Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My South America Story: Being a gimp

So I had hitchhiked all the way to South America, on the way down my buddy Dan and I had done a little sport climbing in Peru, but we had a larger destination in mind, Frey, on the northern edge of Patagonia. Beyond that we weren't sure where we were going to travel or what we were going to do. We didn't even know when we were going to return home. Frey is a rad land of impeccable, well developed Granite towers.

Things were going awesome, I was climbing really well. Just as I was hitting my grove climbing wise I decided to check out some offwidth climbing on the back of the largest most impressive tower. The offwidths were okay. On the way back down I remarked to my climbing partner that my knee felt funny. I didn't really think much of it. Just a case of offwidth knee. 

In the morning my knee continued to feel 'funny' Despite that I decided to team up with a new partner and go repeat some awesome classics that I had done earlier in the week. Everything started to feel wrong. I fell on a route that I had cruised with ease. Something was not right, I came down from that route and the funny feeling had turned into pain.

Despite this I did what any climbing idiot would do. I kept climbing. Dan and I had previously made plans to climb the longest route up the tallest face. Supposedly 8 pitches of awesome. On the hike up to the principal, my knee seized up. Under the weight of my pack I buckled and pain shot up my leg. I realized I was fucked, something was terribly wrong. Later in the states a doctor would tell me that I had put a tear in my meniscus. Feeling that something was horribly wrong, I did the rational thing...climb the tower anyway. We just decided to go up the four pitch 5.7 instead. Even this was a struggle, as anytime I put pressure on my left leg I felt pain.

In pain, on the summit.
The walk down took me two hours longer than it took Dan and the next morning I was limping. My good luck continued as all of this coincided with an approaching Patagonian Storm. I had two options, an excruciating hike into town that would probably take me all day and likely make my knee even worse, or hunkering down in my three season tent. I hunkered down and Dan, being a true friend, stayed up with me to keep me company. Let me tell you, one of the seasons of my tent is not Patagonian summer. Oh by the way, it was my birthday.

Getting blasted by weather. This is the equivalent of late July.
After this climbing was off the table, so I started doing what I really do best, drink. The one saving grace of being in Argentina and just wanting to climb is that alcohol is really cheap there. I was depressed, once a day in private I screamed to myself "I hitchhiked all the way down here!" I drank and cursed my bad luck. I stared at the rock and wanted to go up. I wondered if my whole trip was pointless and I should just head back to North America, or if was worth waiting to see if I'd start to heal. I drank. Then fatefully, Dan decided he wanted to go check out a nearby climbing area in Chile called Cochamo that we had been hearing rumors about. I didn't care. I could be a gimp here or be a gimp there. So we decided to move and I hoped things would get better, I had no idea what I was in store for........