Vamos a Valle!
Bariloche is a mid-sized town on the dry eastern rainshadow of the Andes. It sits on a large lake, surrounded by other large lakes, ski areas, and granite spires. It has become one of the outdoor adventure hubs of Patagonia, and its fun to sit at one of the outdoor cafes and match up the groups of eager young travelers with their countries of origin based on the gear brands of choice. Gear from Black Diamond, Patagonia, Outdoor Research--or the presence of tennis shoes--betrays a North American right away, with Canadians favoring MEC or Arcteryx backpacks. Meanwhile, Deuter and Mammut are big among the Europeans. South Americans favor a local company called Doite and slip-on shoes or converse all-stars. Israelis form their own traveling mobs with distinct fashion, language, culinary choices, and favored hostels, usually easy to identify by the size of the group and the fact that their clothes are none-of-the-above.
On the first day in Bariloche we ran into a couple more Brazilians (here comes trouble…) but these guys were sport climbers who had a large camp set up at an area 35 miles from town called the Valle Encantado (Enchanted Valley). We all quickly piled into a pickup and headed out to Valle with a bunch of food and climbing gear.
The climbs are mostly located across the river from the highway, but luckily the Brazilians had come equipped with a rubber raft called the ¨SeaHawk¨, a burly craft fully capable of shuttling dogs, climbing gear, cases of wine, and Navy SEALs into the most remote reaches of the globe. One problem with all these Brazilians is that I was just starting to regain some Spanish, and now I was hearing Portugese. A second problem – as relayed to me by my friend David who can speak Portugese – is that most of what these guys said was slang, nicknames, and cursing that even he couldn´t understand. Additionally, nobody seemed to have an actual name, with all 10 guys going by monikers such as Skunk, Monkey, Pollack, Fatso, Skinny, etc. It was a bit like living with the 7 dwarves, if only the 7 dwarves climbed 5.13 and talked constantly about women they had slept with, wanted to sleep with, or would only sleep with when drunk. Consequently all the Portugese I know is probably not something that should ever be repeated in the presence of someone´s mother.
These two pictures oare of David and myself working on an amazing .12c arete. A good photographer could leave Valle with some really great shots.
The climbing in area was awesome, with very featured volcanic stone and steep sport climbing on big pockets, cobbles, roofs, and constant sun.
Every night we would all gather at the camp, a spot stocked with 2 dozen bottles of wine and boxes of food. Even Obi, the offical dog mascot of the trip was enjoying the super cheap Argentine wine.
The camping was so plush that the Brazilians jokingly called it their ´Favella´, a local name for the ghetto in Rio de Janiero. Each night after climbing we would all gather around the favella and play music, joke around, and give excuses about why we did not succeed on a given route that day.
After a few days of damaging my delicate fingers on the volcanic rock and my delicate ears with Brazilian vulgarity we headed back to Bariloche to restock food and prepare for the alpine granite of Frey.