Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Trekking’

We have now been in India for about a week and a half.  It’s an interesting place to say the least.  At times maddening and overwhelming, at times beautiful and exciting, which are exactly the emotions emitted during my recent trek in the Himalayas.

We arrived in Delhi, the insanely busy and chaotic capital of India before heading north to Rishikesh, the so-called yoga capital of the world.  Megan was excited about staying at an ashram doing yoga all day long, which isn’t really my thing, so I decided to take advantage of our proximity to the Himalayas and go on a trek.

Luckily I found Red Chilli Adventures, which I cannot say enough grea things about.  They are based in Rishikesh, and they were absolutely amazing from my first email contact to them through the trek and until the very end when we arrived back at their office.  Top notch company from top to bottom and start to finish.  I can’t recommend them enough.

So we took off last Sunday and were gone until Friday night.  I decided, for the first time in my life, that I would keep a journal on this adventure since I was by myself (there were two other men in  my group, Mike and Vick, both Americans, who were awesome; we had a fantastic time together) in my own tent and without Megan for the first time in over 10 months.  I wrote in my journal immediately after getting in the tent after each day of hiking to express my thoughts on the day, and I thought it might be cool to copy those thoughts, with plenty of pictures of course, into the next two blog posts.  I will add some “author’s notes” along the way.

Mike, Vick, and me at the beginning of the trek

Mike, Vick, and me at the beginning of the trek

Started off on the trail about noon.  The first hour or so was a really steep ascent, starting from about 2000 meters (about 6500 feet).  Lots of lush green around.  Saw the very top of my first 7000 meter peak.

You can barely see the very top right in the center of the picture.  Don't worry, there will be more to come.

You can barely see the very top right in the center of the picture. Don't worry, there will be more to come.

Very cloudy-great temperature though.  Stopped for tea and eventually entered a forest.  Came upon a small, Hindu temple and a crowd around it.  Women and children sitting off to the side dressed in brightly colored clothing.  They were very curious.  Men were off to the side cooking chapati and rice.  There was a lamb off to the side.  Found out later he was to be sacrificed, cooked, and eaten.

Small Hindu temple in the forest

Small Hindu temple in the forest

Local women and children

Local women and children

Kept walking up and out of the forest  a beautiful meadow, very much like New Zealand.  Had lunch there.  We continued going up and down, then through some shady areas.  Very muddy and slippery with long drop offs to one side.  Rained off and on; not that bad and temperature was find, so it was no big deal.

(Author’s note:  The rain did become a factor as the days went on, and it did become a big deal at times)

Hike-day 1

Hike-day 1

Another company's camp

Another company's camp

Hike-Day 1 (1)

Hike-Day 1 (2)

(Author’s note:   We had some difficulty finding our first camp because we got separated from our cook, porters, and mules.  There was a mule injury that prevented them from overtaking us and beating us to camp.  It got a little scary because it was starting to get dark and they had all the tents, food, and the bulk of our stuff.  We eventually met up and made camp elsewhere, not in the forest as originally planned.  As you will see in the pictures, it worked out to our advantage)

We set up camp somewhere else and the sun was setting and sky clearing to reveal a horizon of snow covered peaks, ribbons of clouds, and lush green grass in the foreground.  Wouldn’t have seen it if we camped in the forest like we were supposed to.

View from our camp-night 1

View from our camp-night 1

Sunset-Day 1 (1)

Sunset-Day 1 (2)

Sunset-Day 1 (3)

Sunset-Day 1 (4)

Sunset-Day 1 (5)

Sunset-Day 1 (6)

Two guys I’m with are great.  Super cool guys both working for the government in the field of geology.  Megan would love chatting with them about all the rocks.  Both are very well traveled and have tons of stories.  Should be a great few days (please Pachamama, no rain, my feet can’t take it).  “Easy” day tomorrow.  Going from 3000 to 3500 meters tomorrow.  Wednesday’s the tough one.  Up to the top of a 5000 meter peak.  Thursday back down.

Miss Meg, wish she was here with me.  Looking forward to the next few days but can’t wait to see her again Friday.

Oh yeah, I’m in the F’N HIMALAYAS right now, and that’s pretty awesome.

Day 2

Nice, leisurely morning.  Good breakfast (author’s note:  The food was AWESOME all week long; they did a fabulous job).  All after a good night’s sleep; kinda loud with dogs barking and mules’ bells ringing, but OK overall.

Started hiking at 9:30.  First part was through a forest, probably about an hour or so.  Temperature was nice; sky was very  foggy though, so we couldn’t see anything.  Once we came out of the forest, we came into a meadow and hiked up for a while until we were on a ridge.  The clouds were moving really quickly and it provided some good photos.  It was very mystical, and the scenery was literally changing by the second.  The sun would  come out and move some of the clouds away, then as quickly as that happened, it would start raining again.

We hiked on the ridge for another hour and a half or so, and it was a beautiful hike.  Lush green everywhere,  big trees, rocky outcrops as  we were nearing the tree line.  I had my ipod on, and it was a very nice, beautiful, peaceful walk.

Hike-Day 2

Hike-Day 2 (1)

Hike-Day 2 (2)

Hike-Day 2 (3)

Hike-Day 2 (4)

Hike-Day 2 (5)

Hike-Day 2 (6)

Hike-Day 2 (7)

Hike-Day 2 (8)

Hike-Day 2 (9)

This dog, whom we named Jackie, joined up with us on day 1 and followed us the entire trek, including to the summit of the mountain and all the way into town the last day.  She was awesome.

This dog, whom we named Jackie, joined up with us on day 1 and followed us the entire trek, including to the summit of the mountain and all the way into town the last day. She was awesome.

Me during hike-day 2

We stopped about ten minutes shy of where we were supposed to be  camping to wait for the mules.  We were in a nice spot, so we decided to eat lunch.  No sooner did we get everything out than it started to rain.  We ate quickly.  Mike, Vick, Bobby (our guide), and I all under Vick’s one umbrella.  Soon after the mules showed up, and we hiked the rest of the way to camp.

It was raining pretty hard as Bobby, the cook, our other guide, and porters quickly set up the “kitchen” and” dining room”.  Then suddenly the sun came out, and it stopped raining.  We scramble to get our three tents up, so we could put our packs in before it started raining again.  We made it just in time.  We have the rest of the afternoon (it’s only 2:30), but the weather is quite unpredictable, so I doubt we’ll do much.   Hopefully it clears up at some point because it’s one of, if not the prettiest place, I’ve ever camped.  If we could get some views of the peaks, it will be amazing.

Dining and kitchen tent at camp

Dining and kitchen tent at camp

Dining tent at camp

Dining tent at camp

View from camp

View from camp

Me in my tent

Me in my tent

Tomorrow’s the tough day.  Hiking up to 5000 meters (16,400 feet).  Easily higher than I have ever been.  I’m praying for good weather, but if not, what can you do?  We are in the Himalayas at the tail end of monsoon season, and we’ve been pretty damn lucky with weather on this trip.

I guess I’ll rest and read as I’m lonely, missing the wife, and there’s really not much else to do in the rain.

(Author’s note:  I’ll continue with the next two days in my next post.  We hope everyone is having a great Labor Day weekend.  We’re currently back in Delhi and leave Monday morning for Agra and the Taj Mahal before heading into th Rajasthan area.  Our time on the trip is really winding down.  For those of you who haven’t heard yet, we officially booked our flight home for October 8.  Back to St. Louis just in time for the arrival of our niece and some playoff baseball.  We are super excited and can’t wait to be back home and see everyone again.)

So until next time…

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

lago-nordenskjold-21

Torres del Paine. Although pronounced Tor-ez del Pie-nay, the fact that the name of the park is strikingly similar to “Tour of Pain” was not lost on me. We’ve already posted a description of the trek by the numbers, but have been sitting on the photos for weeks. (And for anyone who is wondering, the toenail count currently stands at 2 gone, 4 on life support, and two intact. Yes, this five day trek is going to cost me 60% of my toenails. ew.)

I found that when we were preparing for our trip into Torres del Paine, there was a fair amount of information online about the park and lots of different options on ways to hike the park, but not much in the way of personal accounts of how people did it. So that’s what you’re going to see here. It may be a little dry for people who aren’t planning on heading to southern Chile anytime soon. If you’re one of those people, feel free to skip ahead to the pictures. Go on, it’s ok, you won’t hurt my feelings. I’ll even close my eyes. 🙂

As background, there are two main ways that hikers tackle Torres del Paine–the full circuit and the “W” (so named because the trail is shaped like a W). You can also do day hikes, but that option makes it impossible to see the interior portion of the park. We decided on the W because we wanted to make the most of our time in the park, but we know our limits–the circuit is a 7-10 hike. We did the W in five days, but it can be done in 3 or 4 if you are more ambitious than we were.

The main trails of Torres del Paine, with the W highlighted in yellow

The main trails of Torres del Paine, with the W highlighted in yellow

One of the great aspects, but also one of the aspects that increases the difficulty of trekking in Torres del Paine, is that it is completely independent. The previous overnight treks we have done have been with tours (Inca Trail and Colca Canyon), so all the hard work was done for us. With the W, you can do the trek completely on your own. There are, of course, expensive guided tours, but you are free to (and encouraged to) get out in the park and hike on your own.

Once you’ve decided to go it on your own, you need to decide whether you want to camp or stay in the refugios. The refugios are dorm-style accomodations located along the W which also serve food and drinks. They are expensive–like US$40 for a dorm bed (and you still have to provide or rent your own sleeping bag, pillow, etc.). However, they allow you to hike the trail without needing to carry a tent, sleeping bag, food or cooking equipment.

After considering our options, we decided that we wanted to do some camping but didn’t want to have to shlep a tent on a five-day hike. We settled on sleeping in the refugios two nights, renting tents from the refugios two nights and carrying our own sleeping bags, cooking equipment and food. This ended up being a good compromise for us. We booked in advance through Fantastico Sur and Vertice (the refugios are run by two different companies). As an aside–for anyone thinking of hiking it, if you are up to the task of carrying your own tent, I would recommend doing that because that gives you the freedom to camp in any of the free campsites, not just those that are attached to refugios.

Once you make your decision on accomodations, you’re still not done planning–you need to decide in which direction you are going to hike. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but there are benefits to each option. The traditional way is east to west, starting at the main lodge, Refugio Las Torres. You take the bus from Puerto Natales (it leaves at ~7 am, picking you up at your accomodations), then take a minibus up to the lodge from the park entrance. The opposite route is becoming more popular, however, hiking from west to east. On this route, you take the same bus from Puerto Natales, but take it further into the park, all the way to the catamaran launch across Lago Pehoe. Then you load onto the Catamaran and arrive at Campamento Pehoe/Lodge Paine Grande in the early afternoon.

We chose the west to east route with our primary reason being that we wanted to flexibility to stay at the actual Torres del Paine for another night if the views were obscured by clouds. While we ended up being happy with our route, it is important to note our opinion that the towers are by no means the most spectacular part of the park. As such, it’s not really necessary to schedule extra time for them or to plan your hike to culminate with a visit to them. As always, your mileage may vary.

We arrived at Lodge Paine Grande at mid-day on the first day, dropped some of our gear at the luggage storage at the lodge (soo nice not to have to carry all of our food on those first two days), and headed off to Campamento Grey. It was about a half day’s hike with views of lakes, mountains, icebergs and finally, Glacier Grey.

dsc_0009

Patagonian clouds, looking ominous...

This intensely blue iceberg was the size of a schoolbus!

This intensely blue iceberg was the size of a schoolbus!

Glacier Grey

Glacier Grey

Yup, Puma tracks.

Yup, Puma tracks.

Lago Pehoe

Lago Pehoe

Los Cuernos at dusk

Los Cuernos at dusk

The following day we doubled back to Lodge Paine Grande and spent the night in the refugio. This refugio is pretty posh, and although you are in dorm-style bedrooms, it reminded me more of a ski lodge than of the “rustic accomodations” we were warned it would be. We were also pleased to discover that our chosen route allowed us to start out with two relatively easy days and to ease into the trek.

The third day was the longest and, in our opinion, the most spectacular. Regardless of which direction you are heading, the Valle del Frances is a beautiful hike, taking you through forests, along glacial rivers and providing breathtaking views of the Torres del Paine, the Cuernos mountains and the major lakes of that area of the park. Well worth the fourteen hours we spent hiking that day.

Lago Nordenskjold (say that ten times fast!)

Lago Nordenskjold

View from Valle del Frances

View from Valle del Frances

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

Cerro Paine Grande

Cerro Paine Grande

Beach of Lago Nordenskjold

Beach of Lago Nordenskjold

Rio del Frances

Rio del Frances

Torres del Paine and Los Cuernos

Torres del Paine and Los Cuernos

Hikers in Valle del Frances

Hikers in Valle del Frances

More beach

More beach

After sleeping in Refugio Cuernos on night three, we were off to Refugio Chileno, where we camped for our final night. It took us about six hours to get to Chileno, and it was another beautiful hike, along still lakes reflecting the clouds and the surrounding rolling green hills.

Reflecting lake

Reflecting lake

The lakes were perfectly still that day--none of the typical patagonian wind

The small lakes were perfectly still that day--none of the typical patagonian wind

Loved these views

Loved these views

The shadows of the clouds on the foothills were just gorgeous

The shadows of the clouds on the foothills were just gorgeous

The soft morning light took my breath away

The soft morning light took my breath away

More landscapes (sorry, it's so hard to choose!)

More landscapes (sorry, it's so hard to choose!)

From Refugio Chileno, it is about a 1 hour hike to the base camp for the Torres, and then another hour or so on loose rocks up to the Torres (although my rockstar husband did the whole thing in an hour and five minutes).

The famous Torres del Paine

The famous Torres del Paine

More Torres!

More Torres!

Close up of the Torres

Close up of the Torres

The final day was simply a few hours’ walk from Chileno back down to Refugio Las Torres where you catch a minibus back to the entrance of the park where the bus back to Puerto Natales is waiting for you. That last day was not a technically challenging hike in any way, but it was oh-so-painful for me. My feet were so wrecked; I was thrilled to only have a couple of hours walk down to catch the bus.

I nearly wept for joy when the final lodge came in to view.  Instead, I hopped one of those horses in the foreground and galloped off into the sunset.  Perfect ending for a perfect hike :-)

I nearly wept for joy when the final lodge came in to view. Instead, I hopped one of those horses and galloped off into the sunset. Yeah, that's just how I roll.

After completing the trek, we came up with a handful of things that we wish we’d known beforehand or had done differently, so I present to you the Torres del Paine Hindsight is 20/20 Short List

1. As I mentioned, if you can handle hiking with all of your own gear, I would recommend it. If we could have done that, we would have (a) camped at Campamento Italiano (at the entrance to the Valle del Frances) rather than going on to Refugio Cuernos, cutting two or three hours off of our 14 hour day and allowing us to enjoy the lovely Valled del Frances more; and (b) camped at the base camp for the Torres del Paine rather than Refugio Chileno. Our initial plan was to pick up a tent at Chileno and head up to camp at the base camp for the Torres so we could hike up to the Torres pre-dawn to see the sunrise. Since we were stuck camping three hours from the Torres, there was no way we were making it up there by sunrise.

2. Don’t stress about being able to get perfect views of the Torres del Paine. Unlike some other treks, you are not building up to the ultimate view by hiking toward the Torres. They are dramatic and beautiful, but certainly don’t overshadow the rest of the park. The Valle del Frances was much nicer, overall, in my opinion.

3. Keep your food lightweight!!! This is such an obvious tip, but we ended up bringing a boatload of trail mix, intending to eat it thoughout the day, every day, in place of lunch. It weighed a TON and we were so sick of it by the end that I swore I’d never eat another peanut or piece of dried fruit as long as I lived. A corollary of this is to be sure to vary your food. It can be hard to keep your energy up if you can hardly force yourself to eat the food you’ve brought.

4. Finally, and most importantly, for real expert information, check out the websites of the Erratic Rock, a trekker-centric hostel in Puerto Natales, and the Black Sheep, an english-language newspaper on Patagonia. Better yet, stop by the daily (free!) talk at the Erratic Rock to get the scoop directly from experienced guides.

Read Full Post »

Volcan Villarica (view from the start of the trail)

Volcan Villarica (view from the start of the trail)

WOW!!

Out of all the awesome things we have done so far on this trip, this one ranks up there amongst the best.

We only decided to do this about a week and a half ago after talking to and seeing pics from a friend we met in Bariloche. Why we didn’t even know this was possible is beyond me given my affinity for volcanoes. Don’t ask me why, but ever since I learned about Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii back in grade school, I have always wanted to see a volcano (I know, kind of morbid, but you have to admit, volcanoes and magma are pretty freaking cool).

So when we heard about the possibility of climbing to the top of an active volcano in Chile only 10 hours away from where we were, I knew it had to be done. And the best part about this whole climbing a volcano thing was you got to sled back down after arriving at the top. That’s right, sled back down. How could we not do something like this.

So we arrived in Pucon, Chile a few days ago with the sole purpose of hiking Volcan Villarica. Luckily for us Pucon is also a charming little town set on a lake with mountains and volcanoes surrounding it. It’s quite beautiful. Also, because it is surrounded by various volcanoes, it has a volcano warning light system in the town center, which I thought was interesting.

I sure hope it's not red tomorrow

I sure hope it's not red tomorrow

We signed up pretty much immediately when we got into town. Again, the weather gods were with us as we awoke to a beautifully sunny day with bright blue skies. There were some clouds, but that was all right because we were above them, making the scene that much more spectacular.

Above the clouds

Above the clouds

The first hour of the hike was on a sandy gravel, making it a bit difficult. There was nothing but beauty everywhere around us, including this interesting thing (not sure what else to call it) which Megan said looked like belonged on the Lost island (just one of the many reasons I love her; dropping Lost references while hiking up a volcano, seriously, she’s freaking awesome).

4 8 15 16 23 42 (if you don't get it, go buy season one of Lost-BEST SHOW EVER!!)

4 8 15 16 23 42 (if you don't get it, go buy season one of Lost-BEST SHOW EVER!!)

After the first hour, we came to the snow, which was quite interesting considering it was 70 degrees and I was wearing a t-shirt. But it was actually quite a bit easier than we thought it would be, and it was pretty cool being that the sun was booming and it was warm outside.

img_0382

It was about 4.5 hours total to the top. And I have to admit, I was pretty damn proud of us. While it was difficult, it wasn’t too bad, and we were a little nervous at the beginning of the day when we saw that we had four 20-year-old Brazilian boys in our group. But I guess Patagonia trained us well as we were right behind our guide while the Brazilian boys ended up 45 minutes behind us sucking wind the entire time. Every time it did get tough, all we had to do was stop and look around us, and then look at the smoke billowing out of the volcano we were climbing up to.

img_0380

img_0389

Getting closer--smoke billowing out of the crater

Getting closer--smoke billowing out of the crater

img_0387

If you look closely, you can see the Brazilian boys down there somewhere

If you look closely, you can see the Brazilian boys down there somewhere

After leaving the snow briefly, we had one more short climb over lava rock and solidified lava flow (which we regrettably did not get pictures of as there was a logjam behind us making it hard to stop). We soon reached the top, saw into the crater, and admired the spectacular beauty all around us.

View from the top

View from the top

View from the top 1

View from the top 1

View from the top 2

View from the top 2

View from the top 3

View from the top 3

View of another volcano in Pucon area

View of another volcano in Pucon area

Close up of volcano

Close up of volcano

View from the top 4

View from the top 4

Lakes, lakes, and more lakes

Lakes, lakes, and more lakes

Inside the crater (unfortunately, no magma)

Inside the crater (unfortunately, no magma)

"I'm the King of the World"

"I'm the King of the World"

"I'm the Queen of the World"

"I'm the Queen of the World"

Adam and Megan:  Owning volcanoes since 2009

Adam and Megan: Owning volcanoes since 2009

After eating a quick lunch at the top, we had to go back down (even though the views were amazing, the sulfur fumes were a bit much, so not much time was spent up there).

Now I’m not sure who came up with this idea, but whoever did deserves some kind of prize because he or she is a genius. While at the top, we had to pull out our awesome “costume” that would prepare us for our “ride” down.

img_04441

img_0445

We had pants and a jacket, then a “nappy” (European word for diaper) that went over that. This “diaper” was made of fabric and was basically just there to try to protect us from getting wet. We had to walk a little ways down, then came to some luge looking grooves in the snow that we had seen our whole way up. This was our path down the volcano. What took us 4.5 hours to ascend took only 45 minutes to plummet back down to Earth.

Luge anyone?

Luge anyone?

More luge tracks

More luge tracks

We stood in line like kids on snow day hurling ourselves down the “luge tracks” with nothing more than our “uniform” between us and the icy snow. Each “track” was of a different length and steepness. Some were pretty slow, some were super fast. Our brake for the fast ones was our ice pick that we were given at the start of the day. It was an exhilarating ride down to say the least.

After getting most of the way down, we did have another short 30 minute hike to the very bottom, talking with one of our guides, Gabriel, along the way.

While the scenery and experience of climbing a volcano was beyond words (even though I’m going to manage to use 1000 of them to try), the little personal experiences are really making this trip what it is. The short half hour conversation with a local Chilean guide put the cherry on top of this spectacular day (we will have more on different examples of this in a future post because our personal experiences with all the wonderful people we’ve met, had conversations with, and befriended is definitely something that needs to be written about all on its own).

We finally reached the bottom and got one last picture to remember the day by.

Were we really just up there?

Were we really just up there?

And then it was off to our hostel for a much needed shower and some rest (Megan is napping as I write this right now; which I guess is OK; making 20-year-old Brazilian boys your bitch is tough work;)).

We have so much more to write about as we know we have not posted much these last few weeks. There are many reasons for this: business, laziness, travel burnout (which is another future post), a long week of drinking at an Irish-owned hostel in Bariloche, amongst other things.

But we are now reinvigorated, excited, and ready to jump back into the blogosphere and get everyone updated on the things we’ve done and the experiences we’ve had over this last month.

We leave Pucon in a few days and then head north to Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile, where we will meet up with our friends Nate and Sarah whom we wrote about in our El Chalten post a while back. Then we’re off on March 4 to fly up to Bogota for a month in Colombia.

So until next time….

~Adam

Read Full Post »

Our last two days in El Chalten were action packed and tiring. We did two long hikes again, and the first two-thirds of both were the exact same. But after arriving to a campsite and crossing a few streams and a river, there was a choice to make. Go up to near the base of Fitz Roy or over to a glacier and lake.

The first day after Nate and Sarah left was overcast, windy, and misty. We wanted to go to Fitz Roy since that was the main attraction for people coming to El Chalten, and at that point, we weren’t too sure if we were going to be up for a third 8-9 hour hike in a row. The weather wasn’t too bad by Patagonian standards, but we were a bit skeptical about making the trek all the way up to Fitz Roy and end up not being able to see it because it was too cloudy.

The two pics below were taken at the same exact place a day apart, to give you an idea of what cloudy weather does to the views.

Mirador on the way to Fitz Roy

Mirador on the way to Fitz Roy

View from mirador on the way to Fitz Roy (on a sunny day)

View from mirador on the way to Fitz Roy (on a sunny day)

On the overcast day, we hiked for for about 2.5 hours, got to the splitting point in the trail and decided to go to the glacier and lake instead of Fitz, which turned out to be a great choice.

There were all types of streams that we had to navigate, and then a river with several crossings that we had to hike down for a good hour or so, hopping from rock to rock on no discernable trail while trying not to get wet. It was a fun part of the hike and was a welcome change from the dirt and gravel trails we had been hiking on.

The best thing about all the streams everywhere was that all water in and around El Chalten was drinkable without any purifying. All the water was from glacial melt, and it was honestly the best water I’ve ever tasted. Simply great, and because there was water everywhere, it was only necessary to carry a small bottle, so minimal water weight in our pack.

Adam on bridge crossing Rio Blanco

Adam on bridge crossing Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco 2

Rio Blanco 2

After the hike down the river, we had to take a left to go to the lake and glacier. The last hour or so of the hike was very interesting and honestly one of the funnest parts of a hike that either of us had ever experienced. It required climbing over huge boulders with no one set way to go. We knew the direction we had to go, but there was certainly no trail. It was a bit harrowing at times climbing over, on, and around these huge rocks with the glacial melt below us in many cases. One wrong step wouldn’t have resulted in serious injury or anything, but a shoe submerged in icy water would not have made for a comfortable 4 hour hike back into town. The pictures don’t really do it justice, but these were the types of rocks we had to climb over for a good hour to get to our final destination (all in the wind and a light rain, which made these huge boulders nice and slippery for us).

hike-to-cerro-fitz-roy-30

hike-to-cerro-fitz-roy-31

hike-to-cerro-fitz-roy-35

After jumping, climbing, slipping, and hopping our way over all these for a good hour or so, we finally arrived. The glacier and lake were obviously gorgeous, as were the many icebergs (some a deep blue color) floating about aimlessly in the lake. One of the coolest things about it though was the waterfalls everywhere coming down off the glacier. The wind was so fierce that it would literally blow the ends of some of the waterfalls back up, preventing them from ever actually hitting the ground or entering the lake. It was a wild sight to see, a waterfall actually going upwards. So make sure you maximize the pictures below and look closely at some of the waterfalls, particularly the really skinny one toward the left. You see it just end in mid-air. Pretty cool.

L

Lago Piedras Blancas

Lago Piedras Blancas

Lago Piedras Blancas (with icebergs)

Lago Piedras Blancas (with icebergs)

Glaciar Piedras Blancas

Glaciar Piedras Blancas

Close up of Lago Piedras BLancas

Close up of Lago Piedras BLancas

Close up of icebergs

Close up of icebergs

Notice the waterfall to the left

Notice the waterfall to the left

Close up of waterfall

Close up of waterfall

After all that, we had to make our way back, which took a good four more hours.  You would think that we would have rested after the last 2 days, and even though we didn’t want to admit it, we wouldn’t have been crushed had we woken up to rain our last day in Chalten.  But the weather gods apparently wanted us to go outside because we awoke to a warm, sunny day,

Beautiful blue sky and odd, bright white clouds

Beautiful blue sky and odd, bright white clouds

We knew we had to go all the way to Fitz Roy this time.  And as we began our hike with full views of Fitz nearly the entire time, we knew we made a good decision.

Cerro Fitz Roy from a distance

Cerro Fitz Roy from a distance

From the trail

From the trail

View from the trail

View from the trail

The first 2.5 hours were the same as the day before, but instead of heading down the river this time, we headed up.

Straight up.

The trail up

The trail up

It was straight up for about an hour and a half, and although we’ve had longer uphills in hikes we’ve done since we’ve been gone, we have never done anything steeper.  And we were also racing the clouds.  We could see some getting close to the summit, and we were going to be pissed had we come all this way to have the peak obscured once we got up there.

After some pep talks and encouragement, we finally reached the top, with enough time to spare to pull up a rock for lunch and admire the view from the top.

L

Lago de los Tres and Fitz Roy (from as high as you can get unless you are climbing it)

Lago de los Tres and Fitz Roy (from as high as you can get unless you are climbing it)

Close up of Fitz Roy

Close up of Fitz Roy

dsc_0058

dsc_0060

dsc_0066

dsc_0081

dsc_0083

View from the top opposite the lake and Fitz Roy

View from the top opposite the lake and Fitz Roy

After another loooooooooooong walk back to town, we had to get ready to leave the next morning to head to Chile for a 5 day trek in Torres del Paine.  We will have those posts forthcoming, along with some stuff about the last week we’ve spent relaxing in Bariloche (not much to tell because we really didn’t do much, but we’ve had a blast here).

On Sunday, we head to a little hippy town called El Bolson which is a couple hours south of Bariloche.  After spending much of next week there, we are contemplating crossing the Chilean border again and climbing a volcano that we can then sled back down.  We are running out of time here in southern South America.  In a few weeks we head north to Colombia for a month before moving to the other side of the world.

Lots more to come, stay tuned…

~Adam

Read Full Post »

It’s been a few weeks now since we were there, but after Perito Moreno Glacier, we headed north a few hours to a small town (for now) called El Chalten. There are only 200 permanent residents, but during summer it transforms into a trekker’s heaven, and every hostel and hotel is pretty much sold out. Luckily for many trekkers, the beautiful surroundings provide a ton of camping opportunities if you’re brave enough to withstand the constant winds that we’ve written so much about during our time in Patagonia.

We arrived in El Chalten with one thing in mind: get in as good of shape as we can for our “W” trek in Torres del Paine NP the following week. Now as you already know, Torres del Paine did a number on Megan’s poor feet, but part of that was due to our overzealousness in El Chalten. We had 5 nights there, and we hiked every single day, with the first two days consisting of a few short hikes, and the last three days being our crazy long hikes that were referenced a few posts ago.

We arrived in El Chalten about 5pm our first day with the sun booming and nary a cloud in the sky. We were told by the rangers that it had been raining all day (typical of Patagonia in the summer), and it had just cleared up in the last hour or so. They told us that we should take advantage of the great weather, go put our belongings in our rooms, and get out there and hike. And because it stays light out until 10pm, we still had plenty of time.

So we did as we were told (as I’ve always personally done my whole life when it comes to authority–I can’t speak for my wife though 😉 ) and headed out on a short hike to the mirador overlooking the town and mountains of Fitz Roy (the main attraction of trekkers and climbers coming to El Chalten) and Cerro Torre.

The town of El Chalten below Fitz Roy and the Cerro mountains

The town of El Chalten below Fitz Roy and the Cerro mountains

El Chalten and Fitz Roy

El Chalten and Fitz Roy

This wind does wonders for my new hairstyle

This wind does wonders for my new hairstyle

Not only was the hiking and views spectacular (they only got better after that short first day), but another great thing about El Chalten was the people we met. We did another short hike on day 2 (we had to ease into after our month of steak, wine, and dulce de leche in BA). We were lucky enough to be sitting here having lunch with this view:

View from our lunch spot

View from our lunch spot

View from our lunch spot 2

View from our lunch spot 2

While sitting here eating, people kept coming up to admire the wonderful views. Two of these people were Nate and Sarah, from New York. We got to talking and found out that they were traveling around South America for about 6 months. Even though we only talked for about 15 minutes, something just clicked, and Sarah asked us we would like to join them for dinner that night.

Now one thing that we have written about time and time again and talked about incessantly is how much we miss our friends and family back home. So it was awesome to meet a couple that we got along with so well, and we instantly became friends.

We ended up at a nice microbrewery that was coincidentally right next door to the hostel that Megan and I were staying in. Our dinner turned into 3 hours of eating and drinking, and we decided to make hiking plans for the next day. Luckily because of the “light til 10pm thing” it wasn’t necessary to get up early (I think plans would have changed had that been the case).

So we met the next day bright and early (at 11am), had some breakfast, got some sandwiches together for the hike, and were off by about 1pm on our first long expedition in Patagonia (24km in about 8 hours).

After a difficult initial climb, the scenery was stunning as we hiked for about 5 hours to Glaciar Torres and Lago Torres, bullshitting about pretty much everything along the way.

hike-to-lago-torres-2

hike-to-lago-torres-6

adam-and-meg-glaciar-torre-in-distance

Glaciar Torre from a distance

Glaciar Torre from a distance

Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

glaciar-torre-7

Glaciar Torre and Cerro Torre

Glaciar Torre and Cerro Torre

Best Johhny ever?

Best Johhny ever?

After our 5 hours of hiking and chatting and eating and hiking and chatting and eating, we finally arrived to Lago Torre and Glaciar Torre, which we had been seeing the whole time in the distance. Even though we knew we had a long hike back to town, the views when we arrived were definitely worth the long day.

Lago Torre

Lago Torre

Cerro Torre (from in front of Lago Torre)

Cerro Torre (from in front of Lago Torre)

Lago Torre 2

Lago Torre 2

Nate, Sarah, Megan, and Adam in front of Lago Torre

Nate, Sarah, Megan, and Adam in front of Lago Torre

The hike was not a loop, so it was the same hike back as it was to the Glaciar and Lake, but we still took our time and got lots more pictures. Even though (in my opinion) the end results of our hikes the next two days were more spectacular, this was my favorite all around hike in El Chalten. Many factors were at play here, including the weather, the variety of the scenery at every turn, and great new friends that we were with the whole time.

Hike back down

Hike back down

Cerro Torre in the distance obscured by clouds

Cerro Torre in the distance obscured by clouds

Looking back during the hike back from Lago Torres

Looking back during the hike back from Lago Torres

El Chalten in the distance (almost back)

El Chalten in the distance (almost back)

After we got back down, exhausted, tired, and sweaty, we had another great dinner with our new friends (but a lot more tame than the previous night). Unfortunately Nate and Sarah had to leave early the next morning for an epic 36 hour bus trip, but we have been in touch and hope to meet back up with them in Santiago in early March before we fly to Colombia.

A great first few days in El Chalten. And the first of three straight 8+ hour hiking days for our “training” for Torres del Paine. Will be back soon with part 2 of our hiking adventures, plus plenty more pictures.

Until then…

~Adam

Read Full Post »

Our First Views of the Cerro and Fitzroy Mountain Ranges in El Chalten, Argentina

Our First Views of the Cerro and Fitzroy Mountain Ranges in El Chalten, Argentina

Patagonia is wild, windy, unpredictable and absolutely gorgeous. We have been crisscrossing the southern portion of South America for the past couple of weeks and are feeling bruised, sore and like complete rockstars. The highs and lows:

Kilometers/miles hiked over three days in El Chalten: 78 km (~48.5 miles)

Kilometers/miles hiked over five days in Torres Del Paine, Chile, while carrying our packs: 76 km (~47 miles)

Total number of Kilometers/miles hiked between January 22 and February 3: 154 km (~96 miles)

Number of Glaciers visited: 7

Number of toes without blisters on Meg’s feet: 1. Yup, ONE.

Number of Toenails sacrificed to the Torres Del Paine “W” Circuit: Two for sure. A third is holding on for dear life, but I’m not confident it will survive. Adam was trying to talk me into posting pictures of my feet as evidence of how hard we’ve been hiking, but I decided to spare you all the trauma. Nobody wants to see these feet right now.

Despite the war wounds, we absolutely loved visiting Patagonia–it exceeded all of our expectations and gave us a bit of an education. (For instance, we now know what real wind is. You haven’t experienced real wind until you’ve actually been pushed off your feet by a gust. Wild.) More details on our various treks will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite pics from the past couple of weeks.

Cerro Fitzroy

Cerro Fitzroy, El Chalten, Argentina

Cerro Fitzroy and Laguna Los Tres

Cerro Fitzroy and Laguna Los Tres, El Chalten, Argentina

View from Valle Frances, Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

View from Valle Frances, Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Mountains and clouds reflecting in the lake-Torres Del Paine NP, Chile

Mountains and clouds reflecting in the lake-Torres Del Paine NP, Chile

~Meg

Read Full Post »

It hasn’t been very often in my 30 years that I’ve woken up at 4am (even though I’ve still been awake many times from the previous night), but I actually woke up early the final morning. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, just knowing that in a matter of hours we would finally see Machu Picchu, which has been a cornerstone of the trip since we first started planning it over a year and a half ago.

After our final breakfast, we were off a little after 5am. We only walked a few minutes until we came to a gate, which didn’t open until 5:30. After that, Cesar told us that it would be about a two hour, up and down hike to get to the Sun Gate, where we would get our first glimpse of Machu Picchu from above. There were about 30 people or so in front of us at the gate, and when it opened, it became a mad dash.

checkpoint-line-to-enter-the-final-leg-of-the-inca-trail1

After we entered through the gate, we hiked at a fast and furious pace, with me leading the way. I have to say I’ve never been more impressed with my wife, and she knew how excited and eager I was to get there, and she kept up with me every step of the way, even though I was practically running. It would have been a fairly easy hike if we had taken our time, but the pace took a lot out of us. It was up and down, but nothing too severe until we neared the end.

There was an extremely steep staircase that we practically had to climb up, not walk. After that, it was up, up, up, until I saw a sign. It read “Inti Puku”—or Gate of the Sun. I knew we had arrived. A short walk through the gate, and we would see the ancient city of the Incas for the first time. Megan was a few steps behind me, and we were both out of breath. I looked at my watch. It read 6:25. The supposed two hour hike took us 55 minutes.

As we walked through the gate, we both frantically threw our bags down to the ground, looked at each other, and walked through the gate….

view-from-the-sun-gate-4

The above picture is the view that greeted us. Now we have both seen countless pictures, posters, postcards, t-shirts, etc. of Machu Picchu, and Cesar told us that none would compare to the real thing, and boy was he right. It was literally breathtaking. It left me speechless. And those of you who know me know that doesn’t happen very often. It was one of the most magical, mystical, moving, and profound few minutes of my entire life. I couldn’t move for a few minutes. All I could do was stare. Everything we had endured over the last 3+ days was worth it. We had arrived.

There wasn’t a whole lot of talk from all the people sitting at the Sun Gate. Most just sat and stared. When one of the girls in our group entered and saw Machu Picchu for the first time, she wept. She was so happy and moved that it literally brought her to tears. And everyone understood why. I’m really trying to do my best to describe the raw emotion I experienced at this time, but really, you have to experience it yourself to truly understand how powerful it was. I could have stayed there all day long and just looked at the amazing views all around me.

us-overlooking-machu-picchu-from-sun-gate

view-from-the-sun-gate-5

whole-group-overlooking-machu-picchu-from-sun-gate

view-from-the-sun-gate-10

view-from-the-sun-gate-19

After staying up top for a while, it was time to descend to Machu Picchu. It was a 45 minute walk down to the ruins, and as we got closer and closer, the views became better and better.

view-of-machu-picchu-from-above-8

sunrise-over-the-mountains-near-machu-picchu

terraces-and-huayna-picchu

machu-picchu-from-inca-trail-entrance-guard-house-4

machu-picchu-from-inca-trail-entrance-guard-house-1

machu-picchu-from-inca-trail-entrance-guard-house-20

us-in-front-of-machu-picchu

We finally got down the path (it took a while because we wanted to stop, snap a picture, and enjoy the scenery every corner we turned). When we got into the ruins, we checked our bags (thank God), sunscreened up, got our water, and went with Cesar for our guided tour of the ruins.

Instead of taking you through the entire two-hour tour, I’m going to upload a gallery of my 25 favorite pictures from walking around the Machu Picchu grounds and let the pictures tell the story. Besides, they are much better than my descriptions.


After taking the tour and having a few hours to explore the grounds ourselves, it was time to get on the bus to Aguas Calientes. I honestly felt like a kid having to leave the amusement park. I was not happy and thought about throwing a fit. But I composed myself, and Megan and I enjoyed our final 15 minutes at Machu Picchu sitting in a quiet spot taking in the views. After leaving, we went to Aguas Calientes for lunch with all the Peru Treks’ groups. It was a great end to a magical four days.

close-up-final-group-shot

If any of you have ever even thought about doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, I strongly urge you to do it. Don’t make excuses, don’t say maybe in a few years, just get a plan together and do it. Sure, it’s not as relaxing as vacationing on the beach in Florida, but trust me, every ounce of sweat and hard work you put into it is rewarded at the end. These four days are something that I will truly never forget, and that first view when entering the Sun Gate is forever etched in my memory.

Until next time…

~Adam

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »