Saturday, March 7
Day 191-El Chalten
In the ancient Chinese divination system, there is used a trigram, "ken", symbolized by the mountain, its attribute is "keeping still". Though I am not in China, I am having to practice, amoungst these spectacular and rugged granite peaks, the art of keeping still. I sat for hours the day before, in existential deliberation, as I silently watched the worlds largest advancing glacier,
El Perito Moreno, waiting for the rifle crack that signaled the birth of yet another iceberg, as this moving sheet of ice thunderously falls into Lago Arentino. I was not disappointed, at the end of the day, I witnessed a detached ice spire, the full 200 foot height by maybe 40 feet thick, slowly teeter, then crash into the lake, causing a swell to crawl across the wind swept surface for a kilometer.
Today was much the same, but for a different subject. Taking the long walk to a hidden lake under the dramatic and infamous Cerro Torre (poster child for Patagonian climbing), the hours passed as clouds danced around the peaks, seemingly generated by the peaks themselves. Slowly they lifted only to regather, shrouding the mystical ice capped summit. My watching and waiting paid off however, for a brief 3 seconds the enveloping cloud thinned and ascended, to reveal a bizarre misshapen mass of granite and ice. All my adult life I believed I would one day see this mountain, once thought I might even climb it. Now at 50, shoulders wrecked and knees fading fast, I am little more than a has-been wanna-be, but I am unspeakably grateful to have been able to make the 10 mile return trip to see it.
My time in Patagonia is far from over, however. I must wait yet another day until a bus rolls through here to take me northward, and when it does, I will be required to sit for 12 hours a day for 2 days to reach a populated destination. The land is bleak, the windy season begun, the tourist throngs are beginning to fade, autumn is coming. But in my solitude I am able to hear what this land is saying, what it requires of me to make a safe passage, and so I will continue to keep still, waiting for windows of clarity and enthusiasm to open through the long days of grey and drudgery.