Patagonia Gap Year

Confidence...Bilingual baby books and blackberry jam…..

Pardon our long silence from the blog, well really “our” is recent, I just incorporate in a couple of months ago.  We had intention of publishing this a couple weeks ago, but we let time escape.

We have received our first group of Gap Year students and many folks have asked to know more about this part of our project, so I will share a beautiful story with you, one principally of coincidence and adventure. 

This story begins approximately 25 years ago for Jonathan and about 11 for me, when each of us installed ourselves in Patagonia motivated by a great care for this land and a spark (or Molotov) of adventure.  During the following years this care for place we live grew; more challenges in Nature and Culture; greater frustrations in human relationships that lead to finding more incredible people and places. 

Jonathan with his Expedition Company tried to close the gap with more education and I through my law work tried to install more local pride rather than accumulate more money.  This is how we forged our paths and through this constant strive and struggle we gained the confidences of many friends.  It’s gratifying to hear someone local say that thanks to Jonathan, who gave them their first job, they become a guide and now a successful small business owner.  In my case this gratification comes from hearing friends repeat how I have helped unconditionally in every instance of territorial planning a sustainable future. 

By the good luck of fortune, we ended up together, joined in a common family goal that transcends mentality, intellect and the physical.  We are continually talking in depth about goals, projects and how to leave our world a little better.  In one of these talks I confided my desire to work more in depth with volunteers on a cultural project that I had tried but alas was unsuccessful in gaining traction.  He in turn told me of his desire to build a year-round education program that mixed expeditions, life on the frontier and cultural geography.  In these conversations we found a very natural fusion of our dreams and the start of our Gap Year Program.  The reality of the Gap Year comes to be with the essential inclusion of Alexas and Jack, mother and son power from Newburyport Massachusetts who invest total confidence in this dream and capacity of ours and decide to have Jack come and live with us for 8-months.  Adding to this confidence is our team here who are all extraordinary in their own right and more so in a team: Andrés, Dan, Coto, Gringo all we super important to the success of Jack’s Gap and to the program today. 

This Confidence doesn’t end, but rather impresses how it multiplies; the confidence we have in ourselves, each other to share dreams and make them happen; A mother and Son; in a team who’s lassos are care and friendship; and now we have the confidence of 5 students and their families (3 more in January!) to impart together our first formal Gap Year, which has the best of us and our place: A huge cultural experience, adventure and education on the frontier of humanity, where human existence ends and the natural kingdom reigns supreme on the edge of the Patagonian Ice Fields.  This is where fads end and the noise of consumption is quieted by the neighborly acts of gauchos with mates and jokes flowing freely. This is where math class ends, and the teachings come via the infamous winds of Patagonia. An experience that reflects the creativity that we see in our surroundings when working with our hands and heart with the land, a reflection of dynamic equilibrium of the ecosystem and those who choose life here, joined by a sense of place.  

I am not going to detail the formal program, as I said it is a beautiful history.  It is the full cycle of elements, like the water falling from clouds to be stored in the mountains and to end up in the Ocean, only to repeat.  Here there is a personal experience that adds to the collective experience revolving around care for a place that should be seen through the multiple lenses of beauty, which is the challenge: a concept of beauty deeper than the esthetic or the visual. 

So why the bilingual baby books and blackberry jam?  Well, because all of these confidences manifested again with these two beautiful gifts sent by the families for us along with a thoughtful card reflecting that is not the typical experience or service but rather much deeper.  These two gifts give me the opportunity to sit and reflect, now that our baby is finally sleeping and while Jonathan writes other mails and write this initial Gap Year Blog.  I remember that today these young adults who share with us this experience also share a quality that is fundamental with us, a deep desire to search for something of their own in life.  Even if they don’t admit it always, their drive to learn emanates from them and this is not just inspiring but also give hope that this wheel or full cycle of confidence is intact and possible to continue to transform lives, give that grain of sand to the whole which makes for better people or at least people with better tools to confront the true challenges of life. 

Confianza….Libros bilingues de niño y mermelada de mora.

Perdón por el largo silencio en nuestro blog… bueno el nuestro es reciente, yo sólo me incorpore hace unos meses. Teníamos la intención de publicar esto hace unas semanas, pero el tiempo logro escapar de nosotros.

Estamos recibiendo nuestro primer grupo Gap Year estos días y la gente tiene curiosidad por saber mas, así que compartiré con ustedes una linda historia, una historia principalmente llena de coincidencias y aventuras.

Este programa se gestó hace aproximadamente 25 años por cuenta de Jonh y hace 11 por cuenta mi, cuando cada uno se instaló en la Patagonia motivados por el cariño a esta tierra y una chispa de aventura. Durante todos esos años en cada uno se imprimió más y más cariño por el lugar que habitamos; mas desafíos en torno a la naturaleza y cultura; mayores frustaciones en términos de relaciones humanas y muchos lugares recorridos como amigos

Jonh con su empresa de expediciones intentaba acercarse mas a la educación que a la aventura y yo con mi labor de abogacía intentaba imprimir orgullo local antes que ganar plata. Así nos fuimos forjando y terminamos ganando la confianza de muchos amigo. Es gratificante escuchar a alguien decir que su primer trabajo como guía fue gracias a Jonh hace mas de 20 años y hoy es un operador local con su empresa propia, también para mi es lindo escuchar a un amigo decirme gracias por siempre estar ayudando incondicionalmente en cada instancia de planificación de territorio por un plan mas sostenible.

Luego, por azares del destino, terminamos juntos y siempre habían conversas llenas de proyectos y amor por esta tierra. Fue en una de esas conversas donde yo le confié mis ganas de trabajar de forma más profunda el ámbito del voluntariado con un proyecto cultural que anteriormente no pudo concretarse, y el me confiaba su idea de armar un programa para jóvenes que mezclara educación y expediciones. En esas conversaciones empezó a armarse este programa de Gap Yer, luego fue esencial la figura de Alexa y Jack, madre e hijo que confiaron en Jonh para venir a realizar una experiencia de voluntariado por 8 meses, a estas personas se suma la confianza enorme que existe en el equipo: Andres, Dan, Coto y Gringo fueron claves en la experiencia de Jack y su rol seguirá existiendo en el resto de os estudiantes.

Y la confianza no se acaba, es impresionante como se multiplica; de la confianza en nosotros mismos; en el uno y el otro para compartir nuestros sueños; en una madre y su hijo; en un equipo que tiene lazos de cariño y amistad ; recibimos hoy la confianza de 5 jóvenes y sus familias para partir con la primera experiencia formal Gap Year, que tiene lo mejor de lo nuestro: Una experiencia cultural, de aventura y educativa en la frontera de la humanidad, donde termina la vida del hombre y empieza el reino de la naturaleza al borde de los campos de hielo… donde se acaba la moda y tópicos actuales y empieza la vecindad de un gaucho, con mate y bromas incluidas… donde se acaban las clases de matemáticas y empiezan las enseñanzas que el viento patagon tiene. Una experiencia que es un reflejo de la creatividad que puedes ver a tu alrededor cuando trabajas con las manos y el corazón en un campo, un reflejo del equilibrio dinámico de los ecosistemas a los que la vida se une por estos lugares.

No detallare el programa formal, como les dije esta es una linda historia. Es el circulo completo de los elementos, como el agua que nace en la montaña y termina en el mar, aquí hay una experiencia personal que se colectivisa en torno al cariño por un lugar que debe verse con los anteojos de la belleza que significa todo desafío: un concepto de belleza mas profundo que la hermosura escénica o visual.

Por qué libros de guagua y mermelada de mora? Bueno, porque toda esa confianza termino en dos bellos regalos enviados por las familias para nosotros, además de una linda carta… algo que no es usual cuando contratas un servicio. Esos dos regalos me hacen sentarme hoy mientras mi hijo por fin se durmió y Jonh responde otros correos para escribir este post pendiente, para volver a recordarme que estos jóvenes que hoy comparten con nosotros tienen mucho de jonh y de mi hace muchos años: son jóvenes que buscan algo… incluso aunque no lo sepan las ganas de aprender que tienen lo demuestra y eso no solo es inspirador, también es esperanzador, así que sigamos la rueda de la confianza para transformarla en esperanza y aportar un granito al mundo generarndo experiencias que hagan mejores personas, o al menos personas con herramientas suficientes para afrontar los versaderos desafíos de la vida…

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Rio Claro Exploration

We had a wonderful start to the season with Jeff, our resident physicist and Patagonian Afficionado, who on his 4th trip with us explored the upper reaches of the Rio Claro Valley. This watershed is the source of the Sol de Mayo Ranch water, what we drink, wash with, bath in, irrigate and give to our animals. It’s sanctity goes beyond the direct benefits we receive from it but into the realm of giving us the vision of what purity is, what purity looks like, sounds like and is and why it is so important to share properly while maintaining it’s holistic health. This trip was an exploration of our newest 30+ kilometers of trails we have built over the last couple years and the incredible amount of alpine territory it accesses. Our group was a perfect mix of a typical PAEX team, Local Gaucho Mountain Guides, US Gap year student, Finish Cartographer, Chilean Veteranarian Mountain Guide, Local Rancher, and our Master Physicist. With all this said what most strikes a cord with me is not just the beauty of the place or the postcard shots, not the individuals and their extraordinary history but rather how we all get along, share, inspire and delve into the depths of the impacts this kind of untouched nature has on us. Thanks Patagonia, Thanks Team, thanks for the opportunity to share it so gracefully and wholly enjoyable.

Jeff - hiking above Lago Claro with his huge smile.

Jeff - hiking above Lago Claro with his huge smile.

Jack studying the reflections of self and environment, Lago Reflejo. This is my Gap Year…..

Jack studying the reflections of self and environment, Lago Reflejo. This is my Gap Year…..

The headwaters of the Rio Claro, our water source for the Sol de Mayo Ranch

The headwaters of the Rio Claro, our water source for the Sol de Mayo Ranch

The Team at Sol de Mayo leaving everyone and everything better than before.

The Team at Sol de Mayo leaving everyone and everything better than before.

Cerro Puño

Anyone who has ever been to Sol de Mayo will remember Cerro Puño, an arresting and imposing peak that looms above our home base. To round off the 2017 season, the PAEX team decided to make an attempt at the first ascent of this magnificent mountain. While we didn't reach the summit, we found an astonishing world of ice and rock at the top, and enjoyed spectacular views of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Cerro San Lorenzo, and, in the distance, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. See below for photos of the expedition. 

The trail to Puño basecamp is now cleared and ready for visitors, and offers stunning views just one day from Sol de Mayo. 

The Season's First Summit

On a spectacular spring morning last week, a PAEX team - including a 67-year-old client - summited a sub-peak of the beautiful Cerro Aislado, and were granted a breathtaking view over the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. The ascent began the day prior with a climb through thick forest, behind Camp 4 of the AGT. We climbed steadily, pausing often to enjoy the views of the Colonia Glacier stretched out below us. Slowly, the deep lenga forest turned to knotted, dwarf trees, making for some difficult going. We camped that night at the forest's edge, hoping that a light afternoon rain would clear by dawn. It did, and we continued the climb the next day over a short talus slope and then onto hard morning snow. Perfect stillness greeted us at the summit, and we lingered taking in the view and comparing our maps with the landscape in front of us. As mid-day turned to mid-afternoon, we began our descent, pausing for a lunch of fruit and cheese on the talus slope, overlooking turquoise tarns and deep green forest, and then reaching camp in early evening, where all parties enjoyed a much needed siesta. Enjoy some photos from our trip, below:

                                      Headed up the South Slope, with a view of the Lago CaChet 2, the Colonia Glacier, and Lugana Corazón Incognito behind us. 

                                                                                                PAEX guide luis "Chino" toro leads the final stretch of the ascent

                                                                                                PAEX guide luis "Chino" toro leads the final stretch of the ascent

A New Season Is Upon Us!

A new season of expeditions is nearly here, which means it's time for the PAEX team to begin stocking the AGT's camps with durable foods, chopping firewood, clearing downed trees, and performing repairs on our rustic bathrooms. Enjoy some photos from our time preparing the trail, and come join us this season!

 

 

Colonia Glacier GPS Rescue

PAEX maintains several glacier monitoring systems that have been installed by the University of Colorado, the University of Nevada, and the University of Utah. These devices measure the rate of flow of the Colonia glacier and broadcast that data directly to satellites, allowing scientists around the world to observe patterns and change on the ice field. For the past few weeks, though, a few of the monitors have failed to transmit their signal. The problem could be as simple as a need for new batteries. Or it could be something more complicated. Given the harsh winter conditions on the ice, there are many possibilities of what could have gone wrong.

It takes about two days to reach the monitors. First, we cross Lago Colonia in PAEX’s motorized dinghy – about a one hour journey over frigid water. Then we hike up to Camp Five of the AGT – known as the Condor’s Nest for its stunning views over the surrounding valleys. We are traveling light and moving quickly, though wet and icy rock sometimes makes our path slick.

When we do arrive, we’re surprised to see that the problem is not just a simple battery failure. The whole transmitter has been devoured by a wave of ice – most of it is frozen below the ground. Every now and then this happens, and it’s not all that surprising given that the Colonia glacier advances at a rate of nearly a meter per day!

Chipping away slowly at the ice with our crampons, we manage to excavate the device and then reset it on a nearby bluff. The project isn't finished yet - we'll need to be in touch with colleagues in the United States to know if the data has resumed transmitting - but we know this is a big step towards getting the machine back on line. 

With the transmitters back upright, and hopefully stable for many months to come, we head back to Sol de Mayo, where we're greeted by a welcoming committee of eager dogs. 

 
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Winter Life at Sol de Mayo

Daily rhythms change in the Patagonian winter. Here at Sol de Mayo Ranch, at the top of the Colonia Valley, winter is a chance to catch up on projects that’d been put aside during a hectic summer on the ice. And also to cook, to read, to linger over sunsets, and to re-center ourselves for the coming season. Enjoy some photos from winter life at Sol de Mayo below: