Leaving Dickson, we set off for Campamento Perros. This day was one of the most beautiful! One of those days where you can’t stop taking pictures and can’t help but be grateful to be alive, to be breathing and seeing this scenery. I was starting to feel better but nowhere near 100 percent yet. We took our time and took in all the beauty of Patagonia. The mountains spread as far as we could see. This part of the hike was forested, dense, and thick with some pretty decent accents — the first coming right out of Dickson Camp. There are fantastic views of the backside of the Towers and extraordinary views of the Valle de Los Perros during this section.
We stopped to eat alongside a river. One of the things any backpacker has to consider is water. It’s crucial and, in my opinion, one of the most important things to consider.It’s a vital life saving force. In most of my hiking experience….(ok other than when I was a hose-drinking wild kid and didn’t know better) I’ve filtered water. I have a great filtering system that condenses down into a small pouch. I’ve heard the horror stories of people not filtering and falling so sick that they’ve had to stop their hike. Heading into this trip, ALL of my research showed NO FILTERS were needed along this hike. I was skeptical. The last thing you want is to be sick… from bad water. The flu I can conquer, but hiking with a stomach illness, sleeping in a tent, with little to no showers did not sound great to me. I packed the filter, but ultimately after talking to people and guides in Chile before leaving, left it along with our “travel clothes” in the hostel in Puerto Natales. That’s trust in humanity!
“Patagonia water is the best water you could ever possibly drink,” we heard over and over. “It’s straight from glaciers and the purest, finest, cleanest water ever!”
I’ll tell you, though, the first time I had to take the lid off of my bottle and dunk it into a water source and drink, I was on my knees praying that everything I had read and had been told was the gospel. And it was! That’s faith!
G and I still talk about the water there and wish so terribly we could find a way of getting it here. It’s hands down the best water on our planet!
We got into camp a little early, set up our space, and backtracked along the trail to Los Perros Lake and glacier. We marveled at the icebergs floating in the turquoise water of the lake. We took a ton of photos and sat taking in God’s creation. We breathed in the Holy wind.
G and I, even though we spend a lot of time together, never lack in conversation. He and I can sit into the wee hours of a morning, from the night before, talking. We can go to dinner together, sitting across a table from one another, like no one else is in the restaurant and have a 3 hour dinner just chatting away. BUT we also crave our alone time. Our independence. It has always been an important and essential part of our relationship, and we always consider and honor one another’s space.
On this day…after the funny pictures and skipping rocks into the water, trying to reach out and touch some icebergs we both found ourselves wandering to the opposite sides of the lake. Taking our time, individually to pray, meditate and just be alone. We have been coexisting in a 2-pound backpacking tent with a space of 88 x 42 inches for the past 7 days….we needed to air out our minds, our hearts….our pits. HA! We needed to get quiet, to listen, to take in what was being given to us. What nuggets were we going to glean from this adventure?
As we were getting up to leave, we heard the strangest sound… we stopped, looking around, and right across the water, a HUGE section of the glacier was cracking off. It plunged right into the water! We stood there mouths gaped.
The next morning was an early alarm. We knew we were hiking over John Gardner Pass. The weather on the pass can change in an instant, and we knew our best bet was to get an early start because weather conditions in Torres del Paine are generally better in the mornings.
- We put on our headlamps and started our ascent in the dark. The first section is forested. It is wet, dripping, and had parts with creek-like crossings, and oversized puddles. It is swampy and has mud holes that will swallow you up. The rocks are slippery, and we had a couple of slips, nothing too terrible, but I was happy for my Jackie Chan-like skills when one of my trekking poles slipped off of a boulder and left me falling headfirst towards the deep, dark, black mud. Somehow I was able to hop-scotch my way whilst falling headlong, recklessly. I somehow recovered (un)gracefully after bouncing over several logs, roots, and boulders. We stood and laughed for the longest time, remarking how we wished we would’ve “caught that on video” and thinking about what it would’ve looked like had I fallen. I am glad I didn’t find out!
We took our time over this section and eventually came to the boulder field that is the toughest part of the pass. It’s full of small and large boulders that require maneuvering around. Quite a few places were gushing water from melting snow, and we felt like we were climbing through waterfalls. Essentially… we were. We were happy that this day was sunny and hot and that the glacier water was ice cold! There was a steady stream of hikers heading up at the same time, and we would watch as other hikers, looking like ants, would disappear over the saddle to their first view of Glacier Grey.
The final pitch was steep and seemed like we were never going to get over the top… then… there we were!
Isn’t it incredible how after so much effort in a huge climb, there is a reward. Kind of like like, huh?
I often get overcome with emotion when I hike in the mountains. The enormity of it all just takes my breath from my lungs. I feel so small and it really humbles me to be surrounded by such giants. I stood in complete silence and awe.
We were gifted on this day with perfect hiking weather. This pass is riddled with wind, snow, and rain, but today was full sun, blue skies, and NO wind. We talked with several guides who said that type of weather happens about three times a year on that pass. THREE TIMES A YEAR! and here we are atop the pass with the most perfect view of Glacier Grey, in the most perfect weather, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. I could’ve just died right there it was so magnificent. Thank you, God.
Grey Glacier is a glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. It flows southward from the Patagonian Andes Mountains into Grey Lake. The glacier is 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) wide and over 30 meters (98 feet) high. It occupies a total area of 270 km2 (100 sq mi) and a length of 28 km (17 mi) It’s the second-largest contiguous extrapolar icefield. There are truly no words to describe this glacier!
After taking photos and spending time taking in this marvel, we made the massive decent down, relishing the views of the glacier and having fun on the suspension bridges. If you’re afraid of heights… stop here, because these bridges are incredibly long and the valleys that they connect are DEEP! The highest and longest bridge is 80m high (262 feet), and 50m (164 feet) long.
Luckily it wasn’t windy, and I wondered as I crossed how these bridges would be in heavy wind. Thank you, Jesus!! I read over some blogs before our trip that said to be sure and HOLD ON in high winds. Ummm… We stopped at Paso Camp today. We rested, drank, filled our bellies, and chatted with fellow hikers about coming over the pass. We were exhausted, sun, and heat beaten and were happy to be off of our feet this day. One thing to note, there is zero ozone in Patagonia, so if you’re planning a trip, pack FIRST; sunscreen, SECOND; glasses! The sun is no joke!
Paso to Grey Camp was up for our next day. Grey was initially not on our itinerary… but ya know… those pesky eleventh-hour reservations… We were quite happy to get to Grey. We had decided we would sleep inside (a lot of people opt for the tent area) and had a shared room with another couple. Funny enough, it was a couple we had met a few days ago on a windy ascent but hadn’t seen since. It was like a family reunion when we opened the door of our bunk house. This is the first time in our history of travel that we’ve “bunked” like this. We were a little hesitant about this sleeping arrangement with total strangers! Turns out after hiking all. the. days. adding in a nice HOT shower and a legitimate meal in the restaurant… no one cared. We were so tired, after some small talk about our future adventures, we each collapsed onto our beds and slept straight through until the morning.
Grey Camp was in a gorgeous area against a sheer rock face. We sat out on the deck in Adirondack chairs, watching the sunrise the next morning.
From Grey, you can hike to the Glacier Mirador. After the Mirador, we headed off to our next camp, Paine Grande. This is the part of the trail where you meet up with the W hikers. This also begins two-way traffic on the trail, as there are a lot of day hikers and hikers heading in and out for an overnight or two. The trail gets busier after this section. G and I always call them “the shiny people” because frequently we have been out backpacking for DAYS and sometimes WEEKS and to day-hikers, I’m sure we look and ..ahem… smell like hobos. They pass us in their clean khakis and white t-shirts, smelling heavily of that morning’s shower. They have applied deodorant, fresh-hair in perky ponytails… and I think… I used to look pretty like that!
Paine Grande is a bustling place with O-hikers, W-hikers, and day-trippers. It sits stunningly on a lake with towering mountains to its side. We had already booked a room (alone) for this night’s stay. We checked in, showered, bought meal tickets FOR REAL FOOD in the morning, and set out to explore.
First stop; the fantastic bar on the top level. With its panoramic view, great music, and ice-cold beer, how could we pass that up? It was here that we talked over the trip that we knew would soon be ending. We talked about our ups and downs and the emotions that hit you when you’re on long treks like this. The peaks and valleys, and how real life seems to always follow trail life. We both hit low points. I was upset I had not felt 100 percent dealing with the flu, and I had times I got extremely frustrated with the congestion and nose blowing. Greg’s came after descending from John Gardner Pass, where I am convinced he was suffering some slight sunstroke and dehydration.
Looking back, I am still so glad I took the risk to start this hike.
Always take the risk! I could’ve let the sickness win, the fear of being miserable, the dismay of starting and maybe not finishing the hike, but like every hard thing in life, I pressed on and was so happy for that. I (we) never take our travel for granted. We both know there are people unable to travel as we do. There are couples who, one likes to travel, and one doesn’t, so they both don’t! For some, it’s a financial burden, some constrained by their career, some just simply don’t like to travel and some… are just paralyzed in fear to take that first step into something unknown. I can’t be that person and am thankful to have married a man who feels the same! There is no chance of tomorrow, and there is no chance that we will allow this precious life to pass by us.
We sat in this bar for a couple of hours and talked about the stories we will have for our future generations. Our grandkids… when looking at the globe someday, can hear stories of us climbing mountains and hiking all the miles, getting flooded in monsoons, eating God-knows-what from street vendors all over Asia. Standing in the Sea of Galilee in Isreal, getting stuck in the middle of the jungle, alone, on a motorcycle in Panama, having lightning strike so close that we felt our hair stand on end on a backpacking trip. Walking across a border crossing into Nicaragua, paragliding and sky diving, climbing down into war tunnels in Vietnam, surfing with giant sea turtles and stingrays all around us, nearly falling to my death in the Colorado Rockies… the list goes on…..
I know all grandparents have beautiful stories to tell their grandkids… and we can’t wait to share ours if someday God blesses us with littles.
We did a little sink laundry before heading over to the mess tent to cook some dinner. Greg was utterly crippled with eating dehydrated meals, so he opted to shop in the small store and buy… none other than Cup-a-Soup. Because that dehydrated food in styrofoam was far superior to the Packit Gourmet meals that we were currently existing on. Can you hear my sarcasm? I say this laughing because BOY does that food get old, and Cup-a-Noodles is like five-star cuisine when you’ve gotten tired of what you’ve packed.
As the sun set on another incredible night, we saw a Mama fox and her kits running around and playing in the meadow just outside. We moved out to take some video. They YIPPED and wrestled with one another until it was too dark to see.
Didn’t catch the first part of our Patagonia adventure? Start by clicking RIGHT HERE.