Well, we survived. We’re
all a bit surprised to say it. We’ve met other people who said that hiking the Patagonia was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done in their lives. Before we did it, we thought “yeah, right…” but after finishing a 9-day hike of the entire national park, we have to say the same thing.
Being the over-achievers that we are, we didn’t even need to talk about how long we’d go. We both immediately decided that we wanted to do the entire circuit through Torres del Paine, including the Q. This meant 9 days of hiking and carrying everything we would need to survive in the wilderness. Luckily, we found 4 other chumps who also wanted to accomplish this feat. Together, the 6 of us were an unstoppable team!
The lineup included two sets of sisters, one married couple, and a boyfriend = 6 new close friends!
Alli: aka Crohnsie
Elizabeth: aka Snaggle-tooth, aka Cancer
Evan: Scabby, Forkless, Sap
Liz/Beth S (Alli’s sissy): Scout, Ranger
Claire (Elizabeth’s sissy): Sunhat
Kyle (Claire’s husband): Cyclops, Dankles
Our food and rations for 9 days included the following:
-Oatmeal for 6 people for 8 days
-Tea/instant coffee (84 packets, enough for 2 cups each a day…we’re in South America folks, tea is always a necessity!)
-6 bananas (fruit for first day)
-18 Apples (one a day for 3 days)
-Dried fruit (mango and/ or raisins)
– Salami sticks (2/person)
– Cheese (for first couple days)
– Peanut butter
– 70 tortillas
– 100 Granola bars
– Candy (snickers, Reese’s, butterfinger)
– 1 pack Beef jerky each
– Trail mix
– glacier Dogs (boiled hot dogs, but in glacier water!)
– White rice and powdered soup to pour over (2 nights of this)
– Unexpected onion gifted by a group of Israelis
– Pasta with powdered cream of mushroom soup
– pasta with tomato sauce
– pasta with pesto sauce
– ready made paella packs
– Brown sugar (for oatmeal and tea)
-NO PLANNING/PURIFYING NECESSARY!
– Able to be drank from any stream, river, or lake that you find… Wherever you find it (which is everywhere) you can drink it!
All of this, plus a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, 3 tents (2 people/tent), a cooking stove, pot, bowls/utensils, one change of clothes, and a few layers (in anticipation for the ever-changing Patagonian elements), we’re stuffed into our packs. Our first day we each carried 45lb packs.
We walked an average of 10 miles per day with said packs, straight up and straight down the sides of mountains, scrambling up and down massive rocks, over rivers and streams, and through fields. One thing we learned about the terrain in Patagonia, is that it constantly changes; and if you’re almost bored with one incredibly beautiful view, in the next 5 minutes you’ll reach an entirely different and spectacular view. Each night we arrived at our campsite absolutely starving from all the hard work. However, each night we had to heat up glacier cold water to cook with, which took a good while. By the time the food was ready, we were ready to eat a horse. Each night, our food was gone within 3 minutes of it being served, and somehow each of us was still STARVING after eating all the food we had. We had a determined group, and in the end we were able to successfully ration for 9 days!
It was actually an incredible experience to share such a deep and, at moments, maddening hunger. It made us realize what a blessing it is to eat. None of us will ever have to live with hunger, but so many in the world do. Evan calculated at one point we were probably burning around 7,000 calories daily, and each of us only eating around 2,500 calories.
Here’s a few of the day-to-day highlights, lowlights, and hilarious happenings:
– We bus into the park, anticipation of what was to come for the next nine days in the wilderness keeping us at the edge our seats.
-We hike the “Q,” which brings us to our first campsite. Claire, the expert “mapologist” and studier of the trail map since the beginning, alerted us all that by her calculations, this would be our longest hiking day of the nine days…. We mistakenly believed her…
-We befriend Nicolas and Tomas, Argentinean brothers, on the trail. They’re equipped with two large backpacks each (and a ukulele) but somehow forgot water bottles.
-Elizabeth nearly ends our trek nine days early at our first snack break and nearly loses yet another finger…
– First dinner: boiled hotdogs in glacier water= GLACIER DAWGS. We wrapped them in tortillas and brought no condiments, but 3.5 hotdogs each later, we realized how delicious anything can be when you’re hungry.
Overall group hunger feelings: Hungry.
-Morning hike to our next campsite, lunch, set up camp, and continued with an afternoon hike up a valley with a beautiful glacier and mountains surrounding us.
-Beth/Liz Slam “scouts” out the campsite, aka makes it there in half the time it takes the rest of the group in order to find us a free spot!
– This was one of our favorite campsites! Our three cute tents in a row RIGHT next to a glacial river. Incredible!
-Kyle gets a riverside haircut by beautician Claire, because why not get a haircut in Patagonia?
– Elizabeth’s hiking boots begin to turn against her…. Her switch to Chaco’s sandals fails her when the afternoon hike turns into scrambling over rocks and near pinky toe amputation.
-Alli realizes while chatting with an Austrian couple how well informed the rest of the world is about world (and primarily US) news and events.
-Dinner is spent with our British, Australian and Argentinean friends.
-Overall group hunger feelings: Starving.
-Claire recalculates and realizes THIS is our longest hiking day. I don’t want to say we had our doubts about if we’d make this day alive, but we had our doubts…
-Elizabeth fails to appropriately ration her salami, and realizes her first of two sticks is almost completely gone….. Will she learn in time?
-Claire alerts us that the afternoon hike appears to be easy and flat for the entire way. After three hours of all uphill climb, we continued to anticipate a really nice and easy downhill at each turn…. Although unfortunately, it never came….
– This day would soon be known as Doom’s Day, Death Day, etc….
– We call upon our Israeli allies (and new friends) to help us in desperate times. We actually did not have a reservation for an already full campsite that night. In fear of the guards turning us away and forcing us back down the mountain to another campsite, we all worked together to (successfully) devise and execute a plan.
-Overall group hunger feelings: Too tired to realize how RAVENOUS we truly are.
– We wake up at 330 am for the sunrise hike to “Las Torres.” Definitely a highlight of the trip.
-Evan surprises the group with Snickers bars for each of us. Literally the best gift any of us have ever received.
– After our salami and tortilla lunch, Evan creates “Peanut Butter Water.” It’s made by swishing water in an empty peanut butter jar to extract every single particle and calorie that the peanut butter could give. We pass it around for all to share.
-Beth challenges the group to a rock throwing contest during one of our breaks. It turns into a half hour target challenge and ends with Kyle as the victor.
-Our FIRST showers of the trek!
– Beth and Alli introduce the group to an old family car game, Stink Pink. Hours later, it becomes our official trail game of the trek.
-We experience the first true Patagonian winds (that we’d heard so much about).
– We believe that we are being assessed by park rangers as to our ability to complete the rest of the circuit (rumor had it that they had turned a few people back). We all put our game faces on, added a little more pep in our step, and completed our morning hike in record time to prove our worthiness. (Turns out, this was completely unnecessary).
-In the afternoon, we catch ourselves talking about the Donner party for an extensive amount of time….
– We reach our FAVORITE campsite, complete with 360 degree views of the mountains and water surrounding us.
-Glacial lake jump/bath. SO COLD!
-Trail surgery is performed. (Claire removes Elizabeth’s mouth stitches from a tooth implant placed 7 days prior…. Expertly done, Claire!)
– Kyle and Evan notice a soapy taste to our rice and onion soup dinner….”It’s almost as if the rice was next to an open bottle of shampoo or something….”
– Someone then finds Elizabeth’s tooth stitches in the rice soup…
-Overall group feelings: Satiated, yet slightly revolted by the mysteriously soapy, hard, stitchy rice soup.
-This day’s hike took us through the beautiful Patagonian forest!
– We set up camp early enough to take a siesta! (Something we needed to do since the next day we were to summit THE JOHN GARDNER PASS!) We had heard so many stories of this beast.
-We had our best meal yet accompanied by our new American friends and a Venezuelan man on speed.
-Overall group hunger feelings: Improved by GATO boxed wine
-The SUMMIT of the pass! We all made it alive! This was definitely another highlight of the trip. We had all come such a long way together and completed the toughest parts of the trail. The view from the summit gave us a bird’s eye view of Glacier Grey, the most massive glacier we have ever seen.
– We enjoy a “glacier-side” lunch and Kindle reading party. This might be the best backdrop we’ll ever have while lounging and reading a book.
– We round a corner and run into the Argentinean brothers! We are THRILLED to see that they are still alive, still carrying their ukulele, AND found water bottles!
– We BOOK it to our final campsite because we heard rumors of HOT showers (the other campsites, if they had showers at all, were literally glacier cold). The rumors turned out to be just that– rumors.
– We celebrate our final night of camping with a little more ‘GATOOOO’ wine (five boxes worth) and a five hour post-up session in the warm Refugio until multiple people ask us to leave (we felt a little entitled to our table since it was our 8th and last night in the park).
-Beth fesses up to the group: she was the SOAPY RICE CULPRIT. We are all appreciative of her honesty, but still hold it against her.
– We experience TRUE Patagonian weather the entire night….. CRAZY winds and rain are almost too much for Evan and Alli’s tent and they are forced to separate from the group to find dry lands.
-We leave the campsite watching this poor guy trying to dry out his tent…it literally looked like he had dunked it into a swimming pool for a few hours.
– Our final day in the park and arguably the most epic. Severe winds, torrential rains, and bitter cold. After seven days of perfect weather, we welcomed the opportunity to experience some of the worst that Patagonia can throw at you.
– Cold, wet and exhausted, we FINISH the entire circuit and Q!
-As we await the catamaran to take us back to civilization, we all agreed that this was the most brutal cold we have ever felt.
– Three hours later, we arrive back to Puerto Natales. After a hot shower, we inhale the best burger and beer we could have ever asked for.
After nine days of experiencing some of the hardest yet most gratifying times together, our group of six formed a bond that will never be broken. Both of us feel so blessed to have been able to share this part of our trip with a sister (not to mention two hilarious guys to keep us laughing). All that there is left to say is- until next time, Patagonia!