Patagonia has been on my radar since I started climbing (and thus watching climbing documentaries) in 2014. It’s always been a bit of a mythical place, a sea of cloud-covered mountains and glistening lakes tucked at the southern end of a giant continent. In other words: paradise.
And then I moved to Chile and learned spanish, immediately upgrading the mythical region to a more accessible and less intimidating destination. I’d been dreaming about climbing in Patagonia since Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell’s epic Fitzroy Traverse and wanted to fly down as soon as I could after moving to South America, but the pandemic made travel infeasible for a while. Two years later I finally made it to Torres del Paine to do the classic W-trek, and I must admit that instead of trekking I spent most of the time tripping over rocks and roots in the trail as I stared up at the soaring granite peaks. There’s a reason it was voted the 8th wonder of the world.
After a long weekend in Valdivia at the end of February, I made my way down to Puerto Natales yet again, this time with all of my trad climbing gear. Now that my friend Pía lives there, it’s relatively easy to pop down for a week when I can find time off of work. The goal for this trip was to climb a granite tower, and sadly that goal is still pending because it didn’t happen. The weather forecast for the full week that I spent in Puerto Natales was essentially pure rain and/or wind, and it would have been more dangerous than I’m comfortable with to attempt the climb.
So that was a bummer. But I still took full advantage of being on vacation in the mountains, from hiking in such brutal wind that I had to walk backwards half the time to protect my face from stinging water droplets to snorkeling in glacier water in the rain (yes snorkeling, not just dipping or swimming) and then drying off by the fire we made in (not of) an abandoned cabin to cooking fun cozy desserts at my friend’s house.
We also managed to get a little bit of climbing in at a local crag on a cloudy but dry afternoon, a welcome change after days of alternating pouring rain and drizzling rain. I had done some indoor bouldering at the local gym earlier in the week while waiting for the weather to clear but it was nice to actually pull out my trad gear and climb up a crack.
Summer is ending and there is already snow on some of the higher peaks in the park, but the moutains will be there for climbing next year and so will I. I also promised my friend that I would visit her in Puerto Natales during the winter when she’s completely snowed in, so that was an oversight on my part but promises are promises and I need to bring down a warmer jacket.