Sunday, August 22, 2010

Week 10 – Patagonian weather strikes back

A waterfall crossing one of the tracks. At times the rain felt like we were standing under it!

The omnipotent weather being struck again this week, as if sensing the proximity of our departure it replaced the pleasant weather of the last couple of weeks with ferocious gales and rain showers which we last experienced back in July. Still with only two weeks, the chance of cold digits and damp torsos is much easier to stomach, especially given the 11 weeks of hell the new crew could be in for.

While back home I’d be the first to question the originality of a discussion of weather (particularly in the hermetically sealed comfort of an office), the sheer extremeness of the weather here, not to mention the fact you are balls deep in it digging trails has lead me to hypocrisy for most of the Patagonian reports.

Like the trail troopers that we are we kept plugging away at building trails. The first part of the week was spent clearing the uphill trail of storm debris. Now fully ridable, it makes an enjoyable but strenuous commute to work. We then moved on to complete a downhill started by the crew working prior to us. Given it was dug in snowy conditions the track needed a bit of work widening benches and removing obstacles, while making better use of the trail features that we like rocks and logs. One particular rock slab required some rock work that would have stretched even the most avid stonecutter. Graham put his skills to work and using rock scattered about (the pinch was at the base of a 30m cliff) he crafted a set of ridable steps which led into the final segment of trail.

Graham rocks it out.

Another development which brightened the otherwise dreary days has been a major revision of the pann stick, first discussed back in week 5. By taking a single stem of cane, trimming it of leaves, then splitting the end 150mm, you are left with a weapon of mass toasting (WMT). This allows us to reach the desired level of toasting with none of the risk of pann loss inherent in earlier pan stick designs. Only two cases of pan loss were reported with this design (John’s rolling down a steep unrecoverable bank to the amusement of the other crew) so pann security is markedly improved.

Pann stick development underway.

Up till now, our crew had harboured a bitter resentment of cane bushes when they crossed the line of the track, such is the difficulty of removing the rubbery and extensive root systems of these exotic bushes. But now with this innovative (and patent pending) pann stick, this flora has garnered some new found respect.

Pann sticks in action. Note carying degrees of toastedness.

With two weeks (9 working days) of track building remaining the countdown has well and truly begun, and already I’m starting to reflect on the amazing experience I’ve had here in Patagonia. While working outside is a sure fire way to get wet and cold, the satisfaction of being able to shape trails as you see fit, not to mention the beauty of the natural surroundings has made for a thoroughly rewarding time. In a way, the adverse weather has served to heighten the experience, proving that one can survive in the worst that nature can muster without the modern comforts we have become cocooned within.

Mountain Pedaler out...

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