Running Aysen: to the top of Cerro Cinchao

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Patagonia delivered a concert of strong winds, rain, hail, and even snow in some sectors of medium and high altitude. When the skies finally cleared, the sun king found me in Coyhaique, with my gear well-organized for every detail, ready to run to the Cerro Cinchao, whose visible summit (4461 feet) had fed my animosity since 2004.  
 
When I left the house of my father bound for my objective, it was at an easy pace and looking up at the spot where I wanted to be in a few hours. My only two concerns were the right ankle that occasionally made a "click," and the warnings of a guide, which said that on the entrance road to Coyhaique National Reserve there were two abominable dogs which try to chase away anyone who passes. But I ordered my ankle: "yell or hold me now, because once I get past the bridge not even the Rottweilers shall make me return."
 
When I arrived at the park administration office, I let them know that I was intending to run to the top of Cinchao, which the park ranger flatly refused, authorizing all those present to go only through the circuit that runs along Laguna Verde. Given that it was mid-afternoon, it was understandable that measure. Nevertheless, I removed the Confederate scarf from my head and said: "Mister, I am Rodrigo Antonio Panichine Flores, born, raised and tanned in Patagonia. I want to run to the top of Cinchao, nothing is going to happen, you have my word."  The park ranger, a wise man, acted with discretion and justice. He checked my ID card and then said: "go at your own risk."
 
I left there swiftly, happy, and set to run for 5 miles. I started up the hill on the Los Leños trail, composed mainly by gravel and dirt through a young pine forest which smelled like wild strawberries.
 
After this stretch, I came upon my first dilemma, a four-way intersection. I paused to analyze the situation. I gave myself four seconds for a tantrum and then opted for the wider path, to the center-right. Anecdotally, before long I was stung by a horsefly, I was chased for awhile by a hornet, and feeling lost I found a park ranger who told me to stay on the trail called Piedras.

This was a real trail. Filled with solid and slippery stones, the trail had steep slopes ideal for gazing at the sky or treetops. With each stride, I entered the native forest. Some were slow strides, like a wise buill, others with power. 

I was told that the ascent of Cinchao usually is done in five or six hours. However, I had proposed to cover it in much less time.
 
Half way up the trail, just before entering a densely wooded area, suddenly the wind brought some voices. It made me glad, as I felt I was now not alone in this journey. Later, when I started to feel the first pains in my legs, I saw in the distance teenagers accelerating their pace, alternating between a jog and race speed.
 
Before this, for a few seconds, I was tempted to play along and surpass them, but briefly I recalled a TV show where they recommended to parents to give an advantage to their children when they play with them, as this contributes to the self-confidence of them. Another thing which broke through from my memory, a metaphor used by Nelson Mandela to define leadership, published in the Harvard Business Review, which states that “when a shepherd allows a sheep with a bell on its neck to walk ahead of the others, guiding the flock, while he walks behind them confidently.” Loyal to my lessons, I chose not only to stay away, but when I saw a beautiful waterfall, I stopped to admire it and forgot about the youths.
 
At the waterfall, I noticed a gentle rock adorned with flowers dripping hundreds of little beads of water. This natural phenomenon was useful for fine tuning my hearing: with one ear I listened to the incessant “tic and tac” ticking of the drops, and with the other the soft course of water that was transforming into a clear stream.
 
After taking some photos, I re-started, taking long strides, covering a wet trail that passed between remote and new lenga trees. The first, fallen and gnawed by time, tell the visitor about the strength of this species, which survives in adverse weather conditions. The second set of trees, standing up proud to the sky with their grey and bearded trunks, like a sign that marks the natural equilibrium of different geological eras.
 
Coming out of the wooded area, I encountered again the teenagers, who lay exhausted on the grass. Before passing, running to the side of them, one of them smilingly shouted “a really ugly view.” Turning slightly to my right,  there it was, a panoramic view of the city of Coyhaique and its surroundings. The scenic beauty silenced the dialogue, something that seems to happen a lot in the Aysen region of Patagonia.
 
 
Later, I refilled my tank with fresh water coming from a noisy hillside. Then, I jumped in the race to the last few hundred feet remaining to crown the summit of the south face. This stretch, on a slight slope, was composed principally by sandstone and some necklaces of snow, noble ingredients to spice up the experience of running up this hilltop lookout.
 
Positioned on the rocky Summit, I began to breathe in and exhale out, alternating glances, looking to register the place forever in my memory. I stared at those indelible images of our grandparents that filled colorful, inspirational stories, songs, or place names, like El Furioso River, Paso la Leona, and Cuesta del Diablo.  In particular, this hill treasured in my memory: the flat expanses of the summit, three rocks weighing various tons, aligned in a NE to SW axis, the mysterious image of Cerro Mano Negra in the distance, and the high peaks of Ibáñez River Reserve covered by eternal snow. In addition, the relative proximity to the clouds, and the fertile soil of the surface of Cinchao, which grow at least six type of flowers and other herbaceous and shrub species.
 
Next, I established that my arrival to this place was at 5:40 p.m., a period in which the son burns fiercely, but this did not damper my spirit or desire to run in different directions in search of any scent, clue or species that would awaken my curiosity. I suppose that I was living the exacerbation of happiness, releasing the energy that drove me to run up there.
 
Then, hearing the cries of the teenagers, plus another group that apparently joined them, I stored away the flowers that I usually take from the gentle and rugged mountains and commenced to descend at around 7:00 p.m.
 
 
The descent was amazing. Not because it demanded less physical exertion. Rather, because the speed, geography and characteristics of the trail permitted me to jump rocks and fallen trees, wander among windy tree branches, break on a dime, and flap like a bird on the edge of a cliff.
 
All of the aforementioned joyfully added to the fact that the forest began to cool down and with it a moist scent spread a contagious vitality, projecting new colors and shadows. It was a delight for a fleeting and contemplative eye. I could not contain a smile. I was running on my land. I ran in the Aysen region of Patagonia.
 
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