Tom Brokaw on Patagonia
The next morning the Chouinards, Kris, and I leave Doug behind to manage his sprawling empire, and we head south to Valle Chacabuco to take a pack trip on the 175,000-acre estancia that Kris, Malinda, and Yvon have purchased through their foundation, Conservación Patagónica, for another national park. It's a six-hour drive on a twisting gravel road, dodging heavy trucks loaded with sheep and wool. But as we wind around Lago General Carrera, a lake almost twice the size of Tahoe with none of the development, the vistas remind me of what the American West must have looked like in the mid-1800s. It was as if we are driving from Glacier National Park, around Flathead Lake, past Monument Valley, and through Jackson Hole all in one day. Only everything – the mountains, the lakes, the rivers – feels larger by half.

At one dramatic overlook, we are unexpectedly joined by a lean bicyclist from London pedaling a sturdy bike and towing a small-wheeled cart packed with his camping gear. He's a cheerful chap, understating his ride that day as a "bit of up and down," which is how he might also describe the road between Aspen and Denver. He says he worked in finance and information technology in London. "I got to thinking," he says, "if not now, when will I do this?"

He is headed for Alaska. I ask how much weight he'd lost so far. He laughs and says, "Not much; I'm a lean bugger. I'm a mountain-bike racer on weekends back home." He wants to know about the road ahead, which we'd just covered in our four-wheel drive. I try to remember. Was it mostly up or mostly down? He laughs again, putting us in our place. "You'd bloody well remember if you were pedaling and not riding in the car!"

We also met a truckload of American kayakers who had been running local rivers. When I introduced them to Yvon, they brightened with recognition of this legendary adventurer. I was reminded of another meeting with a young American climber when we were en route to the base camp of Fitz Roy. She was relieved to encounter Yvon because she was sure he'd persuade her two Brazilian climbing friends not to try a daunting ice face; they'd never climbed ice before.

Yvon heard her plea, then listened to the macho Brazilians make their case. I knew what was coming. He thought for a moment and said, "Hell, I think you should go for it." I laughed and said to the young woman, "Don't ever ask this guy for help in backing down."