Finally after several days of travel, we made it to El Chalten. While El Chalten has become quite the trekking and climbing hub, it is still incredibly far away.
Arriving in the town has been a bit of surreal experience for me. I spent 3 weeks here in 2008 climbing and experiencing absolute freedom. In fact, if I do dare to say it, it was one of the best time periods of my life where responsibilities were minimal and concerns were basics. That all changed when I broke my leg in an accident on the Torre Valley when a massive boulder dislodged just above me when I was hiking to the base of a climb. It was an involved rescue and I ended up spending 1 week on bedrest in the tiny El Calafate hospital prior to flying home solo with a cast from my hip to my foot. I ended up with an open fracture to my tibia and fibula which required three surgeries and multiple months of rehab to fully recover. I am forever indebted to the people, most of whom I did not know, who dropped everything to help me. It was a life changing event and so much in my world has changed since 2008.
|Topping out on Poincenot in 2008 after climbing the Whillans Route|
|Attempting to crab-walk down the Torre Valley after I broke my leg. My dear friend Anna Pfaff is helping me.|
|My first ride out of the Torre Valley on a home-made rope hammock|
Not many people have such a pivotal and life-changing experience that totally changes their world view and direction in life. It is a rather unique experience and while very challenging and scary, I think it has ultimately shaped my outlook on life and made me a better person for it all. I obtained a second degree and have a legitimate career. I own a home and I got married. Through all the changes, though, I still really wanted to return to this place that impacted me so much.
Not only has so much changed in my world since 2008, this place has changed too. The roads are mainly all paved, some campgrounds have disappeared, there are trendy restaurants, some swanky hotels, and there is a bus station. All evidence that El Chalten has become a popular tourist destination. Things are a bit more expensive and lodging is hard to find. What has not changed is the beauty of the mountains and the desire of the climbers to challenge themselves on these iconic peaks.