Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday Adventure: Cerro Torre, Patagonia

Happy Thanksgiving to any US folks reading this, and to everyone else, I hope you're having a wonderful Thursday.  (I know I am.  I'll share the reason why in next week's Thursday adventure.)

When I consider the things I'm thankful for, mountains are pretty damn high on the list.  Honestly, how lucky are we to live on a planet that holds such an incredible variety of awe-inspiring landscapes?  Mountains challenge me, inspire me, humble me, and bring me a joy that's found nowhere else.  As many beautiful peaks as I've climbed, I'm all the more delighted to know that I've seen only the merest fraction of what the world has to offer - that countless more stunning locations remain to be visited.  (How boring life would be without new experiences to anticipate!)    

Today's adventure post features a mountain that I haven't yet seen in person, though I've dreamed of going there ever since I first saw a picture years ago.  It's the third and final area I had in mind when writing about the Cirque of the Knives in The Tainted City.  (The other two spots were featured in prior Thursday Adventure posts: Canada's Cirque of the Unclimbables, and Wyoming's Cirque of the Towers.)   My husband and I both have it sitting right at number one on our list of places we most want to visit: Cerro Torre, in the Parque National Los Glaciares, in Patagonia (Argentina).

Cerro Torre and nearby peaks, Patagonia 
I mean, just look at that peak.  Here, let me give you a closer view:

Cerro Torre, up close.  Note the cap of rime ice right on the summit - the infamous "ice mushroom" has prevented many a climbing team from reaching the actual summit.
As a climber, you just can't look at a spire so incredible without drooling and daydreaming.  More, Cerro Torre is only one of Patagonia's multitude of gorgeous peaks:

Mmmmm, Patagonia.    
One day, when as my son is old enough to join my husband and me in serious trekking and climbing, we will go there.  We may lack the world-caliber skills needed to summit Cerro Torre - it's one hell of a difficult climb, made even more challenging by Patagonia's notoriously foul weather! - but I'd settle for wandering the area, and admiring its savage beauty from lesser vantage points.

Cerro Torre itself has quite the checkered history in the climbing community, right up to the present day.  Check out this fascinating article from Outside Online, that describes both the peak's history and the bitter controversy that erupted last year when alpinist David Lama completed a free ascent of a notorious route. An interesting visual accompaniment to the article is this trailer on youtube, made for the film documentary of Lama's ascent.  Non-climbers may come away from the article convinced that climbers are even crazier than ordinary people assume.  Or maybe, as Sam Axe says about spies in Burn Notice, "They're a bunch of bitchy little girls."  That may be true...yet the root of all the infighting is the depth of people's passion for the mountains.  Climbing isn't just a sport, it's an entire lifestyle, even a religion.  At least it's one with a beautiful church - one I'm thankful every day for the opportunity to worship in.


  1. That first photo looks straight from a fantasy film. In fact, the whole country looks that way.

    And about that article, I thought this could be a line from Dev himself: “OK, this is how it is. We gotta do it without the bolts."

    1. Yeah, there's a photo I saw once for sale in a local art store here in Boulder: Cerro Torre & nearby peaks, all ice and rock and mist, with a crescent moon hanging over looked so amazing and otherworldly, I still wish I'd had the $$ to buy it. Talk about inspirational scenery.

      And yes: Dev's pragmatic "never met a challenge I wasn't willing to tackle" attitude is solidly based on many real-life climbers. He and David Lama would probably get on just fine. Though I think Dev (like me) might be a little horrified at David Lama's later comment: "I don't know how it feels to climb without cameras."