Oh, this is what we’re here for. . .

In which we adapt to the travelling way of life and begin exploring Patagonia properly. And by properly, we mean with our hiking boots on.

Part I: Lago Sofia.

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First, we go in search of rock climbing and hear tell of a locals lake. We hitch a series of three rides out of town to Lago Sofia and take off for a single night of backpacking and rock climbing.

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Above Lago Sofia. The rock here is composite and looks like an intentionally designed outdoor climbing wall of cement inlaid with river stones.

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Condors have a wingspan of up to 3 meters and can live up to 70 years. There are several roosting in the cliffs above the lake and they spend all afternoon majestically circling above us.

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Our first summit in South America, a day-hike to the top of the cliffs. Sweeping Patagonian winds not pictured.

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The turtle enjoys a protected cave with a view for the evening.

We spend a day off resting in Puerto Natales eating lamb and doing laundry. Next up:

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Part II: Gray Glacier, Torres del Paine National Park

This park is the reason Patagonia attracts so many hikers from around the world. We’ve planned two trips into the park – this week we entered on the west side for a three-day hike past Gray Glacier. Next week we’ll tackle the famed W Track from the east.

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It’s a very popular park. Exhibit A: The backpacks piled into the bow of the catamaran ferry.

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The view of Paine Grande from the ferry landing. Patagoniaaaa!!

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We sprint past the day-hikers and emerge over Lago Gray. Gray Glacier in the distance behind us.

The weather in Patagonia is variable. The sun is scorching and hot. In the shade, it’s chilly. The wind is incredibly strong and bitterly cold and blows rain clouds in and out at whims. On any given day, we find ourselves cycling through SPF 100, tank tops, jackets, rain gear, and knit beanies multiple times.

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Gray Glacier.

We spot a crack in the closest ice berg and sure enough, a large chunk soon crashed into the water while we lay watching it.

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The glacier itself is fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (Campo de Hielo Sur), which covers a total of about 6,500 square miles across the Andes between Chile and Argentina. It is also rapidly receding.

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The second day, we trek 27 km, alternating between pleasant forest glens, sweeping glacial views, and rocky slopes.

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The mountains above us are stark and striking. The wildflowers are out. The sun hits the distant snow fields and they glow like cool whip waiting to be licked. We’ve hit the weather jackpot and we’re giddy with excitement.

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The day peaks with a crippling slog up 700 meters of elevation in roughly 2 km up to el paso. We glimpse the rocky peaks on the other side before hightailing it back down, punishing our knees to complete a 9.5 hour day.

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Glacier stomping. A gentleman along the trail prepped us for the view from the pass by stating that while he may or may not have cried, he definitely “felt muchos emotions”.

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2 km from camp, we encounter a family we’d crossed about 7 hours earlier. They’d only moved about 8 km – the older lady is seriously struggling. J offers to take her pack: “Pero it’s heavy. . .” her daughter tells us. J shrugs. “Soy fuerte.”

J takes the pack, informs the woman that she’ll leave it at the entrance to the campsite, and takes off down the trail at a trot.

Fuerte J, at el paso:

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img_0720We complete the hike out the third day, throw in an extra waterfall jaunt for good measure, and catch the ferry, then the bus back to Puerto Natales. It’s starting to feel a lot like Patagonia.

Lots of love,

C & J

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