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Day 3 in Patagonia
Written by Tonya Clement   
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00

Today began with a simple breakfast, a great view and good coffee.  Today is the day we were to leave for the mountain so it was important for me to see if I could locate Jim Donini.  In speaking with Malcolm Daly just before leaving the US, he told me the mountain we were climbing was very near to Jim's house yet after corresponding with email with Jim's wife Angela, I learned the town was getting a cell tower and new internet access while we were there.  There was no easy way to reach him.  My walk upon my arrival  to the Terra Luna Lodge revealed no real addresses in this little town of 400 people so the search would be a little bit of a challenge.  Gerome offered to drive me up the road to see if we could find the house he lived in.  He felt certain he knew which one it was.  Here Chile is a rather large country we are what appeared to be just a mile and a half away from Jim's house so I could not resist. 

When we arrived at his gate it was locked.  Gerome and I looked at one another and instantly agreed to climb over.  We walked another quarter mile up the road only to find no car near the house.  I had pre-written a note to leave on the door stating where we were headed and when we would return in the hopes we could meet up on the tail end of the trip.  The door was not note friendly....nothing to hang a piece of paper from or attach to.  So after knocking and getting no response I turned the knob and the door opened.  Gerome and I again looked at one another and our smiles were the agreement to enter and place the note inside.  All we saw were what looked like women's sandals.  There was no sign of gear or men's clothing or shoes.  I noticed a journal on the couch and opened it to the last page and saw two words that assured me I was in the right place:  Trango and American Alpine Club.  There was no longer any doubt.  Before leaving we sat the note on the kitchen counter and took one more look at the amazing views through the floor to ceiling windows.  


When I returned to the cabin I found Brad reviewing gear with Brian and David.  He always performs that one last gear check to make sure we each have just enough and not too much.  Lunch proved to be even better than dinner.  We had pasta with tuna, tomatoes, egg and cheese followed by a fruit salad with sweet cream.  We asked Gerome to join us for lunch as we needed to see him about 1:15 we took off for the camp where we would spend one night and then rely on horses to get us to base camp. On the way to the farm we stopped in Cochran at a little supermarket so Brad could get us some Avocados for the trip.  One cannot travel to Chile without some fresh avocados.  

It was a fun trip yet a very rough ride on dirty dusty roads.  As we got closer to the farm the roads turned worse.  There was a raging river crossing just before the gate entrance.  Gerome felt it was doable so we held our breath and across he went.  The water was above the tires a good foot.....but we popped out safely on the other side.  Driving into the camp was was absolutely gorgeous.  


We saw the green grass against the black pinnacles of rock covered in snow....and horses in the field.  It was a absolutely stunning.   One could make this their sole destination and have a great trip.  Lucy and Luis, the proprietors of el Fundo greeted us with big smiles.  They had a NOLS student named Matt doing an internship with them the past nine days.  We enjoyed meeting him but learned he would be leaving the next day.  We took the next hour to set up camp in the sheep field right outside of the main house.  We decided to travel in style utilizing the Marmot Thor 2 person tents.  We found these to be the perfect tents for wet and windy conditions.  They offer a lot of extra room and have a great ventilation.  


By the time we had camp set, Lucy had prepared us a great rice and sheep meat meal.  She served us in her kitchen near the warm stove.  I was fortunate to get to sit in the furry chair and be queen for the evening.  We fell asleep knowing that tomorrow we get to go to the mountain.  

Day 2 in Patagonia
Written by Tonya Clement   
Monday, 16 January 2012 00:00

p1160341dscn1228Vehicle Switch in Cerro Castillo


Today we wanted to take no chances so skipped the free hotel breakfast and headed to the airport early so as to make sure there was no risk of missing our flights to Coyhaique.  When we walked out of the hotel we were happy to see our TransVIP driver waiting for us.  Once at the airport, things went relatively smoothly.  Given that we were now on a domestic flight we worried we would be required to pay a second time for the excess baggage but we were never asked to do so.  

We met up with Brian and David and found a little breakfast place that served eggs and had a relaxing meal.  We all four got a bit excited when we arrived in our terminal and found a Starbucks.  Some of the delight deminished when we found the chai to be mostly water.

The Balmaceda airport things stayed smooth.  Our driver was waiting for us....most importantly all nine bags showed up!  Brad was more pleased to see that the driver had retreived our fuel that he had ordered and had shipped to the hotel that we were supposed to stay in last night. Jet Boil fuel can be hard to find in Chile so Brad reached out to the Chilean distributor, Andes Gear, who also happend to distribute Marmot.  

We took off in relatively short order our rest night at the Terra Luna Lodge.  We were told by the driver the trip would take 4 plus hours.  We were happy to stop shortly into the trip in a small town called Cerro Castillo.  We had a nice lunch that included beer, soup and chicken.  Both Brian and I passed on the chicken.  Somehow I have managed to avoid chicken since highschool.  In this little town we traded drivers (we removed the bags from the red truck and packed up the SUV) and got Gerome.....Gerome ended up being a blessing.  Turns out he was just on San Lorenzo, the mountain we were climbing, last week.  

When we pull into town Brad recognizes the name as the one in which we just learned to be Jim Donini's new home.  While buying eggs at the local market we had Gerome ask the store owner if she knew Jim. After some discussion she said she knew of him and believes he drives a blue or green SUV.  Gerome thought that Philipe, the owner of the Terra Luna Lodge, would know Jim and felt certain we could track him down. 

Jim Donini is just an amazing mountaineer who was with Malcolm Daly, the founder of Trango USA, when he had his serious fall in Alaska.  Jim's heroic efforts ended up saving Malcolm's life.  So Jim is someone many of us love and appreciate.  We only learned just days before our departure to Chile that San Lorenzo, our destination peak, was not to far from his residence.  His wife, Angela, was returning as we were departing.  Via email she informed us that the town had no internet but was hoping it would be turned on shortly after our arrival.  We had no real way to reach Jim but it became my personal mission.  Seemed easy given it was a town of 400-500 people.  

We loved our little cabin near the water.  The view from our window looked just like the Patagonia logo.  We enjoyed walking down to the water to stand and gaze out at the pillars of rock and the upper end of the Northern Ice Cap.  Our sleeping beds were all upstairs and there was a small kitchen downstairs and decks with views out every window.  After unpacking I went for a little walk up the road hoping to spot Jim's vehicle but really just to stretch my legs. It was a rough and long ride.  We had just spent a couple days getting to this point and we all felt a little beat up.  It was a hot and dusty ride so it was nice to be out in the fresh air.  

Over dinner we met a Swiss Guide and his girlfriend who had just returned from San Lorenzo with Gerome.  Turns out they had no summit success due to high winds and a severe melting.  They expressed concern that the path acrross the moat would melt away upon the return.   They also reported winds strong enough to shift their tent a few meters with them in it!  We enjoyed speaking to them as it turns out Patrick, the Swiss Guide, was on Everest the same year Brad was in 2008.  We also learned that Phillipe was a summiter also.  We found some joy in having four of together in one location and took the above photo.  

It was very nice of them to share their beta and they wanted to make sure we stayed in touch and reported back to them once we returned from the mountain.  Of course I went to sleep that night worried about everything they shared: steep headwall, extremely intense sunshine, high winds, rock fall, raging rivers, etc......







Patagonia 2012
Written by Tonya Clement   
Saturday, 14 January 2012 00:00

Everyone always said that getting to Patagonia was half the adventure.  Well they all proved to be correct.  We flew from Denver to Dallas today and had just enough time to see the 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints and then to the first half of the Broncos get spanked by the NE Patriots.  It was a slaughter!

Our arrival into Santiago out of Dallas was just late enough to ensure that we would not get through customs in time to make our connection to Balmaceda airport.  Always make sure you first get in the line to buy your VISA (now $140 dollars but good for the life of your passport) before getting into the customs line.  Lesson learned!

The next lesson came fast and do not want to be in the Santiago airport EVER on a Sunday.  This is the day the cruise ships embark and it is complete chaos.  Our other two teammates ended up also missing their connection from Santiago to Balmaceda so over the course of the day we found one another and spent the evening in Santiago with boarding passes for the next day on the morning flight out.  

The Hilton Garden Hotel near the Santiago airport is quite nice.  It is a good thing it is close as Lesson #3 is the reminder to always check your boarding pass.  Upon arrival to our hotel, I looked at my ticket only to see that I was not on the flight leaving tomorrow.  So now it is back to the airport to stand in the line to get the new boarding pass.  Did I mention that the American Airlines customer service window is only open a few minutes each hour.  It seems there is always a sign stating the agent will be back in a moment.  Must be siesta time.

Well the evening was salvaged with a great bottle of Chilean Malbec and good fish.  

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