The Banff World Tour takes adventure films to those of us who live off the adrenaline and dreams of other adventures. Some times sparking our own crazy dreams, and if not, simply reminding us of old memories.
This year the Red programme, the Tour has two subsequent shows running throughout Jan-March, there were a number that struck a chord. In particular ‘A Line across the Sky’. Two climbers Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold from the US undertook the Fitz Traverse which takes in the iconic skyline of Cerra Fitz Roy and its six satellite peaks, four miles and 13,000 feet across snow and ice covered rock in Patagonia. Now I’m not a climber, and to be honest, couldn’t think of anything more challenging, but the scenery and the footage of them preparing in El Calafate revoked some strong memories of the perilous mountainous range.
For Tommy and Alex, it was a rare weather window, their sheer self belief, determination and climbing prowess that got them across the line. At times, you couldn’t believe you were watching real footage. Camping out on Fitz Roy itself. 30 hour stints. Wrong shoes to go with the crampons. One tent. One sleeping bag. Bleeding extremities. Alex having never climbed Alpine mountains, more used to the sun and warmth of Yosemite and California. Quite an epic achievement and one they were recognised with the Piolet d’Or award.
My memories weren’t quite so dramatic. I recall walking with Denice and Carly, and having to ‘get to ground’. The wind was so ferocious that we knew we couldn’t only not walk into it, but that we were being blown uncontrollably around like leaves in a playground. The only option was to lie down, and wait for the gusts of over 100mph to pass. So unexpected and dangerous were the gusts, that whilst sitting taking a photo from a rock, I was blown off without having a second to understand what had just happened. No time to grab anything, to prepare myself, to shout. Fortunately the rock was protected by a bush, and I fell into that, and not off the cliff. We see winds in the UK, and we see the damage they cause, but this was something else. As you lie in the wooden cabins out on the Patagonia W trail, you lie in the 3 story bunk beds wondering how on earth the building withstands the power. In fact you half expect to wake up with no roof.
On the final day of a 4 day hike, we woke to the most stunning reflection on the infamous Torres del Paine. Some hikers like to reach the summit for sun rise. We chose the lazier option, to watch from our beds, and then enjoy an early hike up to the ragged granite pillars.
You’re treated with such delights in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine that it’s almost impossible to separate which setting, view, picture creates the most flavoursome recollection. Perito Moreno, the gigantic glacier and the creaking ‘boom’ created by millimetres of movement. The sunsets as we meandered down through the fjords from Puerto Mont to Puerto Natales on a 4 night ferry crossing. Or the cold glacial winds drumming up mist and mystery on the wide open blue green lakes. It’s wild down there. It’s cold. It’s dramatic. It’s literally at the end of the earth.
As I lay reading my book, and lay watching the clouds float over the pillars I felt a million miles from anywhere. It was the first time in a long time I’d felt such peace. Peace and a magnitude of strength in life decisions I’d made. In how small I felt, in how little stuff we do matters in the grand scheme of our expansive and magnificent world. Patagonia is worth every bit of the distance travelled to get there. So if you’re traversing peaks, hiking across the planes or sleeping under the stars. Go do it.