In 1968, a group of climbing friends set off from California to Patagonia in a 1965 Ford Econoline van, sights set on ascending Mount Fitz Roy, the 11,171-foot granite peak in Argentina’s Patagonia region. Packed with surfboards, climbing gear, and skis, the van suffered from several flat tires and a complete engine overhaul; despite this, its occupants were kept busy surfing the long coastal waves of Peru and completing ski runs down sand dunes and active volcanoes.
After four months, the crew arrived at the base of Fitz Roy’s iconic towers. There, they spent two months, 30 days of which the five lived in two ice caves on the mountain. You might recognize many team members who spent 15 consecutive days living together in a cramped ice cave due to inclement weather conditions. Did close quarters lead to squabbles? Yvon Chouinard (climber, surfer, and founder of Patagonia), Doug Tompkins (philanthropist, co-founder of North Face, Esprit), climbing icon Chris Jones, Dick Dorworth (skier, mountain climber, author), and ski teacher, filmmaker, writer, and publisher Lito Tejada-Flores experienced something entirely different.
“By the time our little group arrived at the second cave,” Dorworth wrote for climbing.com, “we had spent a few months together in a small van driving the length of South America—sleeping on the ground and in the van, surfing, skiing, cooking, eating, and cleaning together. We learned the strengths and weakness, follies and genius, social and other skills and their absence, philosophies and prejudices, histories and dreams of ourselves and each other. The more we learned, the better we worked together as a team, a unit, an expedition, an interdependent band of humans on the same path up a mountain.”
The friends successfully clinched the third ascent of Fitz Roy and filmed the trip on a 16-millimeter Bolex camera. Fortunately, the footage is available for us to enjoy today.
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