December 27th, 2019 – January 3rd, 2020
This trip to Patagonia was also an extremely efficient way for me to become very well acquainted with the rope group which I spent most of my time hiking with. For the week we spent close to all 24 hours of the day together, cooking, eating, and even sleeping together. Believe me when I say deep conversations are often had when you’re trekking your way through one of the most beautiful and unpolluted locations on the planet. Frustrations also tend to erupt when your knees are throbbing and there are hundreds of gigantic sandflies trying to bite you. But hey, it’s all part of it right?
One of the toughest day hikes we had was through the El Peñon Pass, which turned out to be about 10 hours of hiking to and from the summit. This route showcases the incredible diversity of Patagonia’s terrain and definitely made us thank the weather gods for the sunshine, though even that turned out to be brutal at times. Few of us escaped without a few sunburns, and many of us had matching red noses by the end of the week.
Hiking through this pass was unreal – we started by strolling through a moist and shady forest, but before long were making our way through a much more exposed and stony area. At one point, there we even zig zagged uphill through a plane of snow and traversed several small streams. Another day, we rolled up our hiking pants to cross a rushing river and also finished off a hike by ascending what was essentially a giant pile of rocks that tinkled and chimed when they hit each other. The views were rewarding – it felt like we were on the edge of the world and even witnessed several Andean condors flying above the expanse.
I’ve never tasted sweeter water than the fresh stream water I filled my bottle with deep into a hike. I’ve also never had so much peanut butter, which is gold when you’ve been subsisting mainly off cheese slices that suspiciously have not gone bad and a loaf of bread that has been consistently squashed by the gear in your pack. As fun as it is to take a shovel with you every time you have to poo, then subsequently pooping into the at-least-six-inch hole you have dug, camping for five straight days will inevitably make you miss a real toilet.
But all of these are things you can get used to and even come to love. When everyone else around you stinks, you start to forget that you stink just as bad, if not worse. The constant swarm of flies becomes somewhat bearable and you might even laugh about sleeping on a rock or miss marking your poop spot with a stick. And of course, you’ll definitely miss spilling some of your deepest life secrets to people you think you barely know. But by the end of the trip, you’ll have witnessed some of the most incredible sites on the planet and made some unbreakable friendships.