I am trying to keep pace with the local guide who is headed straight up the mountain side, I am out of breath and every fiber of my body wants me to stop. Instead I push on, scrambling up the rock with a straight bearing for the glacier.
It is only three months since the surgery, three months since I lost an entire lobe of my lungs, and boy can I feel it! Each breath is labored, my lungs desperately sucking in the air wishing for more. I curse under my breath, annoyed at the new inability of my body. Anyone who has had to go through recovery knows the feeling of your body not quite being able to do what it used to. The frustration is infuriating. I had lung surgery to remove a rare type of cancer in my right lung, and I spent five days in the hospital with Larry. Larry was the name I gave the chest tube that was draining fluids from my chest into a box. I hate Larry.
As we reach the glacier I try to not show how exhausted I am as I strap on my crampons and rope up. One foot in front of the other I kick steps up the steep icy snow and finally scramble the last rocky summit pyramid. I made it! Six thousand feet of gain and I am standing on the summit of Cerro Electrico. It is a gorgeous day and to my left I can follow the entire Fitzroy Range shooting out of the pampas, a jagged ridgeline of peaks with Fits Roy standing tall in the middle, perhaps the most famous of Patagonia’s mountains. Below lakes dot the landscape, so vibrantly blue they almost appear to glow. This is the climbing capital of Patagonia, where the big boys and girls come to climb some of the hardest routes on the planet. Fitz Roy was first climbed in 1952 by Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone who were part of a French expedition. More recently Tommy Cadwell and Alex Honnold completed the Fitz Traverse, linking together the entire ridgeline of Cerro Fitz Roy and its satellite peaks, a feat which earned them the prestigious Piolet d’Or award.
Cerro Electrico in contrast is a straight forward Glacier climb, and it is by no means the hardest climb I have ever done. Not very technically challenging or demanding, but it felt like the biggest victory. I sure as hell didn’t set any speed records, but I made it to the summit within the turnaround time. I am on the road towards recovery. From here on out it will only get easier.