Slinking through the dusty streets on another perfect day, I was in a foul mood. Since my return I had been berating myself for not doing things differently. Why hadn’t I chosen a better-known objective? Why hadn’t I used the first weather window to scout out the approach? Why, why, why? I had missed the best window in two years and I was angry. I had resigned myself to counting down the days until I could leave this town and these mountains behind.
Shunning company, I excused myself from all social duties. It was only necessity that brought me out of my room; I needed food and a bus ticket out of town. My friend Igor had made me a loaf of bread, and being that his camp spot was near the bus stop, I told him I would stop by to pick it up.
Salvation comes in many forms, and this time it came in the form of a trout, or more specifically, a conversation about trout, salmon, and all things fishing. Unknowingly I had walked into the middle of a small cookout. Before I had time to protest I was seated in front of a plate of fried and grilled fresh-caught fish. Surrounding me were two happy strangers and Igor.
It wasn’t long before my forced pleasantries transformed into genuine interest. We spent the next two hours talking about the fishing and nature in our home countries. Not able to express the concept of ice fishing in Spanish, Igor helped to translate and spread my thoughts across the language barrier. Having been swept far away from my world of climbing, I was happy to discover that not all was dark. That my small world with even smaller concerns was far from the whole of existence, and that illumination was just a change of topic away.
I never got to thank those guys for pulling me out of my cave of self-pity. They not only fed my body well, but also brought some much needed nourishment to my spirit. This was the catalyst that allowed me to enjoy and make the most of my last few days in El Chalten. Sport climbing, hiking, and a lovely goodbye dinner made the end of my trip a special one. I don’t know when I’ll get back to Chalten, but the memories I have will keep me yearning to return.