04 August 2008

Life In the Flat Lane

A decent storm passed through and left about 50cm (19 inches) of snow throughout the central Cordillera. Finally. I took the opportunity to head up the
Cajon del Maipo with the Parque Nacional El Morado as a destination. I had a great first tour up there last year with the continent-skipping Lea and was hoping for more of the same.

The 5,856 meter (19,214 feet) Volcan San José stands at the top of the Cajon del Maipo and straddles the border between Chile and Argentina.

The problem was that the Andes weren't quite ready to accommodate. When the Andes ask for your patience it's best to comply. The relatively dry preceding month had taken its toll on the snowpack and the new storm was both warm and wet. Though the snow level dropped significantly the snow itself was heavy with water and the storm probably went through an interval or two of rain.

The ranger at the park entrance told me to watch out for avalanches. Fair enough advice. Upon reaching the main valley floor, though, it seemed his words were a little late. As far as I could see nearly every available slope and gully had sluffed or slid its way to the valley bottom at some point the previous day or during the storm itself.

Not real encouraging. In addition to the avalancharama that often slid to the bare ground, the thin, unsupportable morning crust quickly melted into a heavy, waffle batter-like glop that stuck to skis, boots, egos, and plans. The day turned rapidly from cool and crisp to warm and warmer. The nice thing about avalanche debris, though, is that it provides a safe locale for sunbathing, picnics, and naps. So I did.

The rest of the day was spent slogging up the river, slogging down the river, looking up, looking down, looking side to side, taking pictures, and eating chocolate. A pretty good place to do all of the above.

While basking in the sun for about four hours I remember thinking distinctly that I felt like the only living boy in Santiago. A beautiful Sunday afternoon and a giant city of five-million and I was completely alone for the entire time. Until I made my way out, that is. It was then, in the waning hours of the afternoon, that the rest of Santiago woke itself up and realized that there was a real live day going on and they better make use of it. I passed several groups on their way up, postholing to their knees (and I thought skis were ineffective). Then back down to the road where everyone with a portable grill and a pile of meat made their way out of the city to see what this thing called fresh air was all about.

So I will employ more patience, skin around river bottoms, sunbathe. A week of warm temperatures and clear skies will help straighten things out. Or melt them all away.

I skin. I skin I am. I skin therefore I am. I think.

The Flatt & Scruggs Preservation Society!
The Flatlanders website.

(If you can't see a small, blue square and triangle that resembles a play button, go here and follow directions. Installing this will allow you to read and listen to music at the same time--like a real live multitasker!)


livinginpatagonia.com said...

Just remember, a bad day on the mtn is still better than a good day in the office.

steven hatcher said...

Quite true. But is a bad day in the mountains better than a bad day fishing?