Monday, December 19, 2011
Its been a bit since the last post from Neduardo down south, but we are all alive, kicking and well. Winter is setting in, skiing is thin and we are in the post-production phases of the Altai Story documentary. In the meanwhile, check out some new short films. As always comments(cheeky or otherwise) and feedback are most welcomed.
The Wool House
Mongolian Climbing School 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Two nights earlier I saw LCD Soundsystem play the best set I have ever heard, hands down. For those that haven't heard them, look them up. "Psychedelic punk" is a category they are placed in, real up beat and very conducive to wiggling. Pre-show I had a set list in mind, and they started it just as I had envisioned it! Dance Yrself Clean started off this Wednesday night and I was maybe 5 rows back right in the middle, taking it all in and loving life. That was their seventh last show. Ever. I had no problem staying close to front and center, what an ideal venue!
More of this city unfolds itself each day. Upon finishing the first month of Intensive Spanish today, some friends and I ventured to Barrio Chino where we found THE market. Peanut butter, coconut milk, Srichacha, quinoa, immaculate baked goods, oh boy! I have been wandering these streets for a month now, each day less is new to me but at the same time I uncover places like this one. I can find my way around by Colectivos now, which is a money-saver. Colectivos are buses that can take you any where in the city, the trick is to use your GuiaT (map) correctly and find the right one. Upon taking one across town to La Boca with my friends Brian and Elaina yesterday, we encountered one of those rides that seems to never end. Traveling on these can prove to be tour all on its own. We caught the ciento-sesenta-ocho, the 168 that would bring us back to Belgrano. Tired from another day we all rode contently, silently pondering the future. Time blended together as we weaved our way through seemingly endless gridlock, towards the blaze of the setting sun. Brian and Elaina end their two-month stay in Buenos Aires today. They are off to Bariloche and then home to the states.
My adventure, on the other hand, has just begun. Tonight I am catching a bus west, to Mendoza, where an Argentinean friend of my friend Peter Ramos is waiting. This is my spring break, and in my stuffed pack is climbing shoes and harness, just enough clothes and full camera gear for 10 days in the Andes! The climbing valley is named Arenales, 130 km south west of Mendoza Capital. Sweet jubilation, mountains here I come!
El 4 de Marzo, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
As of today, I have been living in Buenos Aires for two weeks. I no longer check snow reports daily or anticipate storm cycles. I don't have to worry about icy rides to class or anything like that, because it is summer, I'm on the other side of the world! Instead I watch my step so as not to be one of those that plants a foot in dog poop. I walk close to the buildings so that the water dripping down the buildings doesn't land on my head. Things are different here, to say the least.
I have found this place is only as overwhelming as you let it be. I have stopped drinking coffee, simply because I do not need that kind of energy. A cold shower in the morning will wake me better than caffeine, sitting through four hours of Spanish class jittery is no good. I can speak enough to get by, although when spoken too I am slow at responding. . only natural. My host parents speak no English, which benefits me greatly. When I continually respond si at the dinner table they know that I have no idea what they are talking about. In a couple of months I will pick it up.
Our home is beautiful and my favorite spot is by far the roof top. On Sundays Luciano (my host father) cooks up the best meat I have ever had, and other days I can watch the clouds roll by. Some days it is humid as can be, and others hold monsoon strength rains. I have worn nothing but Chacos, shorts and short sleeve shirts since arriving, and you can imagine the looks I get! A tall gangly gringo with some messed-up pinky toes. I thoroughly enjoy people watching, especially when I can catch someone look from my feet to my face and back down again, I can't even imagine what they are thinking. They call people from Buenos Aires Portenos, and I wish you all could see the Portenas, they are something else. Very fashionable, dark and oh so pretty. I think my friend Clancy summed it up pretty well from his stay here last semester; "I see the most beautiful woman of my life, everyday."
Why did I choose Argentina, and this place where I am totally out of my element? I do not have a direct answer to that question, but I am sure the answer will present itself within the next five months. Never have I taken a subte (subway) that is packed like a can of sardines, ridden in a taxi that drives like something out of a video game, or drank such cheap, good wine. I have yet to make many Argentine friends but I anticipate them. I have found a climbing gym in walking distance to my home, and I have balance in my life. The night life is absurd, parties don't start until two in the morning, and it is not uncommon to be crawling into bed as the sun rises.
I will be posting here occasionally, I won't say how much, and one of these days I will have a short film for you guys. I would bring my camera everywhere, but that is my greatest problem, shooting photos in places at the right times so I am not the victim of a robbery, because they happen here, often. Two more weeks of intensive language class and I am off to the mountains of Mendoza, where I hope to climb. Oh and this wednesday is LCD Soundsystem!! They are breaking up after this tour and I will most definitely be dancing my self clean. If you don't know who they are YouTube that shit.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
"I just got hit by lightning!"
Sparks jump painfully from my tools to my hands as the telltale buzz of an electrical storm manifests in my inner ears. Ned and I crouch below the chossy ridgeline while CJ violently massages his forehead. We are not welcome here.
© Ned Gall 2010.
Nine hours before, we had set off from the car at four a.m. with ambitions to climb Mount Athabasca by its historic North Face route, one of the first of the great north faces to be climbed in the Canadian Rockies. Athabasca is the Hydro-geographical pinnacle of our continent; Waters north flow to the Arctic Ocean, water flowing east meets the Atlantic Ocean, water moving west joins the Pacific. This point of judgment lies 5,000 vertical feet above us as we tackle the first rock-strewn slopes on the approach. The moon is bright enough to define the mountain's stark and compelling silhouette.
It's only twenty minutes before we reach a cache of gear we left the day before. We sort and divide the equipment by headlamp before simul-soloing the first ice slopes. The toe of the Little A Glacier extends a friendly low-angle ramp, which we use to access the glacier itself. Half an hour of beautiful rambling ice leaves us beneath the Silverhorn and its immense serac just as the moon hides away behind the ridge. We make haste through this exposed zone, crossing crevasses and ascending gentle slopes until we find ourselves below the massive north face. The sun reveals itself and casts the most euphoric golden glow over our surroundings. The photographers in Ned and CJ go haywire while I try to find words to describe the beauty of our position. As the sun begins to climb, we tie in and cross the Bergshrund to gain the lower ice slopes of the North Face.
© Ned Gall 2010.
"Phil, you want to go climbing in Canada?"
One partner shy, Ned Gall invites me to accompany himself and CJ Carter on a climbing and film trip to Northern Alberta. The goal is to climb Mount Athabasca and to put together a video on the importance of glaciers, particularly in climbing. I skip moving into my new abode and throw my pack in the overstuffed trunk.
Two days of driving, eating, hot-springing, and conversing with intoxicated Canadians (even more friendly than standard Canadians) lead us to Banff National Park and the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. This massive flow of glacial ice is only a miniscule protrusion that originates in the Columbia Ice Field. 250 square kilometers in area, the Columbia Ice Field is responsible with providing the vast majority of Western Canada with water for agriculture, drinking, and energy. We spend the rest of the day getting re-acquainted with glacial travel and discussing the grim reality of the future. What happens when the Columbia Ice Field, melting faster every day, is no longer able to satiate the needs of Western Canada? We wave with cynicism to glacier tour busses, hybrid army-tank-schoolbus contraptions capable of driving paying customers onto the glacier. "The more they drive, the more soot and grime coats the ice, the faster it melts," we point out.
© Ned Gall 2010.
The next day exceeds expectations. After a leisurely breakfast, we make our way to the Icefields Visitors Center for coffee and conversation with climbing rangers and curious tourists alike. That afternoon, we begin filming. We return to a Millwell in the ice, a hole created by cascading water, which we had found the day before. Anchors are set up and cameras roll as we take turns lowering into the glacier. Ten meters down and I'm standing in a stream of sub-glacial melt. I realize I am surrounded by a magnificent network of caverns, lit by the most amazing blue hue of light traveling through meters of glacial ice. After a few moments of awe, I begin ice climbing back out of the gaping hole. Soaked by the waterfall and shocked by the lurid beauty of the ice, I grovel over the lip. We take turns all afternoon, lowering, filming, climbing, and simply appreciating the intrinsic splendor of the world we have found. We eat and go to sleep early, getting ready to wake up and climb at 3 a.m..
Athabasca is showing us remarkable hospitality. We find exquisite alpine ice above the bergschrund. Swinging and kicking, we plant our tools and crampons in the perfect glacial ice and work our way upward in rope-length increments. The climbing is endless- every pitch, we stare at the crux rock band, thinking this is the pitch that will take us there. But with very little in the way of landmarks, it is impossible to judge distance on the featureless ice slope, and we clamber on through another thousand feet of thunker sticks. Ice from the leader whizzes past without warning with the sound of bullets. One softball-sized chunk strikes me in the jaw and bursts, another hits Ned in the thigh with a sickening thud. We are happy to be climbing again when we get off the belay.
I ask for the lead and after traversing right off the belay I begin up a thin steep ice runnel. After ten meters of the best ice climbing on route, I place my tools on rock, and throw in gear. Tenuous stemming leads to pins in loose chunks. A few more exciting feet of groveling over wild exposure and I find myself placing a tool in good ice yet again. I throw in a screw and head up twenty more meters of ice to the belay. CJ and Ned follow in perfect form, shooting video all the way. CJ takes out the last piece and asks why I didn't place another. I say it makes me feel like Steve House. One more full pitch of 60 degree sugar over ice and I'm on the summit of Athabasca. Ten minutes later and my partners join me for a summit hug. We nurse our late-August screaming barfies and begin down in a torrent of wind and snow.
© Christopher J. Carter 2010.
"Get off the ridge!" CJ has just been struck with an electrical discharge, my hands are numb from my sparking tools, and we cower below the ridgeline. With the storm, we cannot continue to the normal descent, consisting of easy rappels. Instead, we opt for a loose and unappetizing scree slope. We stagger our progress and walk on a backwards 45-degree treadmill for a thousand vertical feet. At last on flat ground again, and safe from the hazards of the upper mountain, we skirt the edge of the glacier and begin the final endless plod to the car in pouring rain. At last, 13 hours after we left our vehicle, we are hugging in the downpour and taking haggard self-portraits. We drive back to our wet tents, and away from one of the finest alpine faces I have ever had the honor to climb.
© Christopher J. Carter 2010.
We are driving the other way through the park now, away from the vast glaciers and soaring peaks. How much will the glacier have receded when I return again? Will all the lines we scoped this trip still exist on the next one? Will our children ever come here and be able to experience the thrill that we have? We leave Banff National Park with a newfound respect for the power and importance of glaciers. A reverence gained through interaction and a pure interface is a powerful feeling indeed. I have always found climbing to be an exceedingly pure way to involve yourself in your environment, and to discover what it means to you. But even the bus-goers, glacial-tour trekkers, or even the RV clad families who choose to simply observe from a distance and can't help but be affected by the magnificence of the landscape they find them selves engulfed in. We can only hope that enough people realize this before it is too late.
Stay Tuned! -A short non-fiction film is on its way.