Mi Casa es Su Casa– A Worthy Notion


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 22, 2014      

(Editor’s note: This week we’ll be wrapping up our Chile ski touring travel posts from both Lou Sr. and Louie’s crew. Enjoy, and consider a Chile trip of your own for next fall!)

If this image of a slow cooked juicy steak isn't enough to keep you reading or dreaming of Argentina, then I don't know what will. It's not all about the skiing.

If this image of a slow cooked juicy steak isn’t enough to keep you reading or dreaming of Argentina, then I don’t know what will. It’s not all about the down, nor is it all about the skiing!

We traveled a long way to Argentina. We left the warmth and comfort of a North American summer in search of a way to alleviate the ever growing need to ski and ride through snow covered mountains, an experience that sustains and drives many of us in our daily lives.

The majority of our time down south has been spent in El Chalten, a quiet town in the winter that tows the line between the desolation of the pampas and the ferocity of the Fitz Roy Massif and the Patagonian Ice Cap. Chalten is a relatively young town, only about 25 years as an official municipality. In that time it has become the “trekking capital of Patagonia” and brings in thousands of visitors each year to experience the mountains of the region. We fit right into that statistic, traveling for many days and spending thousands of dollars to get from Washington state to the mountains of Patagonia. Why?

The road into El Chalten. At the same latitude as Bellingham, we felt right at home.

The road into El Chalten. At the same latitude as Bellingham, Washington we felt right at home.

Arguably, the same geologic features that have created these magnificent peaks that we all see in pictures and dream of visiting also create the same mountains we choose to live by at home. The weather is equally as harsh, the bush whacks can suck just the same, and the same hooting and hollering can happen from a face shot in the Mt. Baker backcountry as it can in the shadows of Mt. Fitz Roy. Why do we spend so much of our resources to chase down this dream?

Fortunately, the people who choose to call these places home also share deep similarities across the world. The mountains have an indescribable draw to people like us, and we can all revel in a shared value for these natural places and what they mean to us.

Despite a stiff language barrier, and vastly different upbringings we were welcomed into El Chalten as friends. Aristides opened up his home and welcomed us into his family despite being complete strangers. Vicente shared valuable information about where to spend our time in the hills around town. It didn’t take long to dismantle the barriers and find connection in our individual value for spending time in wild locales.

Ari and his 8 month old son, Tomaso.

Ari and his 8 month old son, Tomaso.

Preparing wood for the asada. We used a recycled propane tank turned barbecue.

Preparing wood for the asada. We used a recycled propane tank turned barbecue.

Enjoying Argentinian Malbec, a warm grill, and the tip of Fitz Roy in the fading light. We couldn't have dreamed this up.

Enjoying Argentinian Malbec, a warm grill, and the tip of Fitz Roy in the fading light. We couldn’t have dreamed this up.

Drooling over grilled meat..

Drooling over grilled meat..

Ultimately, cultural exchange is what dominates a trip across political borders, especially when you find yourself enduring 70 km an hour wind and rain on an exposed ridge (which is unpleasant in both Patagonia and the Cascades). Speaking simple Spanish about how you’ve landed in a place, stopping and silently admiring a cascading waterfall together, and entertaining an 8 month old baby are all moments you can’t plan for before hopping on a plane at SeaTac. The ever-lasting satisfaction after sharing red wine and slow cooking beef for an Argentinian asada with people who we could never have imagined meeting, and sharing mate’ on a misty trail are the moments that make a ski trip to South America so unique.

Sure, digging out a hillside and moving dozens of wheelbarrows of dirt is a fair trade.

Sure, digging out a hillside and moving dozens of wheelbarrows of dirt is a fair trade. Human backhoes, unite.

We were constantly floored by the hospitality and friendship we found in Chalten. With this type of graciousness, we constantly tried to find ways to pay it forward to our hosts, which was challenging in all of our eyes. Ari wanted us to relax and enjoy our time, and we wanted to work and help with projects around the house. Yet another difference in our daily lives: Americans must always be working and busy, while there is always time for work and getting things done in their own time.

After many seemingly feeble attempts to return the favor we ultimately decided to leave a couple bottles of Malbec, two packages of mate, and a promise to host our Argentinian friends if they ever find themselves on the other side of the equator. At the end of the day, it is up to us to pay it forward to whomever we come into contact with that needs a place to crash, some information on where to spend the day skiing, or help with anything they have going on.

An incredible sunrise over the peaks of Chalten on our way out of town and back into the pampas en route to Torres Del Paine, Chile.

An incredible sunrise over the peaks of Chalten on our way out of town and back into the pampas en route to Torres Del Paine, Chile.

I am further inspired by the worldwide community of people who hold these natural places to a high value and work to both enjoy and protect them for people from all over. Our resources are being well spent. Thanks to all of you in Chalten for making our time so unforgettable! Now we head off to Torres Del Paine to see if we can score more sunshine and good ski mountaineering.



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Comments

12 Responses to “Mi Casa es Su Casa– A Worthy Notion”

  1. Nick Thompson September 22nd, 2014 9:39 am

    Great post! We travel for the place, but so often it’s the people that make the experience.

  2. Charlie Hagedorn September 22nd, 2014 10:04 am

    :).

    It’s not all about the up, the down, the gear, nor the pow.

  3. Louie III September 22nd, 2014 11:34 am

    Great post! The hospitality (and steak) down there was quite incredible.

  4. Mark L. September 22nd, 2014 12:09 pm

    Inspirational. Always dreamed of such a trip but find it to be such a difficult area to understand in terms of logistics, travel, preparation, etc. If I may ask, what resources did you use to put together this adventure? Guidebooks, websites, personal experience, etc?

  5. Louie III September 22nd, 2014 12:47 pm

    Mark, I’m putting a post together all about how to plan a ski trip down to South America. It should be out in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

  6. Coop September 22nd, 2014 1:18 pm

    Thanks all for the comments!

    Mark,
    To give you a little insight (Louie’s future post will hold great detail I’m sure) it can be a daunting thought traveling down there. There just isn’t a whole lot of logistical information out on the Internet and a huge portion of the traveling and organizing happens once you’re in country. That can be hard to do especially if you only have a short amount of time. That’s what I’ve come to learn about traveling; head down with a few ideas and remain flexible on the rest. People are very helpful, and most things work out once you make connections.

    Please use us here as a resource if you ever have specific questions. We will happily offer what we can!

    Suerte!

  7. Mark L. September 22nd, 2014 3:00 pm

    Thanks Louie/Coop for sharing your experience and knowledge gained during your trip. Look forward to future posts!

    Also, totally agree with the strategy to flesh out a few key ideas but at the same time let the experience flow when the boots hit the dirt or snow.

    Cheers!

  8. Jim September 22nd, 2014 3:42 pm

    What was the “street” exchange rate in Argentina?

  9. Coop September 22nd, 2014 4:41 pm

    Jim,

    We found 12 ARP to 1 USD. Definitely bring cash to exchange down there!

  10. Laura Maruhashi September 22nd, 2014 10:00 pm

    Great perspective! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Greg Louie September 23rd, 2014 8:53 am

    Beautiful sentiments and pictures, thanks!

  12. Silas Wild September 23rd, 2014 5:29 pm

    “The weather is equally as harsh, the bush whacks can suck just the same”. Oh the weather in Patagonia can be much harsher than the Cascades. Considerable information can be found online thanks to Mr. Google, thorn tree lonely planet is a good starting point. Paint by number wildsnow will be even better! If you have a mileage rewards credit card, the ticket can be as low as $92 and 40,000 miles to Buenos Aires.

    If anyone is inspired and wants to head down soon, I plan to be there for hiking and skiing with local friends Oct 1-22, send me a PM on turns all year website to connect. I ate the calafate berry on my first visit in 1992 and now have been “doomed” to return, now for the twelfth time. http://www.patagonia.com.ar/El+Calafate/527E_The+legend+of+the+calafate.html

    Like Forrest McBrian says about the Pickets, Patagonia offers adventure stoke for backpackers as well as technical climbers. Pyrenees, Pickets, Patagonia all are fine destinations for challenge and camaraderie. https://vimeo.com/64574209

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