Dreaming of Patagonia

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 Fitz Roy. Photo by Camilo RadaFitz Roy. Photo by Camilo Rada

By Natalia Bugedo
Translated by Brent Harlow
What do you think of when people talk about Patagonia? Ever since I was little, I would think of Torres del Paine, the Carretera Austral, the fjords, and lots and lots of ice. Visiting Patagonia is a dream in the minds of all Chileans, and some of them make that dream a reality, at least once in their lives.

But only a handful of mad men and women dream of going a little farther and entering the Patagonian wilderness. Crossing its ice fields, climbing its granite walls, sleeping under the rain and sensing its freedom, its untamed and unpredictable character. A few years ago, when I began climbing and hiking, I became obsessed with Patagonia and those crazy dreams took hold of me as well. I always thought that type of adventure was beyond my skill and scope, and that exploration was reserved for the few, for experts, for those who do that for a living. As an engineer from Santiago, I could not imagine myself on the most remote mountain peaks of the country and the world.  
Nevertheless, the mountain has gotten inside of me and, little by little, my comfort zone has been expanding. In April, I made a quick, last-minute trip to Patagonia with a group of friends. There, in front of some of the colossuses that form that vast extension of mythical land, and at the point of entry of the immense ice fields, I discovered that it was the place where I wanted to be. It was there where I found my bearings, and I decided that I should respond to that call and move to the south. But first I need to share with more people this insanity, an insanity which is not only for the few.
More people ought to discover the roots of our country, its pristine valleys and millennial ice; we have to dare to venture and not fear going beyond. We need for Chilean mountaineers to know Patagonia, not to conquer, but rather to know it. In this way, more people will fall in love and understand the importance of conserving what has been preserved for so many years. Rivers, valleys, and glaciers will be free only when all of us understand the power and the importance that our land has.
That is why I would like to invite you to a series of seminars entitled “The Five Giants of Patagonia,” which the Club Andino Universitario is organizing. The objective is for more people to fall in love with Patagonia, and for us to learn together what it means to plan, and dare to carry out, an expedition in which the summit is not the most important thing, but rather the decision-making, the journey, and the experience.
Each presenter we have invited is a great mountaineer, but with a double life: they are professors, doctors, astronomers; they are like any mortal. But just like us, they have been infected with the crazy passion for exploring mountains. Lets be bold, lets go toward the mountains of Patagonia.
The author, Natalia Bugedo, is technical director of the Club Andino Universitario.

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