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Day 8 in Patagonia
Written by Tonya Clement   
Sunday, 22 January 2012 00:00

This was the day....the moment.....the push.  We got up super early and everything was going according to plan.  We were all a little on edge because it was very dark and we could no longer see the headwall or the route before us.  Especially when we turned on our headlamps, we could not see anything in the distance.  The Canadian team was up and at em right along side us.  My mind was racing with many thoughts.  In particular I could decide if it was better to be out front leading or following just behind.  In this particular case, I was gravitating to being the team to follow even knowing I have followed people that did not know where they were going on many a rock route...only to discover we were way off track.  

For a moment it appeared we were all leaving at the same time and then we heard the leader of team captain remind his team to make sure they had their sunglasses....almost an exact repeat of what Brad was telling us yesterday......and then Brad casually said, "Good point, where are my glasses."  Now we were roped up, crampons on, packs on our back ready to walk.....the tents were flattened should the routine high winds of Patagonia decide to pay us a visit.....and Brad had no sun glasses.  It was melt down city....as we went through a few moments of watching him crawl in the tent when cramponed feet carefully staying outside....to no avail.  

Since I was last in line and the smallest of the four, I was able to to unload, crawl in and come up a winner....the display of activity had to be a comedy for the four Canadians who chose to stay back and take a rest day.  They heard all of our debates and cursing.  All and all we remained somewhat cool and collected....The Canadians had about a 30 minute headstart which at the time seemed perfect.  We will always laugh at the chain of events that we played out.  

Then we were off and going....steady steady steady....step step step.  It turned out to be a gorgeous climb.  We think we saw Mars as there was one beacon of a star that at first looked like a plane or a climber on a close peak shining his/her torch or shooting a flare for a rescue.  We did not see any brightness in the sky until at least 5:45.  What a morning it was....there was so much navigation required as we crossed and circumvented so many crevasses.  It seemed like forever until we gained the ridge.  I remember looking back at our path and watching several blocks of ice cut loose and slide directly over our path changing the decent route ever so slightly.  

Crook did great for it being his first time on crampons and for having one hot spot that gave him some grief on his toe tops. Topper was fighting a bad knee and yet had no problem dropping down on his knees when Brad would drop into a crevasse. Both stayed steady and stable the entire way.  The only thing really slowing us was the fact that we had never been a rope team before and so much of the terrain was a first experience.  Instead of simulclimbing, we often did static belays which probably added a couple hours to the journey.  In no time, the Canadians pulled away and were completely out of sight.  

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At one point we could see them leaving the ridge to the back side of the mountain and it appeared they were more than an hour and half in front of us.  So once we got to the base of the mushroom cap (just 500 feet below the summit), we decided it would be another two hours to get all four of us up and down due to the vertical ice facing us.  Not only is this a daunting final summit but it is known for killing the very best.  In addition to the difficulty of the climb, we would have to contend with the Canadians coming down from the top (a lot of debris and ice was tumbling on top of us) which would add a bit of complexity and danger to our efforts.  We were headed for a 13-14 hour day and the team voted against making it a 15-18 hour day.  You never know how far you can push your body till you go there, and this was definitely a bigger push than anything I had seen this team do before.  There was both physical and emotional stress associated with this climb. What was great was the fact there were no agendas and everyone felt as though they had gotten their money's worth.  It is always comforting to choose safety first.  

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This was a team that valued staying together more than anything.  We had the option to send two of us to the top in half the time, and the team chose to stick together.....which has immense long term value!  At the turnaround point we wrote, "OH CANADA, CONGRATULATIONS!" in the snow at the only rest spot where they were sure to see it when coming off the summit. 

As we descended it was bitter sweet yet we had perfect weather keeping our spirits high.  At some times it was so hot we were boiling and we wished we could strip down into shorts.  It was just a perfect day.  

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When we returned to camp we were in disbelief to see that the four Canadians that stayed behind pitched our tents believing they were being a big help to us.  Because they did not fully stake it out properly, the tent Brad and I shared had 3-4 inches of standing water in it (we think some of the snow we threw on top to weight it down, fell in during the set up)....so in our state of utter exhaustion, we had to remain outside and dry things for a good two hours before we could snuggle into our bags.  As it turned out, we still had an hour of good sunshine and got to see two condors fly directly over us.  This big day was followed by a big bowl of mac n cheese and some real bacon bits.  As we slept and as morning broke we experienced our first sleet and snow.  

In recap we left at 3:30 am and returned to our high camp at 5:15 pm.  

 

 
Day 7 in Patagonia
Written by Tonya Clement   
Saturday, 21 January 2012 00:00

Well today is day three on the mountain.  We are in no hurry as we still have all the time in the world.  We think Camp two is just around the corner but it ends up being further than we thought.  We go completely around the arm of the mountain and add a steady up.....and we come to what appears to be a false camp two....we are certain we are not there yet so we continue on. It is a good thing we had oatmeal for breakfast.

We get to what we believe to be the perfect flat spot for camp two.  Brad walks the perimeter and sets up wands to prevent us from straying too far as we are surrounded by crevasses.  Just up the way towards the mountain there is an excellent flow of water that we know is upstream from most potty breaks.  We set up our tents, again just taking our time.  We stamp out a good base and then again place the tents side by side.  It really is a great camp.  We can look up and see the big wall that we will be scaling in the dark. I cannot imagine how we will navigate this with only headlamps.  There appears to be a lot of dead ends.  None-the-less it looks doable.  

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We have a wonderful relaxing afternoon and then suddenly the 11 Canadians descend upon our camp......and they set up right beside us not 15 yards away....we are resting and sleeping and they are so loud.  We could not believe it. The size of the area was very large and yet they parked right beside us.  They turned out to be very nice so it was not at all an issue and in some ways, it would be rude to go above us and yet awkward for them to go below us....so in hindsight it was likely a good judgment call.  

Brad prepared us our best meal yet.....and went over the instructions for the next day.  Our decision was to go to bed very early as we would be getting our wake up call around 2:00 am with a 3:00 am departure. Brad reminded us what to pack and to absolutely not forget our sunglasses which is easy to do when you are leaving in the middle of the night. We were glad that getting to this camp was such a short day as we did not show up totally wasted.  We could really just slowly ease into an good nights rest.  

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Day 6 in Patagonia
Written by Tonya Clement   
Friday, 20 January 2012 00:00

We woke up at 6:00 am today to Brad serving us hot drinks.  Our breakfast was a hearty bowl of mashed potatoes with bacon (we bring the already prepared bacon).  We had a casual start to the day.  We slowly starting drying and organizing our gear.....and saved the final packing to the moment when the sun was hitting our camp.  Just before taking off, we made one last trip to the stream for good water.  

Our climb started across the large bowl and up and over the looming saddle in the distance.  This was a fairly easy trek and we found it to be quite easy and very warm.  We wore our crampons for good purchase.  At the top of the saddle we chose to decend the other side with our crampons still on....which might have been a poor decision.  We were in some serious scree with large boulders all around us ready to pitch off.  Brian banged his shin pretty good from a moving rock.  

Once off the scree field from hell, we found ourselves in yet another huge bowl which required yet more decending before ascending.  It is always hard to lose elevation on a big route.  This bowl had some major crevasses that ended in a rather large moat against a rock wall.  We saw tracks going up a steep section to the left which we assumed were the tracks made by the chilean team.  The snow bridge that crossed the moat appeared frail but still holding as evidenced by the photo below.  We deemed the risk of it breaking low.  Before committing to the tracks to the left, Brad investigated the rock band to the right and peered over the top only to find a sheer drop off.  

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We decided to send me up and over the pass in the chileans tracks.  I had no pack, no coat, no gloves yet I was on belay.  I was just seeing if the way went....and yet, I got so far along the way that I was not comfortable turning back and downclimbing.  When I reached the top, I could see how far away camp two was.  It was fairly windy telling me that we really need to get everyone up this wall...and move on into the next bowl towards camp two as it would be sheltered from the wind.  We made a decision for me to untie and drop the rope....as there was not enough rope to belay everyone up.  I waited on top while Brad brought everyone up.

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Brad would now lead up with the guys tied in at intervals.  Once everyone was up, we could lower him to retrieve my pack. This took a fair bit of time.  We could have camped right there but decided to move on down the hill which entailed losing a fair bit of elevation yet again.....

Once we hit the plateau,

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we decided to set up camp just to the right of the rock that had fallen into the valley the furthest.  It is interesting how each fallen rock makes a pothole in the snow from the heat and melt.  Tonight Brad rewarded our efforts by making us a a mushroom stroganoff for dinner.  It was wonderful.  We liked our little camp out in the middle of nowhere.  

 

 

 
Day 5 in Patagonia
Written by Tonya Clement   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 00:00

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We got up around 7:00 am.  The girls in the refugio had stayed up most the night reading by their headlamps.  The Chilean climbers had fallen asleep in the room we had stored all of our gear.  We had a casual breakfast ourside of eggs, avocados and grapefruit.  In hindsight the camps were further apart than we ever imagined so an earlier start might have been more advantageous as we did a lot of hiking in the heat.  It was very hot.  None-the-less we had nothing but time on our hands and plenty of it.  We were in no hurry to get to any one place.  

Our hike began in the woods but quickly we popped out in the opend and hiked a long ways right along the creek until time to cross it.  The creek was now a river it was raging.  Brad came back to get my pack and Crook lent a hand.  We all made it across without falling in and soaking our gear.  

After a lot of boulders we hit the morraine which was loose scree.  It was a very long up of daunting scree until we hit a rock band that required a fair bit of scrambling.  The cairns were sparse and hard to find.  In time we came to a lake (a big bowl).  The next pass looked forever away yet we saw the canadian team on their return down from this pass.  They had stashed loads at a camp near the pass.  We were so tired at the point and beat up from the flies and the heat that we decided to stay put.  We had a nice flat spot of our tents and flowing water just 500 ft. away.  We felt this was the best camp.  Prior teams had built a wall of rocks to break the wind.  

We sat our two tents very close together.  It was so hot we could not escape the sun.  We found no relief inside or outside of the tents so we just toughed it out.  Brad took our focus off the heat by preparing us another great meal .  This time we had spanish rice with tuna and went to sleep early.  The night was very still....there was NO wind.  

 
Day 4 in Patagonia
Written by Tonya Clement   
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 00:00

Today we took a casual hike to the Tony Rohrer refugio.  The horses went ahead of us and dropped our bags just outside the hut.  It took us approximately three hours to get there.  It was a bit of a challenge as the flies swarmed us the entire way....these were big flies and it took everything we had to stay composed.  

We were each quite impressed that the three horses carrying our gear could navigate the trail.  At times there were fallend trees and sheer drop offs.  The moments of wishing I were riding one of the horses quickly faded.  

When we arrived to the hut a team had just come down from a successful summit.  They told us the conditions were good on the mountain.  They did it in two days in just neck breaking speed stating they only had one camp on the mountain.  Seems near impossible when we are thinking of having 4 camps.  They had all of there stuff spread out in the yard letting it dry and just relaxing.  They intended to hike out this evening on top of their bid descent.

Shortly after getting settled, two Argentinian gals returned from their day hike and fired up the stove for making yerba matte.  They are very nice and offered us some of their hot water and the pizza they were making.  

A little earlier we walked down to the river and Crook and I laughed while Brad and Topper attempted to get in the very cold water.  There was a little trough that diverted the water so that it was easy to fill pots and water bottles.  Pretty much spent the day sorting our gear and relaxing.  Brad served up a mighty mean gnochhi with pesto, avocados and red Chilean wine.  We dined in style.  

 

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