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George Byron. Anonymous climber about the nude sunbathers beneath the Calanques. Charlotte was strong, good in the mountains, not known for speed so much as being able to go and go and go. She worked at the climbing wall on campus, setting routes and moderating competitions. Among other expeditions, he went to Denali, northern Japan, and K2 in
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Today, Bender continues to haunt many people whose lives he touched, including a woman whom he proposed to in Argentina. But more than anyone else, Bender continues to affect Juan. He has never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to Adolfo, nor has he moved back to the city of Mendoza where he and his brother grew up. The memories are too painful there. Characterized by its temperate climate and high plains, Mendoza is primarily known for two things: wine production and being a popular stopover for outdoor adventurers.
Before Bender arrived in , Adolfo and Juan had explored the area extensively, forming an inseparable bond. The middle two of four children, Juan and Adolfo came from a well-known family; their grandfather, Tiburcio Benegas, founded the Trapiche Bodega in Mendoza in the family sold the popular winery in Climbing was decidedly not one of them. By the time he was 12 years old, he had become known among friends as the leader of their outdoor adventures, taking Juan and other Mendocino boys on short backpacking trips at every opportunity.
What was important to Adolfo was that they always went just a little higher up a mountain. In , when Adolfo turned 23, he enrolled in climbing courses with the Club Andinista Mendoza—known locally by its initials, CAM—which since has been a central gathering place for mountaineers and climbers in Western Argentina. Juan, who was three years younger, never took climbing courses himself, but took instruction from Adolfo. That extended into dreams for the future that mostly included mountaineering. In , when Juan was 18, Adolfo decided that they should write to Nike, Inc.
To their surprise, Nike actually responded, although the company suggested that the Benegas brothers try something less ambitious to start. Juan has yet to find any sign of his brother, but he has discovered other remains and relics given up by the shifting ice of Aconcagua, including plane wreckage at the base of the South Face in A few weeks later, Adolfo and Juan received a box containing 40 pairs of Nike Air sneakers, the signature design that was white with red swoops stitched on the sides. The company wanted Juan and Adolfo to help Nike expand its market presence into Western Argentina by forming a running team in Mendoza and taking publicity photos, an arrangement the brothers honored.
As a reward, Nike agreed to sponsor Juan and Adolfo as mountaineers, and in , the company gave the brothers money to cover equipment and provisions for a mid-winter ascent of Aconcagua along its Normal Route. Adolfo wanted to be the first Argentines to pull off a winter summit since an expedition of Argentine soldiers accomplished the feat in Juan remembers the trip as being the experience that drew him and his brother closest.
Although they summited, Juan and Adolfo were caught in a storm during their descent and spent nearly 20 total days on Aconcagua, the last week without any food. When the weather finally broke and they started down, the brothers found a chocolate bar that had fallen from one of their packs. Juan instinctively split the chocolate into two, but Adolfo felt paternalistic. Juan took both pieces and tossed them off the mountain.
He had first learned the basics of rock climbing as an Eagle Scout in San Francisco, and later honed his abilities in Yosemite and in the Cairngorms of Scotland when he studied law and business at the University of Edinburgh. But Bender ended up in Mendoza quite by accident. Once the year-old American stopped in Mendoza, however, he discovered that Aconcagua is actually located in Argentina.