I stepped off the plane in Bariloche, Argentina. It was Valentines Day and I had just left everyone I knew—friends I met a month ago, but we had grown close studying ecology in Patagonia. Now I was alone and my sole companions comprised JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and lofty dreams of granite towers.
Fast-forward through a whirlwind of hostels, buses, and broken English and I’m hanging from a belay 300 feet off the ground in Refugio Frey. The sky is crystal clear, the sun is beaming and the granite is unbelievable. My new Brazilian friend, Gustavo, is leading this pitch and even though we communicate in broken sentences and hand gestures, we both know climbing and communication feels flawless. As we swap leads, I take the final pitch charging up a splitter hand crack for 50 feet. I only have one #2 and one #3, but with solid jams and bomber rock, the climbing is secure. The company is good and the space is airy. How could alpine climbing get any better than here in the southern hemisphere? As we rappel back to camp and nestle into the Refugio with a large pizza and bottle of wine, somehow I know that this is only the beginning of many adventures to come.