Quintero Pacific Sailing Lessons: Day 1


Author:  Pete

Location:  Quintero, Chile.     [ 32°46′58″S  71°31′50″W ]


We finally got our feet wet!  Found a fantastic gentleman who had a sailboat on the coast and gave private lessons.  There is an ASA equivalent here in Chile, but they are more focused on theory than practice, and are similar price as the ASA courses.  Thus, Pash and I have decided to do the majority of our instruction in the states this summer.


It, however, is exceedingly frustrating to be soaking up theory from books, planning like crazy, and ducking under the looming specter of this unknown trip and not be able to do anything tangible.  We’ve been itching for some time on a real boat in real waves.  I do realize we’ll be inundated with these experiences very soon, but we’re impatient folk.


It was a fantastic connection to find Mario Carmona, a sailor from Santiago who kept a small house and boat in nearby Quintero, a small, industrial, port town.  He happily arranged a few days of sailing with us with the aim of familiarizing us with the systems aboard and have us be able to sail by ourselves.


At the beginning of the the ‘long’ Easter weekend we met Mario at the Quintero Club de Yates and jumped aboard his 35′ Ericson.  We spent the first hour or so in the calm of the bay focused on systems of a cruising sailboat, electronics, plumbing, navigation, and so on.


Motored out of our mooring between long rows of gorgeous sailboats and beat up fishing boats, a juxtaposition of reasons to be at sea.  We practiced man-overboard drills, and handling the boat under power.  Even with a 12,000 pound displacement she responded well to the diesel.  A fat sea lion frolicked along with us, laughing at our ungraceful choreography.  Bonus points if you can pick his laughing face out in the picture below.


When the wind picked up we raised the main and worked some drills under its power alone.  Later we unfurled the 120 genoa and aimed out of the bay.  Who’s laughing now, sea lion?  As Chile imports the majority of it’s energy, La Bahia Quintero is a busy port where tankers of petroleum and natural gas are offloaded.  So our first excursion to open water came after we ran the gauntlet of giants.





Making out into the open seas we worked drills on handling in large swell.  We estimated they were 2.5 meters.  Pretty good.  Mario was a fantastic instructor.  By the end of the day we were handling the boat by ourselves with ease… and only a little green from the swell.



A Farewell Song for Chile


Author:  Pete
 Santiago, Chile


Wrote and recorded a song about the mountains and friendships in our time in Chile.  Wrote and recorded the son and set it to video of an ice climbing trip.  Check out the final product.  The back story and such are below.



Wrote this during/about an ice climbing trip with my friends Sergio and Casey. I knew it would be my last trip to Cerro Plomo, and it was a touch bittersweet.  Preparing to leave Chile, and all the great friends who have become family, has been difficult indeed.  It’s the way of the expat life.  It’s one of the difficult parts in this path we’ve chosen.  So I guess the song is lamenting the loss of the mountains when we move, but really, my mountains and my friends are one and the same.



So I wrote the song roughly on the trip and then fleshed it out at home.  Sergio and Casey recorded it with me in the Blackbox Theater Studio at the International School Nido de Aguilas, where we work, with copious help from the Fine Arts Academy tech director, Juan E Vidal.  He also mixed the music for us.  We didn’t give him much to work with.  It was the end of the year and everyone was scattered.


Neither Sergio nor Casey had seen or heard the song, and they blindly recorded four takes with me.  Thanks for the musicianship, friendship, and adventurous spirit fellas.

Set it to video of the three of us ice climbing on Cerro Plomo, but the song is really about the way exploration of the mountains makes connections.



Plomo Icefalls Song


East through the foothills and up through the bends,

Packed in the Pik-Up, let’s go my friend,

Climb on… climb on….

Trade in the weight of our worries all week,

For these packs and these paths, it’s off to the peaks,

Climb on… climb on….


With our sunburned lips and our frost-nipped toes,

Got a flask full of coffee and a tent in the snow,

Climb on… Climb on….

Up and chasing shadows well before dawn,

Catchin’ up with ourselves we gotta slow things down,

Climb on… Climb on….



Down in the city smog we lose our way,

So we’ll climb until we can see again,

We’re no mountain men with heroes’ goals,

We’re pilgrims out to save our souls,



Sunrise breaks we’ve been climbing for hours,

Boots baptized in the spindrift showers,

Climb on… Climb on….

Beautiful life that you and I live,

18,000 feet of perspective,

Climb on… Climb on….



The cold and snow we ain’t here to find,

We climb to seek what’s deep inside,

Though we’ll find no air on this rocky crest,

We breathe in life with every breath.





Verse:  C  Am  F  G

Bridge:  Am  C  Am  F  G



Climbing Cerro Plomo Ice Falls


Author: Pete
Location: Cerro Plomo, Santiago, Chile
[S 33° 14′ 13”,  W 70° 12′ 50′]


Back on Cerro Plomo.  As we retreated from the storm just five days prior, Sergio remarked that the ice falls just below camp Federación hadn’t been so well formed in many years and that we should go back the following weekend.  I thought it was a dehydrated, altitude-delirious bluff, but there we were the following weekend.




Casey Overton in tow, we drove up early Saturday.  At Tres Puntas we loaded packs and waited for a new mulero to ferry our heavy ice climbing gear.  No show!  After an hour we set out with heavy hearts and heavier packs.  In three hours we were setting up camp below Federación.





After lunch we slogged gear up to the base of the icefalls to help Queso acclimatize and make our climb day a bit easier.  Played with the gear a bit , climbed a touch on the low-grade stuff unroped.  Casey used Darlene’s axes and I used a nice pair of sponsored Petzls!  P1110909



The ice as plasticy and forgiving.  Hero ice.  As we hiked back down through the steep scree we hoped it would be the same quality the next day.  Queso and I slept in the tent, which was plenty big enough for three, while Serg bivied outside.  Doesn’t like our smelly feet, I think.  Actually, I’m sure he was trying to soak up the mountains.  He’s off to Dubai next year.  Nido will miss him, and so will all his friends.




We slept long, maybe too long, but it was glorious.  I hadn’t had a chance to catch up over the week.  So we slept, and I didn’t mind.  Loaded light packs and scrambled towards the icefall we were eyeing.  An hour to the base in sucky scree, then some time outfitting.




First picks were sunk at ten-ish, at a respectable altitude of ~12,000 feet.  Sergio legged the lead.  The first part of the pitch was low angle, then turning more vertical.  I belayed as he swung picks and his fancy center-point crampons.  Show off.  He made it look easy, like most things he does, placing ice screws along the way.



Showers of ice chunks of varying size and destructive capacity plummeted down at us.  At first it was fun, a bit like frogger, but eventually I lost the game and got cracked with a baseball size fragment from 100 feet up, right in the belay hand.  Owwie.  I dodged and weaved more apprehensively.  Serg climbed unhurriedly, and in the afternoon sun the rain of ice began to mix with rocks, cracked off gully face some 300 feet up by the expanding, sun-lit face.  By the time your eye would track them they’d be already going 200 mph, dark streaks embedding into white snow around us.  Glad to be wearing helmets.




When Sergio had set a top anchor Casey and I were ready to climb.  Happy to warm up from standing in the snow!  We climbed simultaneously on either side of the twin ice ropes.  Queso a bit above me, raining ice shards down my neck.  We climbed slow.  You end up in an easy rhythm.  Kick, kick, swing.  Kick, kick, swing.  That, mixed with some heavy breathing from exertion at altitude.




The rock rain increased and by the time we were all at the belay station a quick assessment made descending a good call.  We were too late, climbed too slow, and had too much fun in the process.  Tired and happy with our success, we set about making a V-thread, two ice-screw holes meeting in the ice with a loop of webbing that we rappel off of.  As the clouds cruised over our heads just outside the sheltered couloir we rapped down off the ice.  I was last, and therefore the only guy trusting only the ice.  I slapped it a kiss for good luck and descended the 150 feet.  So fun.




Packed up and trudged back to camp, our gear stained white from the minerals in the ice.  Our bodies melted a good deal while kneeling on the climb.



I’ll be very sad to leave the people and places that have come to mean so much to me.  This is likely my last hurrah with Sergio and Cerro Plomo.  Goodbye my good friends.