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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Summiting Cerro San Ramón. Santiago, Chile.

I do not usually consult my local grocer for mountaineering advice, but I really have to give credit where it is due to the suggestion of local grocery store fruit clerk, Sean, for the sheer joy that this last weekend’s jaunt up Cerro San Ramón brought me. 

Cerro San Ramón presents itself as the pinnacle of a towering ridge just East of Santiago.  Towering over my house and the school where I work it taunts me daily, capped with snow, inviting me beautifully as I stare longingly out the hallway window on trips to the bathroom between grading an equally large mountain of papers.  Seeing it, and the rest of the Andes, reminds me often to aprovechar (take advantage of) my free time here.  Therefore when my good friend, Isabelle, mentioned she might be jogging up and over San Ramon’s 30 mile trail with our friend Samuel, I immediately jumped on board.

Hardly an alpine start for this massive “hill”, we each hit our separate (yet converging) trailheads after a slight miscommunication at 10am on Saturday. Two hours later we arrived within 5 minutes of eachother to the designated meeting spot.  After brief high fives, a downed Snickers bar, and some pack readjustment, we were on our way again without stopping until three hours later we reached Cerro Provincia – a smaller hill I had had a wonderful time sleeping on in fresh snow a few months back to test out my new zero degree sleeping bag.  A quick photo, a refill of our water stores by melting snow, another Snickers, and off we went again.

Five hours and two tag-along stray dogs later we arrived at Cerro San Ramon to discover the most spectacular view of the Andes I have seen to date. After miles and miles of slogging along the ridge linking Provincia with San Ramon with nothing to see but the face of the ridge to our left, and Smog-iago like a decrepit ant farm far below to the right, we were finally and suddenly thrust over the ridge to have revealed the entire visible expanse of the Andes mountains from North to South. Each mountain – caked with snow as I can only glimpse from my school desk – was suddenly ten times its normal size, and their panorama literally took up 180 degrees of our view.  At the moment we arrived, the sun, beginning to dip below the horizon, began casting red light over the snowy peaks of this already amazing scene, and it was all we could do to let the captivation completely dispel how cold and exhausted we felt.   It was that very moment that made everything I had heard about this mountain transform from mere information to personal story.  It was that very moment that made it clear why this mountain had been exactly the right one to climb this weekend.

I am pretty sure that Sean and I were fated to cross paths since I moved to Santiago.  Me, a fruit nut and known by name by practically all the local fruit vendors around my place; and Sean, the goofy twenty-something working fulltime in the fruit section of the closest grocery store to my house, we were bound to meet eventually.  Every time I stop through the grocery store he and I naturally fall into forty second conversations about small things before I break off and ask him where those darn bags of spinach are kept.  He may not be the outdoorsy type in my eyes, and I still have a hard time picturing him on some of those snowy traverses we completed, yet he has graduated from goofy to respectable in my eyes, and from now on I will take his advice any day concerning hikes.   Who knows, maybe next time I need spinach I’ll see what he knows about rock climbing…

photo credit:  Juan Pablo Villaseca

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