After a few busy months I am lucky enough to find myself back in Patagonia. It’s been a tough winter for me in the northern hemisphere with poor climbing conditions in Scotland and all the pressures of normal life taking their toll. Down here time seems to move more slowly and this seems to be especially true in winter.
In summer the small town of El Chalten is practically overrun with trekkers and tourists who generally frequent the towns many bars and restaurants after a long day of hiking in the ferocious summer winds. In winter though, most businesses are closed and the locals take the time to enjoy some peace while preparing their businesses for the next wave of summer trekking madness. Somehow it seems more authentic and certainly a bit more relaxed, as one might expect it to be in an ‘end of the earth’ destination like southern Patagonia.
For climbing though the big challenge remains the same, the weather. After spending a month this Austral summer down here with little to show for it but two half day weather windows we were enticed to come back by the promise of lower winds supposedly resulting from colder temperatures more balanced pressure between the Atlantic and Pacific.
So for though, the weather window holy grail we seek has yet to materialise. As I sit here in our cabin listening to the sound of pouring rain on the roof and feeling the occasional violent tremor as huge gusts of wind shake the structure to its foundations, I start to question why we are here. Why do we invest so much time, money and effort to come here and play the Patagonian waiting game?
It’s a question that’s hard to answer and of course climbing is far from a rational pursuit. But when you see the summit mushroom of Cerro Torre emerge from its perpetual blanket of cloud or a hint of high pressure on the long term forecast you know immediately you are exactly where you want to be. In patagonia, waiting.