31 October 2008
I will miss:
1. los Andes.
The one feature I was most curious about three years ago remains for me the most defining element. There was never any doubt that the Andes would provide plenty of inspiration, education, pleasure, and even a little pain, but never would I have imagined the intoxicating tranquility they would impart. The Rockies are home. The Sierra Madre is dusty and cinematic (and sin nieve). The far Northern Alps are forever a part of my hitchhiker's memory. The Tien Shan is a tricky puzzle. The Andes are like that crazy-beautiful foreign exchange student you can't help but stare at during class. Aloof and mysterious, unfathomable though absolutely irresistable, the Andes push away as much as they pull, repel as much as they enchant. And that tension might be their ultimate attraction.
When I say the Andes what I really mean is the Central Cordillera. I have the most experience in and the most knowledge about this particular section of the world's longest mountain range. However, I know now more than ever that even within this middle section of the Andes, my experience and knowledge are limited to a part that is equivalent to the size of a peso. In other words, this place is big country.
And not only is this place big country but it's also frustrating country and difficult to access and difficult to find information about and filled with trial and error route finding. It does what it wants when it wants and any good days spent in them are a matter of categorical luck and pure synchronicity.
Here is Aconcagua determining its own weather forecast for the otherwise pleasant spring day.
The Andes are intimidating; they rise rapidly and abruptly to an average height of 4,000 m (13,000 ft)--higher in the Central Cordillera--less than 100 miles (160 km) from the ocean. Above about 2,400 m (8,000 ft) there are no trees and hardly a shrub, bush, or evidence of any vegetation at all. They are bone dry and when they are not dry and baking under the sun they are dumping three meters of snow on you.
They are inhospitable. And, by and large, they are empty. To quote an observant observer in the 2008 Chilean Winter trip report thread on Telemarktips, "The back country looks incredible. Has anyone else noticed that (in) nearly every photo the only tracks are from the group posting the pics?"
Yes, we've noticed.
There is nothing like the feeling of an incurable crush. Except, maybe, an incurable crush that unhinges into a full-blown love affair, complete with obsessive and irrational emotions, sweating, shaking, giddiness, hysteria, and the heartbreak of separation. Adieu, mon amour. Hasta pronto.