I am exhausted. My body is spent. I’m having dreams where I slip into a luxurious bed to profound sleep, and the voluminous, lined bags under my eyes would bankrupt me on US Ariways. I am in Chile and life has been full bodied, in that dark French roast, 36-28-36, dank KGB kind of way. While heading south this afternoon on the bus from Puerto Natales, I was drooling onto the pages of Craig Childs “House of Rain”. Now in Punta Arenas I am running on fumes at the Hostal Amanacer where the Internet is slow and the owner is massive, as in Ignatius from the Confederacy of Dunces – hotdog cart and all, no kidding.
I am at the end of the world, not so much born again Armageddon, but more just the tip, as in the tip of Chilean Patagonia. I was invited down to speak at the Banff Mountain Film Festival y me dije, “Sipo, por su puesto, que bacan.” (Chilenismo = “Yeah dude, of course, how cool.”) I gave my show in Spanish and showed the Sender Films “First Ascent TV” episode of climbing in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge with my brother Sean. I then played LIVE rock and roll music @ the local bar Baguales until 3am with two-bands, the 1st being an ad hoc posse of want to be’s and the 2nd a consummate power trio of head bangers called Leyendas Del Rock. We raged through Zeppelin, Kiss and Deep Purple anthems amongst other covers, don’t frown; after all we’re all covers of our parents.
At 7am the next day with brain banging, compelled by the 1st splitter weather window of the season, after more than 8-weeks of cold rain and snow, I begged out of a prior ‘con promiso’ and began the hours long bus to mini-bus to trek to Japanese Base Camp. I partnered with 27-year Chilean Tadeo Sotomayor for a glorious ascent of the Monzino route of the North Tower. He was gripped, I was impatient, and together we suffered. Back at camp, Gabriela waited with juice, crackers and her radiant smile. I passed out as Tadeo salted the pasta and Steve Schneider peppered me with stories, questions and his nervy buena honda.
The next night, back in Puerto Natales, we celebrated mass summit success, at the season party for the world’s best hostal, Erractic Rock (un muy bueno desayuno, the coolest staff and wide-open, accommodating arms). We played rock and roll again for a great thrumming audience, only this time louder, longer and with 50-liters of free beer and a few special guests. As luck would have it, another window of “buena clima” appeared the following morning and we pounced.
After only a few hours of sleep and with a “hatchet in my forehead” the journey back to advanced base camp (a natural cave with a well crafted Italian laid rock floor) worked me badly. That night, another 3-hours of sleep led to a 2:30am wakeup call of melting snow, macking oatmeal and slurping black tea. On this ascent I roped up with a badass Colombian alpinist named Sebastian Munoz for a rapid ascent of the 2,000-ft long “Bonington Route” on the gargantuan Central Tower of Paine – solid crack systems through steep flanks of red granite leading to a circuitous traverse of fractured gendarmes, snow slopes and a short lived summit party of a high-five and a “que buneo hermano”, before beginning the next half of the climb, getting the f&%k down. At dusk, feet soaked, toes numb, hands battered and bloodied we slumped atop a sloping boulder wedged amongst millions in the moraine at the base of the last two-thousand foot snow couloir, my mind reeling from a “timmyo style” festival of 5-days of rock&roll to rock to rock&roll to rock. I wanted water, food and cryogenics.
Now it’s off to meet James Q Martin and company for a descent of the Rio Baker in order to capture the epic beauty and adventure of this ancient Aysen waterway. We are documenting the trip to aid the local NGOs in their efforts to prevent the river from being dammed. Thanks Osprey for the on-going support for my projects, climbing, music and my life. I am more afraid of not living than I am of dying, for the latter is a certainty and the former a call to action in all forms and to connection with people and the places they inhabit.