Saturday, January 2, 2010

Torres del Paine - Day Two

The night before we (Kaitlin, Blanche, Rob, and I) had discussed our plans. Since we would ultimately make our way up to Glacier Grey, we would only tackle the trail to Campamento Italiano. Since Rob and Blanche only had time for the "W" (Glacier Grey to the French Valley to the Torres) they would hike to Glacier Grey and back early in the day, but make it to Italiano for camp.

We had told Rob and Blanche about Antti and Laura, about the peculiarity of Finns (in particular Finnish) that made them, in many ways, more interesting than any Scandinavians we had encountered. Before we parted ways in the morning, I jokingly (again) told Rob that if he saw a blonde couple speaking softly - if he "saw any Finns" to tell them Jack and Kaitlin would be waiting for them at Italiano...

So Kaitlin and I set out, to get in early and relax. Kaitlin had been coughing quiet heavily - so we were thinking hit it hard, then rest.

The path from Refugio Pehoe east was rather tame as we snaked through the foothills between Glacier Frances and Lago Skottsberg. My body felt good, the views were incredible, dynamic peaks and milky aquamarine below. Kaitlin was steady, but clearly nowhere near fit. We stopped periodically for her to clear her throat, to blow her nose, as her cough got deeper and deeper.

Just as fatigue began to creep into my calves we caught sight of a river, a bridge, and campers milling about on the other side.

Here Kaitlin captured one of my favorite moments of the nine days. With our tents up and stomaches full of peanuts and raisins we had nothing but time to kill. Scanning the rocks along the river, I found what I suspected and confirmed to be two rocks molded by time into the perfect lazy seat for watching snow pack slip down the south face of Glacier Frances.

I'm not sure how long I sat out there. Hours? Eventually, I went to get water upstream from camp and when I came back - who is strolling slowly into camp, but Rob and Blanche. I go to meet them and ask them how their trek went. Everything was great, but the trek was long, and... we found the Finns!

Apparently, after hiking up to Glacier Grey, Rob and Blanche had returned to Refugio Pehoe for a meal. Before they left, they saw a young, blonde couple walk into camp. Rob eavesdropped on the almost murmuring couple - now convinced. And in this moment, proved why I had a good feeling about him from the beginning. Rather than shrugging it off and psyching himself out. He approached the couple and asked if they were from Finland (..yes..), did they know Jack and Kaitlin (YES! We're worried about them!), and told them that we'd all meet up at Italiano.

Kaitlin and I were electric. It worked!

We waited impatiently for another two hours. We started to worry. The sun doesn't set until 10:30-11pm here, but it was getting colder and dimmer. We decided to set out just a little way down the trail to see if we could see Antti and Laura approaching.

We made it across the bridge and around the first bend..and who was there infront of me, but a flushed and smiling Laura with Antti just behind.

I'm horrible with candid photos. It's hit or miss as a general rule and you take what you can get. What mattered was that we had managed to coordinate a fairly complicated rendezvous with friends we had made over a thousand miles away - both pairs at the mercy of pay-as-you-go internet cafes and tens of hours on buses that are chronically late. And none of that mattered now, because we made it work.

I must have been smiling the rest of the evening, smiling in my sleep. That is until Kaitlin woke me up in the middle of the night. Her cough had weight, but was also violently staccato - like a dent popped out of a sheet of metal. She said she couldn't breathe.

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