La escalada es un deporte que se hace de a dos, y se da mucho que parejas practiquen juntas este deporte. Mucha gente cree que esto es muy lindo y romántico y en realidad no lo es tanto, bueno tiene sus momentos jajaja, pero muchas peleas también. Hace un par de semanas fui a escalar con Brad, mi pololo gringo, a Arenales, Argentina, uno de los lugares más increíbles para la escalada en roca en Sudamérica. Durante este viaje, aprendimos a entendernos mejor, de como estar ambos en el mismo lugar, pero a la vez en estados mentales totalmente opuesto. Esta historia, relatada por él (y en inglés) cuenta un poco de como se puede crecer y aprender a través de un deporte tan completo como la escalada.Until you go to a place, your imagination can run wild. A year ago, a friend described Arenales as, “a remote area in a gorgeous valley filled with rock spires.” He told me of being dropped off in a natural paradise after hitch-hiking into the middle of nowhere. Your mind can create all types of mountains, rivers, and images of the place. You can let your imagination run wild.
Arenales is a large granite valley with rock walls extending high up on each all sides. From camp, at 2400 meters, the peaks rise for another 1000 meters. The lack of vegetation higher in the canyon leaves one with the ability to see every centimeter of the rock. You can envision the tetonic plates rising and crashing on each side. You can sense the glacier receding slowly, crushing the rock underneath as the massive river of frozen ice moves in and out of this valley. Arenales is free of any fees, as nature intended. There is a free climber’s mountain hut located 15 minutes up a large trail, with abundant fresh water from the river. My girlfriend, Pili, and I started the drive from Santiago around 6 am. We arrived in the granite paradise of Arenales at 2 pm. We drove into El Manzano Histórico, the town below Arenales, covered completely in a thick blanket of fog and clouds. Not exactly the paradise I had created.Pili and I were too tired from the early wake-up and long drive to do much of anything. We decided to camp in one of the sites next to the car. We went to bed around 6pm. I woke up past midnight and checked outside the tent. The stars shone brightly. My first glimpse of the towers, bathed in moonlight. The sky stretched forever, I could feel the bend in the Earth.
Before I go further, there’s a few things to know. I guide mountains and am attempting the delicate balancing act of sharing my passion of feeling tired, hiking for hours to nowhere, and sitting on top of mountains completed destroyed, with a loved one. It doesn’t always go well. To makes matters worse, she is crazy, and I’m crazier.We woke up at 6am our first day in Arenales, me full of excitement, and her wondering if anyone could ever be so awake at 6am. I get the coffee going, change, make sure nothing is missing from the bags for the day, and start eating breakfast, a routine I’ve developed over time. However, Pili is still waiting for warmth and sun, wondering if she has another minute to postpone getting changed and peeing. I understand I should deal with this situation gently, with compassion. All of this is foreign to her, she isn’t motivated by the climbing in the same way, she doesn’t know how valuable daylight can be at the wrong moment, and she’s been working all week. We view the alarm clock differently. I need to handle this situation delicately; so I tell her bluntly, “get up and stop being lazy, we need to start moving.” Oops.
I’ve been told that sports can be a practice for how you live your life. Focus completely during a tense moment during climbing, and perhaps that can translate to other situations in life. Our first objective was a clean green-covered granite face split by cracks, named El Alquimista (6b+, 7 pitches). It was my first time climbing granite in nearly 3 months. The rock felt like an old friend from the first move. The meters grew below my feet. I was feeling the comfort of solid rock and beautiful views. Pili got to the hardest bit of climbing and started crying. How were we on such different pages? I was in a place of relaxation, she was quite the opposite. I should have shared my place with her, not dragged her into it. Stress, guilt, and selfishness created an iron-pod where I didn’t need to comfort her or and understand the situation from her perspective. Our experiences were so foreign to each other. Our imaginations of this granite filled mountain valley had been so starkly different from the start. We topped out to clouds pouring in and out of the valley, both happy with our trials and tribulations getting to the top, but with the true human connection of shared experience missing.
The most beautiful moment of the day? When that moment of sharing happened. As we hiked down, she opened up about her experience, and I about mine. We were sad about our lack of connection. There was hope in the commitment to understand each other, and express what we needed to enjoy these experiences together shone through. Perhaps we can practice life for climbing as well. On the way down I told her, “I know you’re a black belt in Tae Kwon-do. You can’t fool me. I know you’re tough. You only complain because you can.” We both laughed. Saying this made me realize, even though I can control my body and mind in the mountains, I may not be so lucky in a Tae Kwon-do dojang.
The second day had us up at 6am again. We wanted to climb on Charles Webis, a tower with many five-star routes along the base, and some full-length routes as well. A cloudy morning created some uncertainty over where our first objective was, until we were staring at the base of Acuario (6b+, 2 pitches).
Acuario has a beautiful corner followed by a clean finger crack. The top half of the climb is flowing hand jams up a clean white granite wall. I reached the top in a state of elation. The weather was not as good and the views were abysmal; but the climbing induced a state of flow. After such a long time without rock climbing, it was exhilarating to feel the adrenalin mixed with peace. Pili approached the climbing with a sense of interest acquiring new skills. I saw her growing and approaching the climbing without self-judgement. I was jealous of her ability to commit completely to being a beginner. I may have even encouraged her a couple times.
We rappelled down the rope to the base of the climb, ready for the next climb. I pulled the rope, except I couldn’t. It was stuck. Fast-forward 2 hours; it is raining slightly. I’m standing next to the rope tucked around a horn. I had to ascend 70m up the rope, twice, and climb 20 meters to a retrieve the cursed rope. Finally, we had our equipment and were ready to descend back to camp. It wasn’t the paradise I imagined in my mind. It wasn’t the torture Pili imagined in hers. I learned a lot about Pili in our short time in Arenales. I think we became closer because of it. Having to talk about dramatically different points of view, and come to an understanding to work more as a team, ultimately, brought us closer together. It wasn’t the magical and romantic weekend we imagined. We fought, we understood, we grew. It was the adventure that always repeats itself, that has to play out for people to come closer together. We left Arenales in a slight drizzle without any of our best or worst expectations filled. We laughed, apologized, and were filled with smiles. Excited for the way forward.