Today, I climbed a mountain. Not only did I climb a mountain, I climbed it in snow, without snow shoes, and wearing jeans. And I did this because I was told that we would be “going up the mountain” and that meant in my mind that we would drive up a little and then hike a little. I was wrong. We climbed 1700 meters, over 4 hours, totaling 10 miles. I slipped a lot. I scaled granite rocks, and did all of this without water, with puffed rice cakes for sustenance, no breakfast, and after too much wine the previous night. Not the smartest thing but surprisingly, I was not much affected. It may read as though I am bragging or complaining but I am not. I am simply fascinated with what I have pushed myself to do in circumstances that were uncomfortable and sometimes scary and that would have been cause for whining if I were in my home context. I was quite proud of myself.
… I also didn’t have a choice…
The last 60 feet were the toughest – absent of a solid trail and having to climb out of powder snow with each step I took, the visibility of the end made it seem farther away. We were finally out of of the woods and at the top, the refuge was in sight and I felt motivated by knowledge that inside those doors was water, heat, and food but it seemed that I would never get there. Each step I took, I sunk into 2 feet of snow. I felt tired, hot, and cold.
An eternity later, we arrived and were welcomed by a room of patrons of the refuge. There were card games, music, conversations, and mate being passed. My friend commenced bread-making using flor de soja (GF/DF) and we sat around and did a lot of nothing. This is when I learned that my friend is actually a staff member of the refuge – Refugio Frey The refuge sits on top of the Cerro Catedral and it is a haven for all walks of life, trekkers, skiers, natives, foreigners, climbers, many strangers just passing through the Frey. My friend helped build a kitchen for the refuge which has been here for 100 years and needed a tad of updating. El Frey can sleep 35 people comfortably and has been challenged to shelter 100 people in high season during summer.
One of the staff members, Santiago, shared stories of those who have found themselves at the door of the Frey; the most recent was of a Brazilian man who showed up at the door of the refuge just days ago wearing shorts, a polo shirt, tennis shoes -a terrified expression on his face. Apparently, someone “down there” told him he would be fine. It is amazing he made it up. Naturally, the staff at the Frey knew not to let him go back down the same night for fear that he may hurt himself or lose his life. They nourished him and dressed him and sent him back down the mountain the next day. More stories such as those.
I felt as though I had a mini immersion experience. No showers, or even an option to take a shower. Los baños no tienen agua corriente (mostly because the water froze from the snow) so we self flushed by lugging buckets of water to the bathroom (in a separate building). This kicked the princess right out of me. Community everything. Sleeping in sleeping bags atop mattresses, surrounded by mountains, snow and granite rocks, freezing under a sky filled with stars complete with a full moon, waking up to the light of the moon witnessing the sky change from midnight to sky blue.
Admittedly, my favorite part of the evening was lounging with a glass of Malbec (yes, finally!) while watching three men make dinner – arrocito con verduras, carne corta (perfecto), pan de soy flor (muy rico), ensalada y chimichurri while dancing to house music. Dale! Increíble. Day 1, two more days to go.