Our final multi-day trek in Patagonia was the longest, hardest and most rewarding yet.
After taking the bus south from El Chalten, we crossed the border and received our first passport stamp of 2016 (!). We watched as the Argentinian desert faded behind us, along with the ¿y vos?'s and delicious steaks. Puerto Natales, Chile, an old port town that now mostly serves as a hub for tourists, became our home for a few days while we prepared for our final, long hike in Torres del Paine.
Torres del Paine, a large national park located about 1.5 hours outside of Puerto Natales, offers outdoor enthusiasts diverse terrain and many backpacking routes. Anthony and I opted for the longer and more difficult trek, known as the 'O' Circuit, consisting of about 80 miles. We set out to complete it in 8 days.
Over the 8 days, we hiked through blistering heat, extreme winds and merciless rain.We walked through fields and forests; over mountains and across rivers. We lugged our packs and tired bodies through the park, surviving only on ramen and chocolate bars.
Our first day began with sunshine, but quickly turned into a windy downpour - not unusual for Patagonia. As the rain continued throughout the night, our boots refused to dry so we began day two with cold socks and wet feet. Even still, we hiked on, learning the art of simply putting one foot in front of the other.
My feet began to bleed on day 4. We woke up before the sun and I dragged my freezing body out of the tent to eat a cup of oatmeal. We sat in the dark, chugging our instant coffee to warm up. At sunrise, we packed up camp and made our way to the trailhead. It began ascending within the first ten steps.
Over the next two hours we climbed up the John Gardner Pass, summiting around 9 am before beginning the even steeper descent downhill. We hiked all day, skipping over a campsite in order to complete the circuit in 8 days. By the time we reached our camp for the night, we were exhausted and hungry. I had done some serious damage to my feet on the steep descents and for the remainder of our trek I would go through an entire box of bandaids for my cuts and blisters...