Thursday, November 24, 2011

Drift Peak / Chile

Catherine got a great deal on a place at Copper Mountain for Thanksgiving, and plus it even came with two passes! Perfect - I've been a curmudgeon this year and haven't bought a pass (although I have some lame reasons); look, barely into the season a ski deal comes my way.

Of course "two passes" meant two parking passes - Catherine and Will-J headed off to the mountain while I faced two options: (a) watch the fam ski, take a few photos, take a nap, and maybe watch a little football, or (b) a 10-degree windy icy postholing slog-fest up Drift Peak. Drift peak it is!

Look, I even made it to the top:

Here's a view:

And another:

Here's a long ridge that took me about twice as long as it would have in better conditions:

Among other things I did not know when I headed up to Mayflower Gulch trailhead for a little hike, the ridge has a name: Villa Ridge. Also, some people consider Drift Peak a "real" mountain (300 ft. rise from saddle with Fletcher Peak), and some don't.

The plan had been to climb Drift, then Fletcher and Wheeler Peak, but there was no way on earth I was going to do all that today - definitely worth a return visit, and it would be even better to link these with a car shuttle to Blue Lakes. Another day.

So as I was slogging up there, slipping/bouncing off rocks, postholing, etc., and having no way of completing the trip I wanted to do, I thought, "Well, this is fine training." Training? Training for what? But you don't like training.

Well, in a few weeks Catherine and I are going to Chile. Catherine is the recipient of a National Geographic Waitt Grant, and we are going to the Arica and Parinacota Region, Lauca National Park, to continue her doctoral work on the giant cushion plant Azorella compacta.

It's exciting for us - Catherine hasn't been back to her field sites for over ten years, and I haven't been to South America. If conditions allow, I will climb up Parinacota volcano (20,800 ft.). It isn't the proper season, and I don't appear to be in very good shape, but we'll see.

The trip keeps sneaking up on us - we've just started planning on what we'll bring, and I'm still fiddling with the fancy camera I'll use to take photos, as well as my generally frustrating GPS. Part of this is our disbelief that we're really going on a research trip together. Some years ago (12!), Catherine was a young researcher at UCLA and I was working at the White Mountain Research Station. She was just off her work in Lauca, and I filled my off-days by climbing the Sierras. We thought wouldn't it be nice to spend our lives together, and along the way we'll do these big trips to high altitude places.

Over the years, we've done and seen many things - no regrets - but we've never done one of those big trips together. Until now.

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