Friday, January 4, 2008
Christmas Cracks and Kisses
I think that Christmas changes lots over time. From the days as a little kid, opening each door of an advent calendar, and leaving chocolate chip cookies (which my mom definitely ate!!) and carrots for santa and his reindeer to keep him going to each good little boy and girls house delivering treats, writing christmas wish lists, hanging lights, and spending time with family and friends ( this year I sadly didn´t get to ring in Christmas with my family, but I carried them in spirit on christmas day, and thank them for their support, encouragement and understanding of all of my adventures) to what we dream of as young adults.
Santa did show up this year though, I guess I was a good enough girl not to get coal. Or, in Patagonia, it would be storms. My letter to santa wished for sunshine, clear skies, beautiful hand cracks, granite spires, and a summit with some of my favorite people. It all came true, a week of rain and grey skies parted just before christmas. We packed our bags and headed the 7 hours back up the trail to high camp, Maxime, Kirsten Kremer and myself. The day was sunny and clear, a bit windy, but nice by patagonian standard. We made it to camp around 3pm, set up tents, packed our bags and hoped the forecast was right. The alarm rang at midnight on the morning of christmas eve, we brewed a hot tea, choked down some oatmeal and set off into the warm, calm, starry night to St. Exupery to an about 20 pitch route Ciara de Luna, a striking Granite spire that rises well above Raphael, the peak I climbed last week, with a beautiful black dike stretched across its girdle.
We hiked beneath the full moon which wrapped around the edges of the peaks lighting the valley and our way. We had just a small route finding debauchle though didn´t lose much time and made it to the base of the route right when the sun began to spill across the horizon and dip the Torres, the peaks on the other side of the valley, in a pink alpen glow.
Kremer had already been on most of the route, so route finding was easy and, pitch after pitch was a glorious gift of the most perfect hand cracks, laybacks, and clean granite rock. The kind that makes my stomach flip with butterflies at how great it feels on my finger tips. We made good time, taking turns leading every few pitches. Climbing in threes is great because at the belays there is time for giggles, stories, and jokes....or if you´re climbing with your boyfriend, a few cheeky kisses, he, he, he!!
Progress was good, but the afternoon brought unforcasted winds despite the deep blue skies. Little by little we made it closer and closer to the top. The last few pitches were climbed with billowing jackets full of wind, ropes that were floating in huge arches towards the sky from the belayer to climber, and gusts that attempted to knock us off huge hand holds.
Kremer and I followed Max up the last pitch (he was our knight in shining armor, our rope gun in super strong winds) where the two of us climbed side by side, giggling at how tired we were, and how the wind might just be strong enough to knock us off! We crossed our fingers that max wasn´t shivering in the bitter winds, and popped our heads onto the summit to find him tucked in a little nook with no wind, smiling!!
We dipped our heads into the winds shooting straight up from the front face and were happy that our descent was down the other side.
We drank in the views, laughed at the madening wind, and relished a summit with close friends. It was the most amazing christmas eve i have ever had. I thought of every one of you and wished you could have been there with us. It was 6.30pm, and we decided it was time to go, descent was long and the wind would likely make us work for it every step of the way. Max yelled ¨No free summits in Patagonia¨ and we started down.
The first two rappels were in the respite of the calm, until we wrapped back down the main face. I wached the ropes as we threw them down, where we wanted to go, ripple up in the wind straight above our heads.
We had to rappel with only one rope, so that if it got stuck when pulling we could climb back up and free it, and so that we would have no knot to get stuck. This took much more time, the rope got stuck 4 times, that we had to go back up and free it. Finally on steep walls the wind started to subside. We made it to the base of the wall without too much drama. But, the couloir leading back to our packs was icyer than we thought and we were in little slippery climbing shoes with no boots, crampons or axes. Darkness fell just as we got to the couloir and we spent a few more hours rappelling down by the light of our headlamps to the ledges where our packs were. Hungry and tired, dehydrated, and ready for camp, we all laughed in a Merry Christmas as it was well past midnight. Still 2 and a half hours to get back to camp in the dark, bouldery descent. We made it home to our tents just as the tip of rose tickled the scattered clouds and shadows of the peaks. We tried to stay up for sunrise but all fell fast asleep.
On Christmas morning, we woke leasurly to steaming hot tents, baked in the sun, and clear skies. Our minds wished us atop another peak, but our bodies ached in yesterdays adventures. Achy arms, raw fingers, tired eyes, and exhausted bodies allowed us to relish the unusally sunny, hot, calm day in camp. Surrounded by Granite christmas trees all around, and gifts of just being there. We sat in the sun, a few of us got sunburned (hmmm that would be me!), drank ample amounts of coffee, laughed with friends of all nationalities, and thought of our other friends out on adventures on chrismas day (Colin Haley and Carsten climbed a new route on Christmas day on Desmochada, and Sam and Rob climbed De La S, and Crystal and her partner maybe a new route, on Bieffeda), Our christmas feast was dried beef tortellinis, sauce from a bag, and sweaty cheese, but damn it tasted good. We slept from 6pm until the morning. Woke leisurly before the storm clouds rolled in, packed our bags, and swilled Ballentines´Scotch Whiskey for breakfast!! HA!!
THis morning we celebrated christmas as a family, a big hodge podge climbing family, with french toast, fruits, and honey butter, not the same as my mom´s pan full of bacon, and pancakes cooked in bacon grease!! But everyone was happy. tonight we will have a huge ASADA, a big beef barbque, thanks to our wonderful hostel owner, Eduardo, and have our Christmas dinner.