Earlier that afternoon, we reached the Fitz Roy viewpoint in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares as the clouds parted. The view was clear for only the 30 minutes we spent there that day. It was beautiful serendipity. And yet...
Three hours later, I was crying. Maybe for 90 seconds. That's how cold it was. And that's how stupid of an idea it was to camp in the middle of winter in Patagonia. But it was my own romanticized idea nonetheless...a plot point in a quest to travel South America on the cheap when traveling in luxury is clearly the way to go. Don't let any of the budget braggers deceive you with their feigned holiness. My boyfriend, Aaron, asked if I was OK as he yet again pondered the mysteries of females.
After my micro-breakdown, I got up and unrolled my - not one - sleeping bag - but two - plus a fleece liner that touted on REI's website to bring your bag's rating down at least a season (as far as I could tell, this was a malicious lie). I braced myself and took my hands out of my gloves long enough to eat (thanks to Aaron for the hot food). It was 4:30 PM, but - there was nothing else to do but go to sleep. I zipped up all three bags and then - and only then - realized, I sort of had to pee. Under any degree of normal circumstance, this wouldn't be a big deal; I usually act older than a three-year-old. But the idea of unzipping all these layers, peeling off my pants and my long, wool underwear and baring my already frozen bum to the winter night...well, it was enough to trigger more tears. I told myself through gritted teeth that I could hold it until morning. When the sun is out. When there is some hope for survival in what I was dramatically considering a life or death situation, so I drifted off...Aaron already sleeping soundly beside me.
But in my dreams, I was in a luxury hotel with thick, red carpet. I breezed through ornate gold doors to find a glittering porcelain throne. I lifted my layers of tulle to tinkle like a lady.
Then I woke up.
...and immediately realized my reality. I was in a tent. Sleeping next to my outdoor guru boyfriend. At the base of Fitz Roy. In the Southern Hemisphere's coldest month: July. And like a good wannabe ultralight backpacker - I'm wearing my only pair of pants…and they were definitely warm and damp. I quickly scrambled outside and finished relieving myself. I didn't know what else to do except get back into my sleeping bag(s) and go back to sleep.
When I woke, I contemplated whether or not it was entirely necessary to tell Aaron. I mean, as far as humiliation goes...this was up there. Especially considering my adamant belief we should never see each other go to the bathroom. We'd been together just over 3 years, so he's seen me ugly cry. He's seen me hyperventilate. He's heard me throw up all night. He's felt the weight of my baggage that I usually only joke about. His response is usually somewhere between deadpan and detached. On occasion his eyebrows say, "Don't you think you're overreacting a little?" I usually am, but that was besides the point today.
I procrastinated getting up as long as possible, despite the pretty imminent need to cover some serious miles. So I took a deep breath and confessed that yes - in the last 24 hours, I had cried and peed my pants. Aaron didn't laugh or show disgust; he just offered me his snow pants to wear. And so, with a wince, I unzipped my 3-layered pee cocoon and hiked two, icy hours to Laguna Los Tres only to find it covered in fog, hiked five hours back to El Chalten, and then furiously washed my pants in the shower with hand soap.
Sometimes you cry and pee your pants. Sometimes you want to wonder, "Why me?" Forget all that. Just keep going. And laugh a little.
P.S. My friends totally get me.