As I shamelessly teased in my first Patagonia post, I loved it so much that I immediately went back. That wasn’t the original plan, but between my partner finally being able to enter Chile and the couple of days we had off for Thanksgiving, we decided to just go for it. Very Chilean of us.
This time around I got a much more realistic view of true Patagonia weather, complete with rain almost every day and super high winds and getting to experience three completely different seasons/weather patterns in the same day. Instead of exploring the Torres del Paine National Park where I went hiking last time, we spent the long weekend with my friend Pía who lives in Puerto Natales and went climbing in the area.
My new favorite spot is the Villa Serrano, just outside the park but with incredible mountain views and the frigid Serrano River. Pía went for a swim in the river water that was most likely still in a glacier the night before because she is an absolute lunatic but Will and I stuck to the (slightly) warmer paddleboard. We also got to go to a very well-hidden climbing area at the end of a grassy dirt road that has partially fallen into the river. It really is amazing how wild the region still is, even with heavy tourism. [First photo below from swoop-patagonia.com because I neglected to take a landscape shot.]
We also visited a repeat from the last trip, a sport crag called Pared Blanca above the picturesque Laguna Sofía. Will and I camped overnight in a cave in order to get a full two days of climbing in, which was great until the cows in the field below woke us up in the morning. I have always wondered where the phrase “having a cow” comes from and now I know. They are loud.
We spent most of the second day teaching my friends to multipitch climb so that we can go on bigger adventures next time I visit. Kudos to them for learning super fast, but I definitely could have used some gloves and a mid-climb hot chocolate.
The Chilean way to climb
I find that climbing in Chile is different from climbing in the US. Not the sport itself, but the sense of community and camaraderie. In the US, people mostly stick to their own group, whereas in Chile, everyone tends to share with everyone else at the crag, from gear to belay partners to snacks. I’ve met most of my extended friend group in La Serena at various climbing spots in the region, I’ve lent quickdraws and belay devices to others, I’ve put up routes for another group, I’ve shared my precious homemade almond butter with strangers, and I’ve eaten someone else’s mom’s quinoa salad that might or might not have had both asparagus and strawberries.
On the flip side, when I was in Lake Tahoe for vacation back in August, Will and I managed to pack some sandwiches and cheddar-based crackers and go climb for an afternoon at a single pitch sport crag. While we saw a few other climbers at the crag as well, we didn’t really chat with anyone, let alone share our cheddar bunnies. My comment to Will was, “If we were in Chile, we’d all be friends by now.”
For my Chilean climbing friends, the norm is to bring a salad, and/or some pre-made grains like quinoa or rice, and/or some black beans and tuna, and/or literally whole tomatoes and cucumbers and bell peppers and avocados that you cut up right there at the crag at lunchtime (which, of course, is like 4pm). It all gets put into whatever bowls and tupperwares that you have and passed around with whatever utensils and crackers are available.
And that’s why you can’t bring a sandwich to the crag: they’re too hard/weird to share. For whatever reason it feels a lot different to share bites of a sandwich around a circle or ten people versus a tupperware of veggies and rice. Apples and oranges are also acceptable, but you have to cut them up and offer them around.
This is obviously more of an unwritten rule. If you bring a sandwich for lunch no one’s going to make fun of you for it. But it’s definitely overall better to share some questionable quinoa veggie surprise than to chomp on some turkey and cheese alone in the corner. It’s all part of the experience.