Traveling brings out strange goals for me. Find the best taco, go to all the hot springs, pick up at least 5 hitch hikers. There’s something satisfying about completing a little frivolous challenge on the road. A few months ago I got an idea for a bigger challenge. Snowboard all the pacific rim. The Pacific NW, to Japan, to New Zealand, to South America. Heck, I was already 3/4 of the way there.
So I started researching spots in SA. The Latin American shreddin’ conversation is dominated by Chile but it was going to be a rush to make it that far south in the Southern winter. Then I heard about the Pastoruri Glacier in Peru. Pastoruri boasted a rope tow, first built in the 30’s from an automobile engine. Even though it’s known as being fast and sketchy, they held championship races there. Then I read about Chacaltaya in the Bolivian Andes, known as the highest resort in the world at 5,421 meters. These places were small scale, community run, and the only places to ride North of Chile. Until everything started melting.
For the past thirty years Pastoruri was receding several meters each year. It was also breaking up as it melted and became more unstable. Similar recession was happening next door. Scientists gave the Chacaltaya in Bolivia until 2015. It was completely gone by 2009. Pastoruri is now too fractured to safely climb on. Local scientests are experimenting with sawdust to insulate the last two patches of ice but prospects look grim. Chances for snowboarding in the Northern half of South America are disappearing with the glaciers.
It broke my heart a little bit; made global warming a little more personal. What sounded like an awesome snow community in an obscure part of the world is gone because of the ways we use fossil fuels. Researching made me think about home too; how would it feel if the Palmer glacier at Timberline melted? I’ll still be chasing my goal but I added some new ones; ride bikes, shop local, spread the word.