Over the past six days, seven of us Link School-ies (staff included) stayed at the campo in the upper Cochamó Valley for the beautiful granite walls that towered thousands of feet above us on both sides of the valley.
For the first few days, we just focused on the necessary techniques for the long sharp cracks that characterize this Yosemite of South America. In the climax of the second day, we sent a two pitch 5.10b hand and finger crack that ran up an almost vertical slab of granite on one side of the valley – 5.10b being a relatively respectable difficulty rating. Hand and finger crack means that at any given time we could never fit more than a bunched up fist at best, or a few lean fingers at worst, into the crack. Through rain and the occasional splash of sunshine, our two groups (James, Daniel, and me, and Bobby, Ryan, Michael, and Cézanna) made it up and down in great time!
The following day we started in on our big climb of the week by hiking up to the base of Cero Trinidad, an outstanding land mark of gray granite crowned with white at summit, immediately visible as you walk from the jungle into any clearing in the upper valley. The day of Wednesday the 25th began for our group at roughly 4:30am. We proceeded to pack sleeping bags and ground tarps away in trees to dry the dew and eat a hurried breakfast. No later than 5:30 am, (just before first light) the seven of us were scrambling up a steep, rocky chute between Trinidad and another wall, El Elephante, aptly described in the guidebook as “the gulley of crap.” By 7:30 our group of three was climbing the first pitch of an eleven-pitch 5.10d route up Cerro Trinidad. Shortly after the four others followed up and the gulley bellow us was filled with the echoes of “on belay”. The third pitch was an easy 60-meter scramble into warm sunlight. Though first light was at 6:00 am, sunlight didn’t warm the wall until the climbing really got hard, on the middle of the fourth pitch. This transition from cold to heat quickly became a mixed blessing as the sun only stayed on the left side of my body for the rest of the day, both on the ascent and decent, thus by the end of the day my body had the striking appearance of a cooked lobster.
The exposed cracks and tight chimneys were ascended with grunts of effort and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this epic experience. As we climbed, this idea from the last section in the Bible lesson on Love came to mind and stuck with me, “The depth, breath, height, might, majesty and glory of infinite Love fill all space” (Science and Health p. 520). All through the way up painfully sharp cracks, across slippery, smooth slabs, and through a skylight in a cave a thousand feet off the ground, this idea stuck with me to the summit. On top of a 3,000 vertical foot climb, only 6,000 feet above sea level, I had a 360-degree view obstructed only by the ash deposited in the air from a volcano 20 miles away in Argentina. The image I stood in at the summit of Cerro Trinidad was almost straight out of a Patagonia catalog and the feeling of having worked so hard to get into that picture only made it better.
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