|The stream below us|
And thus, for the first time, the notion of time in Chile had finally settled upon me.
On a normal day the street outside my window is so loud that I cannot have the window open when I'm in the room. Vicuña Mackenna is a major street that heads south away from the western edge of Santiago proper (Plaza Italia), and it's four lanes of normal traffic combined with two lanes of bus-and-taxi-only traffic roar from morning until night, often keeping me awake until the earplugs go in. I walked out into the burning morning sun, shook "Red"'s hand, and crossed the street while hardly looking both ways while our pedestrian light was red. Within minutes we were sitting on our packs on the subway and heading south.
|"Red" coming up the final climb|
We got out into the warm air under the cover of clouds and crossed the street. A couple of passes through two barbed-wire fences later and we were following the remnants of the old path upstream and into the small canyon where the cool stream originates. There were a few families with day tents set up on the bleached white rocks along the bank of the stream and a group camping in the shade on the trail itself a few paces uphill. Sharp thorns scratched my bare legs and arms, and we boulder-hopped the stream a few times in search of the path. "Red" knew exactly where we were going, but it was a couple of winters ago when the precipitation was high and the canyon flooded and new, small, and calf-deep streams formed amongst the rocks and green vegetation around us. The old path had mostly collapsed, but once we found it we discovered that it was still walkable.
|Our first climb of the day (5.5)|
"Red" wanted the first pitch of the four-pitch 5.5 that loomed above us, so he went up the low-angle slab until he pulled a steep corner and made a belay on top of a leaning boulder about fifty feet up. I went up and switched gear when I got to the top. The second pitch looked a dandy with nice horizontals and a large overhang (or small roof); just like the 'Gunks where I had learned to love roofs after hating them at the start. To me, this was the money pitch, and I appreciated him letting me take the honor.
While I belayed him up the second pitch, I looked around at all the rock that surrounded us. "Most of it has never been climbed," he said when he got to the anchor. "A lot of rotten rock; one would have to be bold to go up there."
|An unfortunately sun-bleached look at only a small|
portion of the upper gorge
|The 5.9 that turned into a 5.7 by the end|
It turned out to be rather silly in the end, however. While the climbing felt sustained, the gear was about as bomber and plentiful as a crack in Indian Creek (if one has the same size cam, of course, but even then, this was better than that because there was gear of all sizes all over the place). It wasn't until I was actually two feet from the top when I realized that I was, in fact, at the top, which made me quite happy because I felt that I was moving too slow until I saw where I was. But then again, as I thought to myself, "Time isn't quite what I thought it was earlier in the day."
It was a good day, but one thing that had piqued my interest more was that at the top of the final climb, before we rapped off, I was able to look for possible approaches to the upper faces that were deeper in the gorge. While I may not know for some time if it is possible, I do believe that I found a way to get up there. "Red" wasn't so sure, citing large blocks around it that could possibly be loose and merely balancing on the edge. I can't disagree with that analysis, but I was happy to have seen something at least, and seeing something that gives even a tiny bit of hope, I think, is enough to keep the mind flowing.
It should be noted here that Chile has been rather difficult at times, even if it has been incredibly fun, too. I don't yet speak the language and have on occassion felt alone and more un-alive (if I'm allowed such a word) than simply dead. My writing is going well, and for that I am appreciative of the lonliness. If I put my mind to it, I can face solitude and be content with all that is around me, but I'm less inclined to do that with so much amazing rock around me, both climbed and un-climbed. While writing is my life at this point, climbing is my sanctuary: without it, I will go mad. And unlike patience in a vaccum, I will be dead sooner than I will have been alive in no time at all, and life is a priority that I had yet to find in Chile.
The empanadas, however, were good. They were definitely hot in the middle, but as "Red" said to me, "It's the mud ovens that make it work. I'll never buy one in Santiago for that reason," I couldn't disagree with his assesment of the quality, and probably can't disagree with the method either. It was the best empanada I've ever had (of the few I've actually had), and it wasn't even the kind I like, either.
After about an hour of rest in the shade of talking climbing grades, where the good rock is, where the great FA opportunities are, how to buy more gear, if a wall is in our future, we headed off to find a collectivo to take us back. Unfortunately, there were none, so rested in the shade at the border patrol station (yes, since San Gabriel about the last major town in the valley before the border with Argentina, which is still about twenty miles away, there is a very modest border station that is not very strict with policing who comes and goes, mainly because there's no point) and waited for a good forty-five minutes before I suggest we walk to San Gabriel itself to see if there was any more traffic there. It took me by surprise when the small street we were walking on happened to be San Gabriel. I felt a little foolish for making the suggestion, but we did learn that there were no collectivos to be found. As a result, an empty bus came upon us and, when it stopped and opened its doors, "Red" asked me if I wanted to take that instead.
"It'll be cheaper but much more crowded as we get closer to Santiago," he said.
"There are no collectivos," I said, "so we might as well take the bus."
|Cajon de Maipo|