Editor’s Note: Everett Redus, 21, of Baytown, Texas, now one of four surviving brothers, will travel south to Patagonia early next year, carrying the ashes of his slain older brother, Cameron, a senior honors student at the University of Incarnate word who was fatally shot by a campus policeman outside his off-campus apartment on December 6, 2013.
The journey through South America to the bottom of the continent will retrace the path of Cameron’s trips south in 2010 and 2011, including the journey the two brothers made together. Everett will spread some of his brother’s ashes along the way, through Central America, down the western coast of the continent, across the Andes, and in Patagonia.
The Rivard Report has invited Everett to publish periodic dispatches as he makes his way south and awaits word on the outcome of the criminal investigation into the shooting and a wrongful death lawsuit filed by his family against UIW and the police officer. Read more about Cameron’s life, death, and the aftermath here.
“My goal is to arouse the reader’s senses, to kindle their own yearning for adventure and desire to experience the spirit my brother exhibited at all times. His deepest desire was to remind people of the beauty of nature and the danger of complacency. His aspirations have now become my own.”
The following passage describes a harrowing experience Everett and Cameron shared on the cliffs of Argentina’s Cerro Catedral mountain inside Nahuel Huapí National Park in 2011.
My Brother Saved My Life
The sky was plagued with darkness as ash obscured the earth. Crystal waters became muddied, and virgin lands touched. As so often happens, the plans, the schedules, the workings of man are cut short by the hand of nature.
Volcán Puyehue-Cordón Caulle opened its mouth and spoke destruction, spewing a cloud of ash that encircled the Southern Hemisphere. Flights were cancelled in South America, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, leaving me grounded in Buenos Aires, itching for Cameron to fly down and meet me.
Six days later my brother and I were reunited, bound by bus for Patagonia. Our destination was San Carlos de Bariloche, an Argentine town fewer than 60 miles away from the still-erupting Chilean volcano and fissure. The more tracks we put behind us, the more bleak our surroundings became. We had painted so romantic a picture in our minds of the wild south, only to get there and find it shrouded in greys. We knew better than to lament our fortunes, but visions of what could have been are inevitable, and that lies heavy on the spirit. Still, we saw though the gloom to the inherent beauty of the land. We spent the succeeding days exploring the area, eventually finding ourselves on a trail deep in snow and ash, hiking up the mountain that would change our lives forever.
Hours passed, temperatures dropped, our morale rising with the altitude. The higher we climbed, the whiter the landscape. Cerro Catedral had escaped the deluge of ash, looming pure and untouched over our heads. The trail ended at Refugio Frey, a tiny mountain lodge where we would sleep the next two nights. We were at 1,700 meters, on the edge of a snow-buried lake, sharp peaks soaring on every side.
Day two dawned, adventure gleaming on the mountainside, and we wasted no time making tracks for the snow and the rocks. We basked in the cold mountain air, the rays of the sun, exactly as we had imagined the moment. We climbed without hesitation, the cabin beneath us slowly growing smaller, then barely distinguishable from the dark shapes of rocks against the snow.
Cameron and I had taken different paths up the mountain and then reconnected much higher up. I turned around to survey the progress we had made. What had only existed as a shadow of a thought suddenly left me frozen in place. I didn’t voice my concern, but I could feel my brother’s eyes on me and could tell he knew my thoughts. We couldn’t possibly go down the way we had come. It was all sharp rocks and huge vertical walls, loose holds covered with snow and gravel. Above us was more of the same. We decided to climb higher to a ridge where we could make our way down more easily.
Hours crawled by, a sinking feeling in my stomach telling me there was no easy way down. This was folly. We were clinging to ledges, dangling hundreds of feet above oblivion. One false step meant death. An idyllic morning had given way to a cliffside nightmare. Eventually, we reached a stretch of rock where we could sit and rest safely. This was the rock that would decide our fate, and Cameron checked ahead to see if we could pass it. He returned, sat beside me, and didn’t speak a word. I heard in that silence what I least desired to hear.
It seemed like ages had passed since it ceased to be about adventure. We had climbed a mountain without ropes or gear and little experience and we were paying the price. Cameron mustered his will and strength, while inside me a shameful sense of fear was taking hold. Tears clouded the world around me, babble escaped my mouth, and I lost all will to continue. My life was in Cameron’s hands now, for almost more than I feared death, I feared the responsibility of securing my own survival.
We now were down-climbing, which requires more skill than climbing up, and we were faced with the task of retracing our path all the way back down. Cameron went ahead, and if he felt the same fear as me, he kept it tucked inside. He dictated every movement my body made, keeping me drawn to this world by stern commands. I had resigned long ago, and undoubtedly would have perished had it not been for Cameron’s refusal to quit.
By the mercy of God, and a miracle of nature, we made it to safety, spending the rest of the day in silence. Death’s threshold somehow had been sidestepped. Never before had my will to survive been tested as it was that day. I was saved by my older brother and his greater courage. That day changed me, and it changed the way I saw Cameron. He walked in a different light than me.
We never really talked about it again. Words couldn’t recreate the moment, the danger, the fear, the salvation. One day, much later, we agreed our ashes should be spread there, on Cerro Catedral – Cathedral Mountain.
The remaining months of that trip went by with only minor hitches. Almost three and a half years have passed since our return home. Now the one year anniversary of Cameron’s death has passed, and I spend every day thinking of my looming journey south.
I have to return to the wilds of Latin America, bearing Cameron’s ashes in hand, to revisit the places where we lived in the moment to the fullest, to retrace the steps he took in my absence, and discover new places with his spirit as my guide.
Cerro Catedral has become the cathedral of my mind, the place where all my thoughts go, memories of both ecstasy and deep fear bubbling back to the surface. I’ve decided to return, this time alone. I’ll be carrying Cameron’s ashes with me, his spirit as my guide. I will leave some of those ashes right where we both experienced the near-fatal majesty of the mountain, the time and place where Cameron gave me the gift of life.
*Featured/top image: Cameron Redus looks out over a lake near Cerro Catedral. This was Cameron’s favorite picture that his brother, Everett, took of him. “When I write a travel book, I want this on the cover,” Everett remembers Cameron saying.