A Return To Patagonia

A Return To Patagonia

If that mountain looks familiar then maybe you own something from Ivon Chouinard’s collection.  If you don’t know who Ivon Chouinard is then I’ll give you a quick rundown.  He was preeminent in the golden age of Yosemite climbing and made first ascents with the likes of Fred Becky and Royal Robbins.  Later he started a some gear/clothing companies you might have heard of.  Most importantly he is proof positive that you don’t have to be a scumbag to become a billionaire.  His Patagonia clothing company donates 10% of profits or 1% of sales (which ever is larger) to environmental causes every year.  He is a shining counter example to the ridiculous notion that taking care of the environment is somehow bad for the economy.

If I seem a little bit soap-boxy it’s because I have been away from the internet for awhile and have been spared the nonsense from back home.  Ok fine there was internet, but not usefully.  This was me trying to download a podcast for the bus ride.


Anyway, back to Ivon Chouinard.  He is pretty much a badass.  I mean, just look at the guy.


I don’t know if he had that killer moustache at the time, but in 1968 he and three others made the 3rd ascent of Cerro Fitz Roy (Chalten) via a new route.  Fitz Roy is the peak I’m standing in front of in the picture above.  Reading about Chouinard’s ascent and other such climbs in Patagonia ( like Maestri’s controversial Kompressor route on Cerro Torre) filled my adolescence with dreams of adventure and madness in the far reaches of the world.

I  never really expected to climb or even see Cerro Torre or Fitz Roy.  So arriving in El Chalten and seeing them both within a few hours  was sort of surreal and didn’t immediately sink in.    Of course Cerro Torre made me wait a little bit.  At first it was shy


just like the guy who sings my brother’s all-time favorite song.

So then I was all like

“How about just the tip? Just to see how it feels.”

And then, demurely, Cerro Torre was all like


And then finally, about an hour later, in a majestic rapture, Cerro Torre revealed itself to me.


In case you’re not familiar with the Torre group, the second highest peak to the right of Cerro Torre is called Torre Egger.   So it goes without saying that I was reciting the following


It was a beautiful afternoon spent with a pair of delightful French women. On the way back we were treated to the magnificent skies of Patagonia.

Sadly my companions and I parted ways not long after.  This trip has reinforced the notion that happiness is best when shared and I am grateful for the time I had with them.

I’ll get back to the Chalten region in a bit. For now I’ll take a moment to reflect on ice.  Aude had mentioned to me back at Lago Torre how much she missed icebergs after our trip to the Antarctic.  I didn’t realize at the time that I did too.  Seeing a bunch yesterday in Lago Argentina made me understand.  Since I probably won’t see icebergs or glaciers again for awhile I thought I throw in some pics of Lago Argentina and some of it’s icebergs.

Ice lamentations behind us it’s getting to the point that I need to wrap things up for today.  Coverage of The Masters is about to start and I have a bottle of Malbec that wont drink itself.  But don’t worry I saved the best for last.

One night in El Chalten, after too many cervecas tiradas I was walking back to my hostel when I noticed the skies had cleared and the nearly full moon was shining upon Fitz Roy.  I knew I had no choice but to leave the light pollution of the town and venture into the hills for a picture.  Now, with an old 35mm and junk film this would be no problem.  Just use the 500 rule and await the results.  Unfortunately my modern 24 megapixel piece of shit can’t differentiate between objects in low light unless the exposure is wicked long.


After hiking, intoxicated, through the middle of cold night in puma infested hills, this was the best my camera could manage.  I mean it’s all right and all, but like seriously, when is the next time I’ll be in El Chalten on a clear moonlit night?  I experimented with every conceivable combination of f-stop, aperture, and iso and this was the best I could get…sigh.  I gave up around 2:30am and walked back to town the whole time telling my camera it wasn’t so much that I was mad, but rather

Later that day I went up into the hills and took the featured image for this post and a few others as follows.

The best part though was the sunrise.  I woke up 3 hours after getting back from the moonlit madness and checked the sky.  I’m not gonna lie; I was reeeeeaaaaallllly tired and part of me hoped that clouds had descended and I could go back to bed.  It was not to be.  The sky was more or less clear and it was obvious what had to be done.  So I put my coat back on, had a swig of stale leftover Quilmes and ventured to El Mirador De Los Condores.  The following image was in no way edited other than cropping.  If you have a bucket list then add seeing the sunrise over Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitzroy.  It was astounding and no photograph (certainly not one I am capable of taking) can capture the real power of that moment.  It lasted about five minutes and I was so tired it was hard to fully appreciate, but it will be with me to the end of my days.


Well that’s about all for now.  I’ll probably get another post up about something sometime.  In the meanwhile enjoy this tasty track from Lemon Jelly.  They actually have a song called Return To Patagonia but I don’t like it as much.  Plus, this one actually talks about being in Patagonia.  One of my favorite memories of life is listening to this song while cruising from Ketchikan to Wrangell on a gorgeous late summer afternoon in the Clarence Strait back in my Forest Service days.  The little piano riff just fit the sparkling sea so well.  Enjoy


  • Nick

    April 6, 2018 at 8:44 pm Reply

    Incredible pictures, and I love the MIB reference… that was good

  • AJ

    April 9, 2018 at 4:10 pm Reply

    Dude! Killer shots! “24 megapixel piece of shit can’t differentiate between objects in low light” – can you just set for infinity (manual focus) on your lens?

    • areluctantrambler

      April 9, 2018 at 5:08 pm Reply

      Yarp. And a hair under inf focus which was the trick on the old Pentax back in the day. Like I said I tried every conceivable mode I could. Of course that camera has been through some difficult times…definitely some Saharan sand and spray from the sea.

      • areluctantrambler

        April 9, 2018 at 5:14 pm

        I have been told it’s a less than full frame sensor issue, but I dunno. Like I said if I lengthen the exposure it sharpens up, I can send you some compare photos later if you want.

      • AJ

        April 9, 2018 at 5:20 pm

        Ah! I hear ya, well regardless- killer shots man!

      • areluctantrambler

        April 9, 2018 at 5:22 pm

        Thanks man!

  • Lisa

    April 12, 2018 at 6:19 am Reply

    Wow, incredible pictures. I especially like the one at the top of this post!

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