Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Enduring Patagonia" review

When I was living at the Grand Teton Climber's Ranch in summer 1996, I attended an extraordinary slideshow by Greg Crouch, who had recently climbed Cerro Torre.  Greg had spent an entire season trying and trying and trying again to scale the peak amid some of the world's worst weather.  He and his partners waited out the regularly ferocious and prolonged storms in a squalid, mice-infested shelter miles from the nearest town.  All climbing was done in weather windows that would open for a day or two before slamming shut for a week or three. The final successful ascent required an impromptu bivouac a few meters below the tippy top.

That particular Cerro Torre climb was one of several major ascents Crouch made in the region during the 1990s.  In 2001, he published an outstanding book about those excursions, entitled Enduring Patagonia.

The author enjoying typical conditions on Cerro Torre.

Crouch's trips to the Chalten Massif all seem to have a few things in common.  They each involve:
(1) multiple months;
(2) one horrible storm after another;
(3) waiting out storms in remote, dumpy camps for the majority of the time;
(4) extremely technical rock and ice climbing;
(5) constant uncertainty about the circumstances and the outcome;
(6) dangerous retreats through storms at night; and
(7) clothing that is rarely if ever washed and possibly never changed.

Crouch's determination in the midst of these mostly miserable conditions is astonishing.

The author in the notorious (noTORREous?) camp.  This is apparently how the majority of time is spent on a climbing trip in Patagonia. 

But Crouch is more than a determined alpinist.  He is also an excellent writer. Enduring Patagonia is a totally engaging read.  My only complaint is that there were not 200 more pages.  The story is compelling, the prose is solid, and Crouch writes with an honesty and lack of pretension that is starkly genuine.

It also helps that Crouch comes across as a very likeable fellow. In fact, he is a likeable fellow.  I know that, because a day or two after the previously mentioned slideshow, I encountered Crouch again -- on the summit of the Grand Teton.  Descending the mountain together, I was regaled with some of the backstory from his Cerro Torre odyssey.  One detail I remember was how he funded the trip -- by installing ball-washing machines in ball pools.  And I was delighted to find a sustained discussion of that decidedly odd job, and others, in Enduring Patagonia. 

Many photos from Crouch's mountaineering adventures are posted on the Enduring Patagonia facebook page and his personal website.

The ebook and actual book are available in many places, including here.

Crouch recently published another book which took him a decade to write, entitled China's Wings.  Find out more about that here.

The author on the summit of Fitzroy.

 All images in this article are courtesy of Greg Crouch.   

No comments: