Fresh off her and Mikey Schaefer's new route on Guillaumet, Kate Rutherford writes again from Patagonia about her attempt on the Chouinard classic, the California Route.
[Kate Rutherford starts up the California Route, Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina. Photo: © Mikey Schaefer]
A few years ago, my infamous and extraordinary friend, Cedar Wright, told the world that Patagonia was "light" – as in weightless, fluffy, insubstantial, carefree. So I sit, rolling that word, like a little rock, around my mouth. He was referring to the Internet weather forecasting, the coffee, the beer, the pizza, the access to town, in contrast to the remoteness of the Karakorum or the era when Jim Donnini and Yvon Chouinard first came here. Yes, this place is light; it has paved roads and fancy hotels. But who is he to say that this makes the climbing in Patagonia light? And who am I, as a rock climber, to be writing about alpine climbing when I hardly know the difference between neve and alpine ice?
When Mikey Schaefer, Dana Drumond and I climbed the California Route on Fitz Roy, and we turned our backs on the fog-obscured, wind-blasted summit, I did not feel light.
So here is the question: When do you decide to go down? Is it after shivering for three days? Or because the cracks are full of ice? Because you don't really have any food? Is it when you don't know where to go, up or down, and you can't see the summit 80 meters away, and the wind is blowing really hard? Or is it when you get turned back? But who, or what, is it that turns you back? And what would a real alpinist have done? And is it "light"?
Regardless of the answers to all those "light" questions, this adventure was right up there on the crazy scale, alongside my experience riding motorcycles the length of Vietnam just to climb in HaLong Bay...