling I probably wasn't supposed to be there, but frankly I didn't care, and there wasn't another living soul in sight. I pressed on.
After about an hour of wandering through the woods, occasionally losing the trail but always finding it again, I came to the base of the mountain. From there on it was extremely steep and there was no trail to be seen. I had come too far to just turn back, so I headed up the side of the mountain.
At this point I was thankful that we've been walking so much the past few weeks, as this was not an easy hike. I felt like I was in much better shape than when I climbed Volcano Pacaya.
When I got above the tree line the wind hit me like a tidal wave. I was literally almost knocked off my feet. For the rest of the hike I was battling winds coming at me from all directions, while struggling to keep my footing on the loose rocks. It was exhausting, but every time I got frustrated I turned around and saw the most amazing view of the valley below me, and found the strength to push on.
After struggling up the mountainside for what seemed like forever, although in reality was only about an hour, I came to the base of the cliffs. My goal had been to get to at least this point, but still I wanted to keep going.
I worked my way farther up the mountain, around the base of the amazing granite cliffs, with no idea how far I had to go. Just when I was about to give in and start back down the mountain, I rounded a corner in the rock and found a cave!
Not a deep cave, it only went back about 20 feet into the cliff, but as soon as I stepped inside the incessant wind stopped. I actually felt warm, comfortable. It was the perfect place to eat lunch, regain my strength, and continue up the mountain. Sitting in a cave, on a mountain in Patagonia, looking out over a valley of farmland surrounded by snow capped peaks. It was one of the most peaceful moments of my life.
After enjoying my shelter for quite a while, I decided the hike must go on. Further and further I hiked up the mountain, looking for the most solid pieces of ground to walk up between the increasingly lose rocks, struggling to maintain footing in the brutal wind.
About an hour past the cave, the slope became nearly impassable. The mountain was so steep, and the ground so lose, I felt like a single wrong step would send me sliding all the way back down the mountain. I also realized that I was probably not even halfway to my lofty goal at this point, and at my current rate of ascent would probably not reach it till nightfall, and that was not a good plan. The wind and cold were bearable with the sun shining on me, but at night the temperature drops to around freezing, and I was in no way prepared to deal with that.
It was at this point that I knew my hike up the mountain must come to an end. In roughly 1.5 miles, I had ascended 1500 vertical feet and still had at least twice that far to go. It sat down for one last look at the breathtaking view, and then started my descent.
The hike back down, while less physically demanding, was equally challenging. Every step had to be perfectly placed to avoid sliding an unknown distance and the wind was now blowing directly in my face. It took a lot less time to get back to the bottom of the mountain, but it was extremely stressful.
As I entered the farmland which I had hiked through to get to the mountain, I found something that I had not seen on the hike in. I walked out of the trees and found myself face to face with a beautiful horse standing not 15 feet away. As I pulled out the video camera to get a shot of it, another horse suddenly ran out of the trees and the two galloped off into the field below me. As I retraced my steps through the fields, I found more and more horses, all watching me warily. It made me quite worried that there might be angry farmers about as well.
I cautiously worked my way back through the hills and trees, thankful that I had my GPS device to lead me in the correct direction. I certainly would have been lost without it. Eventually I made it back to the road, and breathed a deep sigh of relief that I didn´t have to confront anyone and try to explain (in Spanish) just what I was doing.
I didn´t make it to the top of the mountain, but I did accomplish my true goal: to have an adventure, and to experience a little bit of the mountains of Patagonia. This is quite a wondrous place to be.