Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I'm not really this dumb...

OK, read the below post about Cerro Pollone first, it's actually interesting.

and then, if you still have time, a short plea for help: Is there any other blogging platform that's easier to use and less buggy/schizophrenic than blogger? I'm not really computer illiterate, but after spending nearly two hours uploading photos for that last post, I spent more than another hour trying to arrange the photos and text in some sort of consistent and logical manner. To no avail. The editing window would constantly make inexplicable changes, jumping my photos around, formatting them way off to the left or right, and clipping off all the text. It took all the patience I could find to just get all the pics and text into the post. The ugly result is below.

So anyways, I hate to complain about something that's free, but it seems so counter intuitive and buggy, I'd love it if I could use a simpler, or just more functional platform. The only catch, though, is that I'd like to keep the same web address. Probably impossible...

More Pollone Pics

Here are some more photos from our climb of Cerro Pollone a few weeks back:

Blake on the long approach, looking like he's ready for some 1980's vision of the future

Me leading somewhere on the 2000' West Pillar of Pollone. The climbing was truly perfect on the entire face, consisting of splitter white granite, many hand cracks, tons of corners and roofs, and a few dicey face traverses and flared cracks.
The most memorable pitch, though, might be one we didn't climb:
high on the face, visible from the approach, loomed a steep splitter off-width crack (too wide for hands, too small to full-body chimney). Our lone #4 camalot would provide no protection in this impressive fissure, and the climbing looking burly and sustained. I had already agreed that'd I'd lead it if it was the only way, so I spent a stressed night bivied just 100' below it. The next morning, though, I was able to lead left, around the arete, to a very climbable system of hand cracks that took us all the way to the summit!
Our bivy about 14 pitches up the West Pillar. The construction was completed on schedule and under budget by Blake and Scott, Alpine Contractors.

There will be snacks, there will!
A heap of good food for our second day on the route. Huge thanks to Larabar of Denver, Colorado for hooking us up with some tasty bars!

A series of photos from the long summit ridge. The entire climb was amazing, but the ridge traverse might have been the highlight. The views were of course incredible, and the climbing was, for the most part, pretty easy. From the summit of the West Pillar, we stayed roped up and led maybe 4-5 pitches across the knife edge ridge, encountering short bits of up and downclimbing on little towers, maybe up to 5.10. One more sustained vertical pitch (5.10) gained the summit proper, for which we had spectacular weather and high spirits.

Summit Alfajor!
The traverse from the Main summit to the East was a bit more difficult, physically and mentally. The lenticular cloud forming over Fitz Roy clearly indicated increasing winds, and it seemed like our multi-day window might be about to slam shut. Starting with a rap off the Main summit, we crossed the increasing crenelated ridge with a series of vertical pitches and raps. On one tower, an immense red and grey obstacle, the absolutely perfect granite that we'd been enjoying for the past two days degraded to some sort of grainy choss. I was on lead, and I tried a few different paths, but was turned back twice by poor protection and friable holds. Though the pressure of the impending weather was weighing on me, I also knew that a big lead fall and potential injury would be light-years worse than the slight delay of backing off and trying other paths. Finally, on my third attempt, I found a weakness that took decent pro, and quickly gained the choss tower's summit.
The orange choss tower

From there, the climbing was a bit easier, and we gained the east summit in a few more pitches. Just in time, the weather was coming in! There we found some rappel tat left by our friend Neil a month earlier (on the first ascent of the East Summit!), and gladly began the long descent. Many raps, many stuck ropes, much downclimbing, and one unpleasantly cold waterfall later, we were on the Fitz Norte glacier, with nothing left but the long slog back to basecamp and then town!

The crew at Piedras Negras base camp after our climb. From left, the team of Jose and Greg (Chilean and French), the brothers Joel and Neil Kauffman, then me and Blake.
Jose, Greg, Neil and Joel had all been on the Noth Pillar of Fitz Roy the previous day, and had been stymied attempting to summit by poor conditions. They all resolved to rap the route together, and suffered a series of rope incidents that left them with just one good rope by the end of the descent (each team started with two ropes).
Joel and Neil, no strangers to big mountian suffering, rated their all-night, wet, freezing, cluster-fucked rappel session as a 6.5 on a 1-10 scale of epicness (10 being your own death).

The Brothers K

Back in town, our friend and landlord Daniel threw us a victory Asado (roast). Que Rico!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


-and fast internet-

The allure of Patagonia summer has enticed another gringo to change his travel plans, pare down his pack, and "go gaucho". The Northern Hemisphere will always be there.

I'm now stationed in the old Spanish port of Puerto Natales, Chile. Located on a 100+ winding saltwater inlet, Natales is hanging out at the end of the world. Or, as some maps here show, perched aloof at it's apex.

I'm hanging out here with fellow gringo Clayton, a friend from Boulder who's been living and working here for the season. He has a wonderful network of Chilean friends here in town, and they've been more than enthusiastic to help me out as well. After all: "Los amigos de mis amigos son mis amigos"
So I've been hooked up with a free place to stay and a ready made set of adventurous friends with whom to share this amazing place. And thankfully we aren't that far from civilization, the internet is fast!

So, without further blather, photos from possibly my new favorite place on earth: the Paine!

The Torres (towers) of Torres del Paine National Park. The east faces catch brilliant morning light, so here's a pre-dawn shot of towers and stars.

The sunrise was obscured by clouds, so I was almost tempted to hike down. But lo, the clouds do part!

For over an hour, the clouds, propelled by the mythical patagonian viento (wind), opened and closed little serpentine windows of light across the faces of the spires. I literally took over 200 shots, as the light kept seeming to get better. These are two of my favorites.

Of course the climbing potential here is enormous, but I was glad to just be hiking. Packs are way lighter without all that climbing crap! (more room for whiskey!)

One of the unique aspects of the Paine is the forbidding, glaciar choked, vertical granite valleys are interspersed among lower elevation forests, meadows, beaches, and blue greeen lakes.

The Valle Francais, in the heart of the park, is maybe the most isolated and stunning spots I was able to visit. Ringed by ridiculous amounts of pristine white granite (with very, very little climbing activity so far...) this place inspires me to build a base camp and live here for two months. If only they had more than a few days of good weather per year.

The best part of travelling, or course, is the amazing people that you meet. Jay and Susie, both native Michiganders on a epic round the world ramble, were in Natales and so we all met up for this five day backpacking trip. Suerte Amigos!

On our last day, we wandered up the shore of the sculpted and enticing Lago Grey. Enticing, that is, until you round a corner and see the massive Glacier Grey, cascading directly into the lake. So no swimming here.

So yes, as soon as you close this page, go start searching for cheap airline fare. Start daydreaming, packing your bags, flipping through your old spanish textbooks. Start planning. Next winter in the North isn't that far away, exactly as far as next summer here.