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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Climb every mountain

“If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you, too?” Apparently, yes.
The Whole Enchilada, by Carol L. Douglas, 12x16, available.
Because I’m an early riser, to some degree I exist outside others’ routines. I went to bed last night intending to write about the fine job our state department has done in interfacing with us. My friends keep sending me horror stories from the big national papers about other stranded travelers, complaining that our embassies aren’t helpful. Our experience has been nothing like that. Dalia Sava at our embassy in Buenos Aires has communicated efficiently and quickly with us.

At bedtime, our airline tickets were confirmed, the embassy would be issuing us a pass to travel through the quarantine area, and El Chaltén’s doctor would write health certificates saying we have completed quarantine. Things were looking pretty good for us to get home by the 29th of March.
Jane Chapin and me climbing down from our aerie. Photo courtesy of Kellee Mayfield.
And then I made the error of looking at Facebook while my laptop booted. Jane Chapin posted an hour ago about our Copa Airlines flights being cancelled. If that’s the case, we’re in the soup again. I hope she’s sleeping now; she spent four hours yesterday gathering, formatting and sending our passport and license information to Dalia.

We can’t stay here. Termination dust—the first snow of the year at high elevations—appeared on the mountains yesterday. Hosteria el Pilar closes for the season on April 1. This isn’t a business-driven, Maine-style winter closure, but an absolute necessity. The water lines must be drained and the rooms closed up before winter descends on the Southern Andes in all its fury. Leaving my room this morning, I was buffeted by wind whistling down the corridor. It was strong enough inside to wrest the door from my hand and slam it.

Not content with climbing the mountain behind the hosteria, Kellee and I attempted to ford the river on rocks. We ended up with wet feet and no paintings to show for it.
Jane did take some time to paint yesterday. She and Kellee Mayfield and I climbed the nearest mountain to get a different view of the glaciers. We followed a trail, thinking we would meet up with our fellow painters. Not finding them, we hared straight up the steep hillside. About halfway up, I told them I’d already had my quota of falling off cliffs this year, having tumbled down one in Parrsboro, NS last July. None of us had rappelling gear and we were suddenly in a maze of granite ridges.

“If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you, too?” is a famous parental question. I now know the answer is yes. Faced with a choice of being left behind or staying with your buddies, you soldier on. The good news is that none of us fell, even descending into a wicked headwind. The view from up there was sublime. We hunched down behind boulders as the wind increased in force. All of us painted well, although there can be no detail when your easel is bucketing in a fierce wind.

I was spent from the climb. All I had left in me was this very tiny (8x10) view of our hosteria.
Packing up, we realized we had no idea how we’d gotten up there. A mountain looks very different from the top than it does from the bottom. But Kellee and Jane are both half mountain goat, apparently. They found a route down, one that was actually easier than our route up. My knees are protesting, though. The rest of the day, I limped around the hosteria, going no farther than the bench in front to paint.

POSTSCRIPT: Our return flights are indeed cancelled... Again.

1 comment:

Bruce McMillan said...

"Climb every mountain
Search high and low
Follow every byway
Every path you know..."

From Argentina,
To Maine, so slow,
Carried by best wishes,
Up, yes, up you'll show.

(Hammerstein / McMillan)