Don’t come to Patagonia without being prepared for the good and the bad. Here are some tips to keep your mind from going nuts in the storms that can (and trust me, they just did) last weeks. Bad weather could ruin your trip or it could inspire you. It’s up to you.
1. Read about the madmen who settled here. From Mr Masters at Cristina to Mr Ramstrom at Helsingfors, it’s mind-boggling to think these European run-aways would have chosen these incredibly-remote places to build their place in the world. Grab a cup of something warm, snuggle up by the fireplace, flip through the historical records and let your imagination drift to another time… perhaps one that’s not so different from the Patagonia of today.
2. Drink copious amounts of beer. This is what most climbers can be seen doing on any given stormy stay at the Cerveceria brewpub in El Chalten. The place was ‘no elbow room’ packed with a rowdy gaggle of Swiss mountaineers trying to drown their sorrow last time I was there. It was day 17 without a break in the storm. Just think of how long they worked to get time off work, to get sponsorship money, to convince their wives to let them go on this mad adventure to Patagonia. No wonder they were pooling together their $2peso bills and lining up for another jug.
3. Hang out with a sommelier. She’s not in El Chalten for long, but when she is there, Caro is a force of nature. She has a deep passion for vino and loves to share not only her knowledge but her savoir faire. Nothing like a nice copa de cabernet to take the edge off a storm.
4. Stare out the window. On Canada’s west coast, “storm watching” has become a tourist activity, allegedly drawing travelers for the drama. Well, watching the clouds rip above The Last Hope Sound, or watching those crazy humans try to walk down the streets of Puerto Natales when the rain is blowing horizontal — that’s some Emmy-winning drama.
5. Mate. By the fireplace, at the kitchen sink, in a car, on a big couch, on a floor, in a tent, or in a stable. Mate will make you feel good, will bring friends together and will do a great job of passing the time.
6. A good book (I’ve been through three so far) and a hot bath. They’re both good things any time, but when it’s hallowing outside, they’re extra-divine.
7. Nap. Siestas were designed to escape the heat of the late afternoon tropical sun. Here in Patagonia, the siesta allows you to rest up for adventures ahead, find warmth in the company of a special friend, and indulge in the realization there’s hardly any thing else to do. For the active folks who make it here, being idle can be tough to swallow. So slip between the covers and make a deposit into your sleepbank.
8. Go out anyways. If you’ve come from the other side of the planet to live and breath Patagonia, then heck, get dressed and get outta here! A good storm is good for your soul, they say. Some solid Gore-tex will help a bit. But there is still joy to be found in the trail to Cerro Huemul, for example, on the hills over Lago Sarmiento, say, or on horseback behind Cerro Frias – all decent rainy day outings.
9. Wait. For when the clouds start to part, and the high top of FitzRoy majestically appears through the thickness, you, like everybody in site, will drop everything, run outside, jump for joy and understand, at last, what all this Patagonian fuss was about.