La Vida de Chalten

A typical day here in beautiful Chalten, Patagonia begins, for me, around 10am. I often resolve to waken earlier, go for a morning jog, and generally be more productive. Late nights, though, and a comfortable bed always conspire to keep me asleep til the sun is already gaining ground in the northern sky.

Photo by Cheyne Lempe

For the last two weeks, since we’ve returned from our last climb, the weather has been rather Patagonian. That is to say, not so great. Not truly bad here in town, but enough precipitation and gale force winds in the mountains to preclude all but the most masochistic from considering mountain climbing. So, for me and the other climbers stationed here for the season, a routine has developed, the main goal of which is boredom avoidance.

Carlito, Gordo, Troutman, and Gabby. The three Argentines, from San Juan, and some of the best young climbers on this continent, and to Troutman's delight, know all the best fishing spots!

Upon waking, I’ll typically wander from our bunkroom in a sparsley furnished trailer into the main house, home of the family from whom we are renting. I consider our dwindling coffee supplies, and usually opt to make Mate, a South American herbal tea chock full of caffiene. Once my mind is finally ready to process thoughts, my friend Cheyne or I will sally out to the corner market to purchase eggs, freshly baked bread, and fruit; all the ingredients of a filling, nutritious, and cheap breakfast/brunch.

Now for the real start of the day: making laps. Chalten is not a big town, it’s possible to walk across the whole place in ten minutes. The town was carved out of the Glacier National Park just thirty years ago, and only 130 acres were alloted, so everything is kept pretty quaint. So, we leave the house and walk, often encountering friend on the same program within a block or two.

“What are you guys up to today?”
“Dunno, no plans”
“Checked the weather yet?”
“Yeah, looks like shit”
“Bummer…”
“Wanna go bouldering?”
“Sure!”

Photo by Cheyne Lempe

Pads are procured, mostly thanks to our friends staying at the plush Centro Alpino, which come stocked with all the necessities. Pads double as sails as we walk into the wind, towards the boulders, provided a nice warmup.

Chalten, while known internationally for it’s proximity to the mega mountains of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, is also home to some pretty epic granite blocs. Big ones, the kind that make me think of broken ankles and ruined trips. But with enough pads and spotters, I finally have been enjoying bouldering, and it’s a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. Soon, though, fingers are shredded and arms pumped, and it’s time to hike back, now with the wind at our backs.

Now, all thoughts turn to dinner!

Kate and Lisa assemble empanadas! Photo by Cheyne Lempe.

A farewell party for a pair of superhuman crushers. Photo by Cheyne Lempe.

Hanging with my friend Daniel at a victory asado!

My favorite of late has been pizza, a cheap and delicious way to pass the time! (I just added a simple pizza dough recipe in the comments section, below). Any excuse will be embraced to have a dinner party, be it a victory celebration for a climb, a farewell dinner for a friend headed home, a welcome feast, birthday party, whatever. Accompianed by ample litros of cerveza, and maybe some cheap red wine, every fiesta is a success!!

Then, we go to bed, dreaming of the mountains!

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2 Responses to La Vida de Chalten

  1. ropeandsummit says:

    Pizza Crust:

    3-4 cups of White Flour
    1-2 cups of Whole Wheat flour
    1 Packet of yeast
    Olive Oil
    Basil
    Oregano
    Rosemary
    Salt
    Sugar
    Honey
    Cornmeal

    Warm up ~2 cups of water, ~100 deg. Don’t make it too hot, you’ll kill the yeast. You should be able to hold your finger in it for 10+ seconds.
    Mix in a spoonful of sugar, and then the yeast. Stir it well, and then set aside.

    Mix about half of the flour in a big bowl (I like a ratio of 3:1 White to Whole Wheat flour). Add salt and other spices (Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, etc… Garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, tons of different flavors work well here).

    If your yeast is good, the bowl of warm water should now be developing a layer of foam on top. If it’s not, maybe your yeast was bad, or the water was too hot. You’ll need to get new yeast, or settle for flatbread pizza (not so good).

    Mix in the water with the dry ingrediants, adding the olive oil and honey. Honey is optional, but makes for tasty crust!

    The mixing and kneading process can be tricky and messy. First stir the mixture, it’ll be pretty wet. Then gradually add more and more flour. Once it starts to form into a ball, use your hands to knead and mix. Keep adding more flour until the dough is nice and cohesive.

    Coat your dough ball in a thin layer of oil, then put it in a large bowl and cover it loosely. Place it in a warm part of the kitchen. If the house is cold, maybe turn the oven on low and set the dough on top of it. It will now rise, so give it room to grow.

    After 40-60 minutes, it probably will have doubled in size. Flour your hands and knead it down. You can go through a few cycles of rising and kneading if you’d like, I think it develops more gluten as it does so, and so becomes more cohesive. But really, you’re probably hungry, so one rise is enough.

    Grab a chunk of dough and begin to make it into a pizza shape. Some people like to do this by hand, some use a rolling pin. If you lack a rolling pin, a wine bottle works (flour it up).

    Spread cornmeal on your baking sheet, and then put down your dough. You can make a little raised crust if you’d like. Throw down your sauce (the drier the better, spagetti or marinara sauce in cans work, better still homemade), and then toppings and cheese. Any raw meat toppings should be precooked. Toss it all in the oven, as hot as possible, probably 400-500 deg. Watch it, don’t let it burn. After it’s done, let it sit for a minute so that the cheese solidifies, and then cut and serve!

  2. Jenni says:

    What a hard life! Seriously though, awesome photos. Even more seriously, good thinkin’ on keeping those shoes outside the living quarters 😉

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