Posts Tagged ‘Aconcagua’

On the Chang Tang

I wrote this past week about Jeremy and Eliza, my nephew and his wife, and their adventure to climb Aconcagua in Soth America.  After arriving in Mendoza in the foothills of the Andes, they set up for  preparations at hostel there that is a gathering spot for international climbers on their way to and from the mountains.  There they met a Swede named Janne Corax.

Of course, the name meant nothing to me but it turns out he is a legendary figure in the world of adventure travel, a man who is best known for his bicycle treks that have taken him all over the globe.  He rides his bike to the mountains, climbs them, then mounts his bike and pedals home.  I’m not talking about riding a few hundred miles down the road here.  He has several times started his journey from his home in southern Sweden , pedaling to Tibet to climb the peaks there then back home via the bike.  At this point he has logged over 82500 km on his cycle.  That’s over 51000 miles.

The picture shown here was on his website and is from one of his journeys across the Chang Tang plateau in Tibet.  The Chang Tang is a vast barren plateau that is about the size of Texas in size, all at an altitude of between 4500 and 5500 meters.  That’s between 16000 and 18000 feet which makes this a very high altitude.  Corax was the first cyclist to ride across this severe terrain.  Actually, he’s done it twice.

When I saw this photo it reminded me of an image I had in my mind many years back, before I had started painting.  It was almost identical to this image of a lone figure crossing a vast desolate plain with mountains rising  directly behind it.  It was something I struggled to capture in writing  but could never capture the essence of how it made me feel.  For lack of a better term, I called it the Big Quiet, a term I still use today.  It refers to a personal paradise for me, even in this harsh and desolate context.  An environment free of the constant throb and noise of man.  The world laid bare, at it’s most essential.

So, here it was.  He had found the Big Quiet that I could only imagine.  Actually, I could never do what he has done.  But knowing that it is still out there is a comfort and I am glad there are people like Janne Corax to inspire the imaginations of others with their determination and their daring in seeking their own Big Quiet.

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Today, my nephew Jeremy and his new wife, Eliza, head out to Philadelphia from where they will depart tomorrow for Argentina.  They lived and worked for several years in the San Francisco area and this past year made some big life decisions.  The first was to get married and the second was to quit their jobs and take to the trail for a year or so,  starting with an expedition climbing Aconcagua in the Andes.  It is the tallest peak in South America as well as the tallest peak in the Western and Southern  hemispheres.

It’s a real mountain at over 22000 feet and will present their group, comprised of the two of them and three close climbing friends, with  challenges they haven’t faced yet in their previous outdoor excursions.  Several years back, Jer and Eliza completed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a grueling hike that began in April at the Mexican border and ended in October at the Canadian border.  They chronicled their 2650 mile journey on their blog,  A Wolf Walk.  While their trail then took them through the highest points of the Sierras and the Cascades, it offered none of the high altitude challenge that Aconcagua will offer.  To determine their tolerance of the altitude as well their overall readiness, their group  will spend a week or two climbing lesser peaks surrounding Aconcagua before making their attempt in mid-February.

For those of you have an interest in following their journey in the Andes, they are maintaining a blog from the trail (ah, technology!) that is called Foschizzel Around the World!  The Foschizzel here is a combination, of sorts, of their last names, Foster and Schissel.  Snoop Dogg is not sponsoring their trip, if you thought that was the case with the name.

I envy the intentionality with which they are living their life and wish them well on this expedition.  I will follow their progress closely and live vicariously through their experiences.  Hopefully, good fortune will be with them.

Good luck and good climbing, Eliza and Jer!

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