Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Patagonia XI: Up the Guanaco


Alone, I went to climb the modest, but yet decent, Cerro Guanaco, some 900 meters above sea level. Interestingly, coming down from the mountain, I had different plans than those when I first started the climb. Stay tuned!

Solo again.
The morning of the 11th brought with it a challenge, a fulfillment to be completed – climbing the notorious Guanaco, the mountain that Lee would never forget, the one that came into her stories here and then. Curious and longing to be at the places that Lee described and detailed, to grip the difficulties (well, at least some of them – I was in the high season, hence no snow for me!).
I arranged myself as fast as possible in order to climb early and try to avoid getting into the mid afternoon, when usually the weather deteriorates and rain starts to fall down. I also knew that a group of Israelis from my hostel are gonna do the climb that same day, and I wanted peace and quite, and to be with nature alone as possible. I knew that groups usually takes times to rearrange and get on with it, so I hurried to get out of the hostel and on the way ASAP.
I went outside and down the hill to the main road of Ushuaia, where I found the minibus of the daily National Park's transportation waiting for their departure time: 9 am. With no choice, I waited with them, tried to converse the best I could with my basic Spanish. When the clock hit the 20 minute of 9, we went on our way toward the park. In the vehicle were also two British folks and one Australian lady, all over the age of 50, which I talked and had a very nice conversation – of course, the issue was mainly about the Israli problem, especially with the Irish context in mind. Me and the Australian lady took off near the start of the path around Rio Lapataia and Lago Roca, that also lead to the Guanaco trail. We walked at that quiet beach, nobody around, stillness of the lake and the cold fresh air were a good reminder of what is so good about nature, especially when far away from civilization. After a 10 minutes walk, we came to a split in the trail, straight lead the path that continued on to circle the lake and the right path lead toward the Guanaco ascent, 4 hours of climb as written on a small wood post…We said goodbye, I looked at the watch (10:10) and started the ascent.
At first, of course, the path was flat and easy, going through the thick forest with immense trees and vegetation in abundance on both sides of the path. It was very cold there, the sun hid behind the clouds and I prayed it won't rain on me, now that I am starting the climb. The path, as well as the vegetation, was quite wet from yesterday's rain, and it made the advance a bit more difficult, as I had to watch out not to slip.
Quickly I came to the first of the "Yellow Posts", those with the km' written on it – this was the first one, with the single number "5" written with black ink – not far from that post, the ground pitched up, and the climb started.
The climb was not easy, though I kept a fast pace as possible, the path muddy and slippery. I used all my limbs to keep on the path and to hang on the sturdy trees that grew from the side of the mountain, their roots bulging out of the ground and making a decent foot hold. From time to time, I was able to get a sense of my progress, as Lago Roca and the surrounding mountains peep in between the branches of the trees. Along the way up I was keep thinking, how the hell Lee and her companions managed to climb this steep mountains with ice and snow all along with no equipment…? I was amazed!
Anyway, not too long after starting the climb, I came to the first "break" in the slope, a kind of a clearing which on the one side overlooked Lago Roca and the Chilean mountain side of Tierra del Fuego, and on the other side, a glimpse of a far, off to the left, jutting peak. The path continued on into the forest, and I followed it. It didn't take too long and the path turned into a muddy and messy blackish path, making efforts not to sink into the mud, remembering the small holes in the sides of the hiking boots. Luckily, I managed to get out of the forest into a new clearing, which I quickly realized was a mountain saddle, the great ridge of the Guanaco rise in front of me. It was a wide, some 200 meters of pampas totally soaked with water from yesterday's heavy rainfall. Here I realized quite quickly that I am going to wet my shoes and socks unless I am gonna hover with god knows what machine…and damn did I wet my socks – By the time I reached the rocky and arid sloping ridge of the Guanaco, water were squishing out of my boots like I put my feet in a swimming pool.
Looking up, I could see the path, narrow and snaking up the side of the ridge and the only thing going through my mind was, how the hell Lee and her companion managed to ascent this quite steep slope without any ice equipment, and more over, how they managed to come down??
Anyway, thoughts aside, I started my way up – at first it started easy, but soon the slope steepened and the going was harder. The wind whipped without remorse and the peak was far-far away…The scenery, however, was superb all along, with visibility all the way to Navarino Island and it's wild mountains. Finally, after quite of an effort, I reached the top of the mountain, which few people were already there, enjoying the scenery…
And what a scenery! The panorama included the eastern parts of Tierra del Fuego (Chile), along Lago Roca back to the Beagle channel and Navarino Island, and toward west as far as the eye could see…Ushuaia was seen as a little town "stooping" over the shores of the wide channel, it's little airstrips stretching and waiting for planes to land…The weather wasn't that good, though, and I was in a constant fear of raining. From that scouting point I managed to spot most of the way I did with Maya and Barak couple of days before (route #2).
I quite quickly noticed that there is another peak, a bit lower but not far – just across a mountain saddle. I decided I would venture and check it out, sensing that I would have a better view as this peak concealed part of the scenery from the main peak.
Less than ten minutes later and I found out it was a wise decision with a bit better panorama over the area, especially toward west. I sat on that peak and had my decent breakfast, a bit of water and enjoying the scene, and especially the rain that poured just south of the peak, but luckily, the cloud continued west, leaving us dry. After 50 minutes, I decided it's time to go back, before any shower will hit the peak also.
I packed my little stuff, shouldered my backpack and was on the move back down.
Going down, as it tends to be, felt very fast and on my down I saw the Israeli group I knew that I would meet on the way somewhere. Kfir was there too, and for the first time the guy was actually admiring the scene! And there, at the point between crossing the pampa and the wood, the turn point of my journey happened.
While I was doing my way across the pampa trying not to get too much water into my shoes, I was pondering and longing for my mother's food, as well as the faces of my family, friends, everyone I knew back home…this phenomenon is called, how absurd if you think about it deeply, Home Sickness…Damn, plain and simple, Home Sickness!
And my "other" me said outloud in my head, "Well, if you really want to go back, you can – nothing stops ya!" and "me" answered back, "shucks, I paid 50 USD for the change of ticket only to change the ticket flight date to almost the same time?!" and the "other" answered, wisely: "Well, it's only 50 USD, and believe me, it's better save the rest of your time and money to have fun in Israel and not do things only because of these miserable 50 USD…". And the coin fell and the bell rang in my head so loudly, that I started laughing…laughing and smiling because I was coming home! What a wonderful feeling and joy, Yep, I am going back home! Had enough, it's time to get back to the world I left 9 and a half months ago…
By the time I was back down and near the starting point, I already had a plan – a plan I decided that I won't be sharing with those that are back in Israel…oh no, this will be a surprise! Everyone thinks I am gonna be back in Israel around the end of March, while I am planning to come quite sooner than that…
When I came down, the weather cleared and the day was sunny and shiny, like God was smiling with me and everything was sooo cool! I got into the little restaurant that was located at the entrance and near the minibus pickup point, and had a good cup of coffee and some alfajores as I was starving (I didn't take any food with me…). As I was sitting and savoring the coffee and enjoying the vista outside the large windows I’ve noticed one of the micro taxies getting inside the restaurant. As I knew the micros coming and going to this attraction might be scarce, I’ve got up an asked him when he leaves.
“NOW!” he blurted as he took an alfajores and went back to the exit door. I hurried to pay the bill and went outside only to find the nice Australian lady I’ve talked with that morning, waiting all grumpy and pissed off. Seems she was waiting for this taxi for several hours (!).
Soon, I was back at the hostel and before I made several steps into the lobby I already noticed that my room’s door was wide open. And who came outside? Sivan, of course. Noticing me, she cried out, all smiling and jumping all over me…
After several explanations I managed to persuade her to let me put my things in the room. Sivan, in her typical quick and intensive talk, shared with me some of the experience she and the girls had since I last saw them at El Bolson.
After a quick shower and lunch (thanks Rami and Ricky!) I’ve walked with Sivan back to her hostel, as she wanted to say goodbye to some friends that were leaving to Buenos.
Getting to the hostel, I was surprised to find Alon (Cordoba) sipping tea and having Alfajores, all smiling, as he usually does. He told me about their trek around Torres Del Paine (the circuit route) and the people they met at that trek. At some point our conversation came to an end and Sivan came back.
Walking down the streets of Ushuaia, Sivan shared the told me that when the girls were at El Calafate they met with the Adar couple (see Pucon Chronicles) and it seems Adar (boy) told Efrat and Ravid he prefers that Sivan would not be coming to a party he was invited to. Ravid kept this secret from Sivan up until they were suppose to go to the Torres trek with Adar’s couple, at which they felt obliged to update Sivan on Adar’s thoughts. Sivan by of course was hurt, and led to a fight between the girls, which led to Sivan not joining the full trek…
The evening before my 48 hours bus ride to Buenos I’ve met with Valy, which just came from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia. He shared with me all his experiences and the fact that his knee was in a bad shape and that he will need to cut short all his plans to do a serious trek in the area of Ushuaia (quite a shame…). I was tottaly tired and went to my room to get some sleep before the departure to Buenos, 6 am on the 13th of January 2006.