December 2010 – Blizzards, snowdrifts, gales, frostbite, snow blindness, buried tents, floods, hardship, cold, sleepless nights. It must be summer then in deepest Patagonia.
This memory was one of the toughest two days of my mountain life. But, it was an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss!
“One gains nothing worth having on mountains without paying for it; beyond the snowline minor hardships will always be met in a small tent and, the sooner a man is trained to rise above them the better” (W.H Murray, Mountaineering in Scotland)
When things start to go wrong in the mountains, it starts with small, minor things. Like when I had packed my big down gloves in my main rucksack, instead of close to hand. My rucksack was not very accessible as it had a pulk/sledge tied to it. When I wanted to warm my hands up I was faced with a problem. Stop and fiddle around for five minutes whilst everybody else froze, or keep going? I borrowed Kiersten's spare gloves and kept going, it wasn't ideal as my fingers still solidified.
Well, that day was different. A first visit for me to the Via Ferrata paradise that is found at John Hogbin, Zafarraya. Lots of steep ladders (some decidedly more wobbly than others), Tyrolean Traverses, rungs, zip wires and cable bridges to negotiate. All good, clean and exposed fun in the sun!
There were also a couple of pendulums thrown in for good measure. On one of these Kiersten got her rope snagged and was left dangling out in space, until we figured it out.
If you plan to do this then it's vitally important you have all the correct Via Ferrata equipment and also a pulley for the zip lines. The knowledge of how to use them is absolutely essential. Despite the danger implied by the photos and the video we were at all times securely fixed to cables and anchor points. Best option that I recommend, if in any sort of doubt or you haven't tried this exhilarating activity before, is, as we did, to take a Guide along with you.
A short video showing you one of the main reasons why I so love it here.
Driving uphill on dirt tracks from my house I quickly reach some really beautiful and natural mountain environments. I enjoy a short ski tour with my dog, Rita, my first ski since injuring a knee a few years back. As you can see, she's very enthusiastic, bless her!
A shallow valley (Prado Quinto) was almost complete with good snow from top to bottom. Saw no one, apart from a couple of Golden Eagles gliding effortlessly overhead. And, we were back home for midday!
At 6am on August 20th 2011, together with Pepe Badaje, Jesús Labajo Yuste of Campo Base and muleteers, Toni and Jonni (not forgetting Pepito the mule!), we met at the Ventura trailhead above Lanjarón. We accessed the Rio Lanjarón via the Acequia Alta above the Ventura refugio. Getting a mule along parts of the old acequia was trying at times and took a long time. Once in the river valley we climbed up to the refuge and arrived there by 1pm.
Then it was down to work. Jesus and myself cleaned litter and stones from the building whilst Pepe started on the window. By the end of the day the hut was clean, the ancient wooden replacement window in place and the door frame cemented in. All the accumulated litter was taken back down to Lanjarón which we reached at 8pm, after a 5am start.
This is how I currently have my mountain stove set up using a Vargo Triad stove, windshield, 1l titanium pot, fire stick and primer (bottle top). Combined weight is 212 grams without fuel.
I use lamp fuel, obtainable here in Spain for €2 a litre. I use about 40ml for each 500ml boil. Boil time depends on outside air temperature, but I get between 13 and 15 minutes a boil in the mountains.
I like the Vargo Triad, once I got used to it. It's lightweight (38 grams) and can burn Esbit pastilles too as a back up. Important that a simple primer system is used though as without that the stove can take some minutes to get going.
Although I've had dogs that are supposedly “water dogs” such as Labradors and Leonbergers etc, none has really taken to the water. Of course, this is southern Spain so there isn't that much water anywhere, which hasn't helped.
Yesterday we took them to a river that we have just discovered that flows regularly throughout the summer. It's cool in the shade of the gorge, surrounded by high vegetation. here there is a small lake that's perfect for experimentation.
Just been watching the first video of Belgian mountaineer Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll making his solo ascent of the Fitz Roy Traverse in Patagonia from 5 – 10 February 2021, which he dubbed the Moonwalk Traverse.
This still, taken from Fitzroy summit, is significant for those who have ventured to the Patagonian Icecap with us between 2006 and 2016. The red line shows the 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2014 approaches to the Paso Marconi and the Icecap, the blue line the 2016 alternative approach due to dangerous conditions.
What is amazing is the lack of snow/ice in Feb 2021. I fear we may never return to the conditions that we enjoyed during those years