1st January 2013 — The intercom awakens me, fast and furious Spanish. My head and neck hurt and my mind is groggy from days of waiting, poor sleep and international travel. The hard plastic wall that was my pillow is softened only by the thin fabric of my visor. My eyes scan the snowy landscape far below and soon settle in on the Chalten Massif.
If you can choose your seat on your flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, get a window seat on the right side of the plane. The Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs look cute and small. That is of course, if you can see them. If you can them though, that means it is clear and there is a chance you are missing out on good weather. Likewise, on the flight out choose a seat on the left side, unless it is a good weather window, and then get a seat elsewhere, so you don’t have to torture yourself.
I can’t tell if the knot in my stomach is from the idea of or trying to climb that little thimble of granite or from knowing that there are clear skies. My eyes pick out features and peaks while I silently pray to be knocked over by gales when I exit the Calafate International airport. If it is as nice as it looks, then I am missing out. It won’t help that my bags are still days behind me. I feel no turbulence on this 737-600 as it starts its descent. I watch as the massif flirts with the jet engine, moving behind, then above as the plane wings rise and fall with the turning of the plane. I long to step outside the terminal and to once again feel the terra firma of Patagonia. I long to feel the wind on my face and watch the swirling clouds, to once again be in the crucible and fight the good fight.
Aerolineas Argentina flight 1898 creeps southward and I find myself balling my fists and grabbing tightly to the armrests. I breathe, let it out slowly through pursed lips. I chance a quick look around. Is anyone else’s forehead glistening with sweat? Are anyone else’s eyes pasted to el ventana, unable to turn away? Is anyone else entranced by the beauty, or with fear, with potential? I see like souls and I turn back to my own private torment. The green waters of Lago Viedema disappear and the sky to the west shows no signs of an incoming low. I think of my gear possibly en route from Houston and peer in vein at the horizon trying to find some shade of grey and to feel some buffet of wind. Like a quick sunset, Fitz Roy and her cohorts fall behind the flat top steppes. Though gone from sight, the weather and mountains do not release there grip on my psyche. As we settle onto the runway, I continue to search for signs of wind: moving brush, flying flags, anything moving and I get nada.
Later I step outside to a light breeze. The knot settles deeper into my stomach. There is no grey cloud, no pelting rain, no driving wind. I am missing it…