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Paolo, tells us...

However, let's take a few steps back: there's me and there's Luchino, both of us have travelled a lot, but we must admit that in recent years one place has particularly fascinated us and that is the Campo de Hielo Norte.
A huge expanse of ice in Chilean territory, far from towns and cities, with access routes that are always complex and laborious.
We were struck by a simple photo of a nunatak ( a rock spire in the middle of the ice ) shown to us by a friend in El Chalten in 2018.

That photo and his description of the trip had fascinated us so much that the following year we were on top of that nunatak climbing a new route, "l'appel du vide". A rocky line of about 400 metres on the edge of the Campo de Hielo.
That time our goal was to climb, that's what we had set out for.
 But when we got to the top, a world opened up to us, a world of mountains that are not even described on maps, a world of long walks, wind and finally rock.
I think at that moment a spark went off in both of us, and at the centre of that spark, about 100 kilometres from where we were, was a huge rock face, impressive.

I remember that none of us dared to speak.
From my point of view 'it was too much', in that glacier it was already difficult to get there; looking around was already a privilege, perhaps climbing would have been something 'beyond'.

But the following year we returned, this time entering from another valley, further south, and with us there was also Giacomo Mauri.
I remember that was one of the greatest walks ever. I don't know how many kilometres we walked in a broken and jagged glacier, but it led to nothing, or almost nothing.

Here again the centre of the spark visible to us, the Nora Oeste showed itself even better, showing us its south face, that thousand metre wall seemingly full of ice lines.
The second trip to Campo de Hielo had ended like this, without having touched rock.

But we knew we would be back, we knew it would happen soon, and so it was, when the following year we entered yet another valley, this time with perhaps the most bizarre idea of all, born of a phone call I still remember receiving from Luca and which I think should be reported:
" The phone rings and I answer it ".
P: Hi Luchino

L: Hi Paolo, I had an idea for Patagonia, I know how we could reach the wall this year

P: Mmmmm go shoot

L: We enter through the Leones valley and from there we go down south, we use skis, sleds and to go faster we take a wing

P: And what is a wing?

L: A wing that you hold in your hand, simpler and safer than a kite.

P: Mmmm that sounds like a really 'so-so' idea, but I'm up for it, let's try it.

The next week we were on a frozen alpine lake explaining to the instructor that we wanted to learn how to use the wing to cross Patagonian ice, I don't know if he was crazier than us or what, but he was enthusiastic.
Two lessons on snow one at the lake and nothing else... at that point we thought we were ready.

Fortunately, when we arrived at campo de Hielo the weather didn't allow us to take out our sail. But the crossing was long and we even climbed a small 300-metre wall.

There we really realised how much more important the journey is than everything else, than the climbing itself.

Maybe that's why it wasn't enough and we decided to return for the fourth time. Maybe it was a case of trying to get to the centre of the spark.

This time we were not alone, with us were also Gio Ongaro and Andrea Carretta who came as support to help us make a film afterwards.
We wanted to enter but from yet another valley, the Colonia valley.
So we got in touch with the owner of the valley (yes, because entire valleys here belong to individual owners who have a monopoly on them, especially to take you across the lakes that often separate the 'more civilised' area from the 'remote' one where the walls are closer), we planned the trip, the expense, the logistics.

Then, one day before departure, we discovered that we had no lift back to the boat.
So we retrieved packrafts and paddles for everyone, the last two we picked up on the way to Malpensa.
However, the surprises don't end when we arrive on Chilean soil because we discover that we won't even have a pass for the outward journey.

"No way, now how do we get in? We can't carry everything on our backs up to the lake and then sail it with the wind against us, it would take too many days and climbing would only become utopia".
It may sound strange, but the contact who saved us the entrance to Campo de Hielo by proposing a route from a much more remote valley, then following a pass that led straight towards the wall, was the baker from Chocrane (one of the villages closest to Campo de Hielo).
We met him on New Year's Day 2019, talking about climbing and possible parties for the evening.

He pointed us to Don Aguidino, a gaucho owner of part of the Nef Valley, who knew that pass because his father and grandfather used to take the animals there. (I still don't understand now how they could bring the animals to such a miserable place, full of huge stones, tangles of trees and bad weather).

So we set off on foot, followed by a horse and a gaucho for two days only to be left in a dense, rainy forest trying to go on with the help of a map.
This is travelling, this is what I think we wanted to experience.

I must admit, there was no lack of moments of discouragement or tension.
In the end, to get to the wall we walked for seven days, always with a huge rucksack on our backs, but it was worth it, even just getting under it, seeing it up close.
Yes, because that was our fear when we got there, that we would only be able to look at it: it was huge and in terrible condition, all full of ice encrusted between the cracks.

But we decided to stay down there to sleep and return the next day.
Perhaps our curiosity was not satisfied.

Then, as soon as we got into our sleeping bags, we both thought again about what we had seen, looked at the photos again and perhaps saw a line, an edge cutting between the two walls, north and south, perhaps more protected from the ice discharges.

It is still dark when we decide to leave, we go and go, we climb smoothly. As if we had a report in our pocket.
It's crazy but within a day we were at the top, climbing that thousand metre wall that we had never climbed before. 
A world opens up all around us for the umpteenth time. Endless walls on all sides and the white of the ice that scares you because you can't see the end of it.
In the distance we catch a glimpse of the way back but we don't want to run straight down. We want to enjoy that moment for a while longer.
From there on, we went down, came back to get the rest of the equipment and walked another five or six days; we inflated the dinghies and set off following first the lake then the river, with various misadventures here too. All part of a magnificent journey.
Until we returned to the village after about 20 days.
This was our journey and this was our curiosity.
We have arrived at the centre of this spark but surely there will be others, we just have to see where they are.



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