Hiking the ‘W’ in Torres del Paine

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I’m definitely going to make an informational post of all the tips and tricks I picked up along the way (which is weird because since when has this blog been anything but useless ramblings?), but as of right now, I need to talk about the trip.

It was… indescribable. I’m going to try my damn best, but like the photos I took, it’s not going to amount to anything even remotely close to the experience. Also, I’m dramatic and emotional, so sue me!

You all know that I’ve been trying my hand at a lot of different trips recently. Snowboarding in CO, surfing in Nicaragua, diving in Belize… so the idea of hiking the ‘W’ in Chile started because I wanted a thru-hike under my belt.

Did I start locally with a few short test treks to make sure I enjoyed hiking this much before flying across the world? Nope! That would be silly. Especially for someone whose longest hike was 12 miles in Big Bend National Park.

To be fair though, when I research trips, I research in stages and in stage one, how I understood it was… no days were over 10 miles long. It was only until the last stage, or 5 days before leaving, that I realized the trek consisted of multiple days over 12 miles… consecutively. Uh oh. Oh well. I’d already booked the trip and it was going to happen no matter what!

The journey to the end of the world took two days via 4 flights and a bus ride. We couldn’t even relax once we arrived in Puerto Natales because we had to run around town gathering supplies and renting equipment, all of which took basically the whole next day.

Nevertheless, on the fourth day away from home, we strapped on our packs Reese Witherspoon style and headed out to greet the trail. First, let me introduce you to the squad. From left to right, Seth, who you’ve all met before. Jessica, who you’ve also met. And her boyfriend, AJ.

 

A photo posted by Michelle W (@mishfishh13) on

The Hike: 5 days, 4 nights

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Day One: Refugio Paine Grande to Glacier Grey (11km)

From Puerto Natales, it’s about a 2-hour bus ride into the national park, with two stops. The first stop is where everyone on the bus filed out to fill out paperwork and pay the park entry fee ($30!). For about half, this is where their trek began; for the other half, we boarded the bus again and headed towards the catamaran to Refugio Paine Grande, where we would start our trek and head from west to east.

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30 minutes in and I was already panting–not a great sign, but maybe I would get used to it. (Notice how I have a back shot… that’s so you can’t see how dying I am) Luckily, after about an hour of hiking, the beauty of the park revealed itself to us and it was easy to forget my burning lungs and thighs.

I will never forget our first sighting of the glacier, accompanied with mandatory gust of glacial wind. I’m standing like a dork that because the pack is heavy and I’m scared a breeze would knock me over.

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As far as first days go, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It wasn’t a walk in the park (well, it was a walk in a national park, get it?), but contained just enough difficulty to make all of us realize the magnitude of what we were taking on.

In this direction, there were killer downhills. And I mean killer. I think we were walking IN a small waterfall/river at some point? Everything was just muddy and wet, which was terrifying because it looked like a long drop and my legs were shaking. At some point, we had to cross this giant, gushing waterfall.

I couldn’t help but think that we were going to have to climb up all of this the next day. Why not just stop here and call it a day? Set up camp by this lovely trail.

But slowly and surely, we made our way down. Once the refugio came into view, I heaved a sigh of relief… and excitement. It was here that we could get a closer look of the glacier.

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For a good half hour, we all sat there in silence, staring into the distance. The wind nipped at our faces, with occasional warm gusts coming through. For many of us, this was the first glacier we had ever seen.

After a while, one by one, we turned away and left the glacier behind. Dinner was calling.

Day Two: Glacier Grey to Campamento Italiano (18.6km)

If there was ever a day that I would say was hard, it would be this day. It was abnormally warm in the park, with temperatures soaring all the way to 30C and clear skies all around. Earlier, I’d put away my camera, figuring we’d see exactly the same views that we’d seen the day before.

Well, that was just wrong of me. With clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight, everything was different; the glacier seemed oddly out of place in such good weather.

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Our original plan was to just return to Refugio Paine Grande from Refugio Grey and stay there for the night, at the same place the catamaran had dropped us off the way before. However, I really wanted to push past to Campamento Italiano because if we didn’t, we were looking at a 20-miler the day after. And it would be really great not to have to do that. 

Knowing that we faced a giant uphill climb for the first portion of the hike, we headed out early, dreading the worst. Surprisingly, we powered through easily and then celebrated with a quick dip in the glacial river. Well, some of us anyways. Stripping down to our underwear (the benefits of wearing quick-dry wicking underwear), we spotted an older German couple doing the same a few feet away. Unlike us, they did NOT stop at underwear.

It was SO COLD. The minute I jumped in, my legs became numb. I was briefly scared that I’d have to be carried to shore–were my legs paddling or not? 

We arrived at Refugio Paine Grande by 1PM, and sat around for two hours in the sun, with half the group wanting to just call it a day and the other half trying their best to rally them to push ahead. One reason why they were hesitant was because we didn’t have reservations for Campamento Italiano, whereas we had reservations to the Paine Grande campsite.

Though this was the first year that the national park operated on a reservation-only basis, we had heard that they were notoriously strict about it.

Hoping for the best, we were able to rally the troops. Our feet ached as we headed towards the next campsite. The sign said that it should only take us 2.5 hours, which was a little over half the hike that we’d already done that day.

This was also the first day that I experienced my first hiker’s high. I was literally bouncing around the trails for an hour, so happy to be at the bottom of the world, hiking in such a beautiful national park.

With highs, however, come the lows, which crept up on me during the last 45 minutes of the hike. All of a sudden, I hit a wall. Had we been hiking for years?! I just wanted to get off my feet and lay in the tent! I didn’t even want dinner or to even interact with anyone, even the people I’d brought along for the ride.

We chose this time to take a break, grab some snacks and drinks, and recuperate. I just laid there on the boardwalk, silent. Had I been alone, this was where I would’ve sat, pitying myself for a long time before finally getting my heavy pack onto my back and trudging on.

But luckily, I had people with me. This solo backpacker has never been so happy to have other people on her trip.

“You know,” Seth said, “I think we might be the worst hikers on this trek.”

I dissolved into indignant laughter. We were not the worst! Sure, we took our time and got passed by almost everyone we saw, but there had to be people worse than us.

“I’m not saying that’s a bad thing! I’m just saying… we’re really slow.

Later, we met a pair of guys that had completed the exact section we had that day… but in half the time. So maybe we were the worst hikers on the trail.

Realizing that everyone was feeling vulnerable and exhausted at this point, we cheered each other on, sorted everything out, and finally gathered the energy to push onto the campsite. An elevation map told us that the last mile was going to be a serious hike upwards, so we steeled ourselves. However, after a few mild uphills, we reached a bridge and spotted tents on the other side. We made it!

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Once we set up camp and refilled our waters, we sat down to have the most giggly dinner. I think we were all a bit delusional at that point… and tipsy with some pisco Seth had stashed in his bag.

Day Three: Campamento Italiano to Refugio Los Cuernos with French Valley Detour (25km)

We were told to wake up at 6AM today to avoid the massive crowds heading into Valle del Frances, or the French Valley. This portion makes up the middle of the ‘W’ and is completely optional; however, you absolutely do not want to miss it. If you head all the way in to the last Mirador (there are 3), it would take you a solid 7 hours roundtrip, following the river almost the entire time.

The only reason why today wasn’t too hard was because we were able to hike only with our daypacks into the French Valley, which I’m grateful for since this was the most technical portion of the hike. There were many sections with rock scrambles that made having hiking poles rough at times.

But guys, this may have been one of my favorite days. It’s the section of the hike where you’re hiking between all these mountains and once we reached an open rock field, it felt like we were in a fishbowl of mountains.

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Countless times during the 5 days, there would be moments where we had to stop and just comprehend what we were seeing. This was one of those moments. It took us about 2.5 hours to reach this rock field, so I proposed that instead of hiking the full 3 hours one way, that we just stay here and enjoy the moment.

And that’s exactly what we did for 30 glorious minutes. I could’ve stayed there forever, but alas, we had another campsite to get to.

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Scarred from the previous day’s hike, we sat in silence after packing up our tents, trying to prepare mentally for what we believed to be a hard hike. The guys we talked to the day before claimed this portion to be technical, with a steady drop in elevation. Although I didn’t feel as tired after the 6 hour day hike, I didn’t know if I had another 3 or 4 hours in me to make it to Refugio Los Cuernos.

But that’s the thing. When you’re on a hike like this, there’s no being unsure. You have to make it.

And it’s not like there weren’t beautiful views to distract us along the way…

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Luckily, the trail to Refugio Los Cuernos was surprisingly easy, with enough time in between (thanks also to the 16-hour daylight) to take a little dip into a glacial lake… for the second time. My aching legs and swollen feet appreciated it. 

I’m never not wearing wicking underwear again. 

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I would even go as far to say that this day was one of the easiest and most enjoyable days of the entire trek. The refugio, on the other hand, was kind of a mess. Although Jess and I both had reservations, Fantastico Sur had misplaced the other reservation and was refusing to let her stay without proof.

What Jess ended up doing was paying for wifi and showing them her email confirmation. Since she’d already paid, they allowed her to set up camp in a random spot without a platform, but she wouldn’t be able to partake in the mandatory dinner, breakfast, or packed lunches. The guys were lucky that they were allowed to stay despite not having reservations.

After I’d finished eating my gourmet dinner (which consisted of chicken breast served on a bed of quinoa and coated with this mustard-lemon sauce), we lounged outside and sipped beers that we purchased from the bar.

It was probably one of my favorite nights, beer in hand, freshly showered, nestled between mountains that towered over the campground, watching the remains of light dissipate behind the horizon after a hard day.

That night, we all had a few too many beers, and laughed the night away. It helped us against the cold while heading back to our tents in the dark. It didn’t help my tiny bladder, however.

Day Four: Refugio Los Cuernos to Campamento Torres (20km)

So far, the estimated hiking times had been way off for us. From Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey, it took about an hour, hour and a half longer. With that in mind, the 4 hour trek to the shortcut worried us. Not to mention our campsite that night was an additional 2.5 hours past that. We estimated a conservative 10 hour hiking day.

The night before, I’d chatted with a few people doing the trek from west to east and they assured me that the trail was quite flat and easy. We’d heard these words before and they’d always turn out to be SO WRONG, so we weren’t too keen on taking their word for granted.

Sure enough, right as we started off on the trail, we immediately climbed about a few hundred feet.

“Just what is anyone’s definition of ‘flat’?!” AJ said frustratedly. “Because it definitely isn’t my definition!” He stabbed the ground angrily with his hiking pole.

“Remember that our gear guy told us this was the most boring part of the hike,” Seth said, “so it’s going to be pretty painful.” Over the course of our time spent in Puerto Natales, our gear guy had been pivotal in all our decisions–food, trek advice, restaurants, bars. You name it. Before discovering his actual name, we’d affectionately dubbed him Gear-y. (Rental Natales, go check him out!) 

But before long, we found ourselves at the fork in the road. We’d arrived at the shortcut.

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“Huh, that took us exactly 4 hours!” AJ said excitedly. “Maybe today won’t suck after all!”

“Well, this is where the uphill starts though,” I said, citing my dinner companions’ words.

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And it was definitely an intense uphill. There were portions where I felt like I’d forgotten what it was like to walk on flat land again.

After one last push uphill, we turned a corner and gasped. It was like the first time I saw Yosemite Valley all over again. In the distance, we could see that we were moving out of the lush green area and towards colder weather.IMG_9271

We arrived at Refugio Chileno, pretended we didn’t even see the refugio, and pushed past just a little to sit down by the river for a little break. We didn’t want to be so close that we’d be tempted to camp here instead of our campsite, yet another hour’s hike away.

IMG_9174I say an hour like it’s nothing, but actually, this part almost killed all of us. It was by far the most difficult in terms of elevation, going from about 400m to 600m within 3 km. That’s about 656feet!

We arrived, talked CONAF into letting AJ stay, and started the task of finding a flat-ish spot where we could pitch the tent. Knowing how fickle weather could be in Patagonia, I was determined to climb all the way up to Mirador Las Torres just in case sunrise didn’t work out tomorrow. At first, no one wanted to join me, but we all agreed that we’d hate ourselves if we got this far and were ultimately unable to see the iconic torres.

About a third of the way up, however, we bumped into hikers coming down. They notified us that a park ranger had just arrived at the top and was about to shoo everyone out due to bad weather and sunset. I was disappointed, but I had faith. So far, the weather for our entire trip had been perfect. It could be perfect, just for one more day, couldn’t it?

Happily, the three of them trotted back to the campsite, excited to get their chow on. This day was coincidentally Thanksgiving, and we’d all packed some sort of freeze-dried dessert to celebrate. Also, we still had yet another unfinished bottle of pisco to take care of.

This night was bittersweet for me. When I’d planned the trip, I imagined that I would’ve been so sick of hiking that I wouldn’t even want to do anything for the rest of the trip. However half-true that was, in this moment, how I wished that we were doing the entire circuit instead of the ‘W’.

Day Five: Mirador Las Torres to Hosteria Las Torres (10km)

At 3:30AM, four alarms went off in the dark. Groaning, I dove deeper into my sleeping bag, but the thought of missing the sun rise on the torres drove me out. This was by far one of the coldest campsite on the entire trek, most likely since we were higher in elevation than the other campsite.

Shivering, I reached for my clothes and put on as many layers as I could, knowing that once I started hiking, I’d shed them easily. We headed out for the 45min (or for us, an hour-long) hike up the steepest part of the trek. No joke, it was about a 45-degree incline the entire way and it seemed to never end.

When I thought we were halfway up, I’d look up and see light from headlamps up yet another 1000 feet up the mountain in the distance, and I’d get discouraged knowing that I still had that far to climb.

To be fair, the 45-min trek had an elevation gain of 400m/1312ft within 1 km. That’s LESS THAN A MILE. If you thought the day before was bad, with 200m in 3km, this was double the elevation gain in 1/3 of the distance!

“Seth… I’m not going to make it,” I panted, leaning heavily on my hiking poles. “Damn it! We’re going to miss sunrise!” I repeated this the whole way up like a mantra. A very sad mantra.

He later told me that I was possibly the most annoying and ridiculous person ever during this part of the hike.

As he left me behind (really, I don’t blame him) and disappeared around a corner, I’d always think that it was the one! That I’d turn that corner and suddenly find myself staring at the torres. But it never came. After stumbling and scrambling for about an hour, I finally turned the last corner… and there it was. Still not pink from the sunrise. We actually had an hour to go before any of the color would splash vibrantly onto its peaks. So, we settled in.

Other than the occasional click from my camera, it was silent. All eyes were turned towards the torres. This was our reward after hiking 4 days straight. This is what we came here to see. Thanks to advice from the information session at the Erratic Rock, we had lugged our sleeping bags up there, which came in handy 20 minutes after we settled in. Suddenly, it was absolutely freezing. Our bodies had cooled down a bit from the hike and it was painfully apparent that we wouldn’t have made it without our sleeping bags.

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You know how sometimes you’re in a moment, but it’s so unbelievable and so distant that you almost can’t appreciate it? That’s how it was for me. I wanted to stay there forever… or at least I could comprehend that I was sitting there, staring at what used to be just an iPhone background.
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But it was getting cold and we still had to return to camp, pack our things one last time, and hike the 4 hours to Hosteria Las Torres. There, we would board a shuttle that transported us back to the buses that would take us back to civilization.

I thought the views on the last day were just going to be mediocre. After all, we’d already seen the iconic torres. However, the national park had one last gem in store for us. As we descended, the views were again, incredible.

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Once I arrived at Hotel Las Torres, my body refused to go any further. Seth and a German guy we met on the trail had already been waiting for about half an hour, beers in hand.

“We made it!” I grabbed his beer and took a hearty gulp.

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Since the shuttle wouldn’t arrive for a few more hours, we lounged a bit and got our tan on. Every time we finished a beer, we’d return to the little mini mart and purchase another, sneaking into the hotel occasionally to get reacquainted with modern bathrooms.

And then it was time to leave.

The only things that prevented me from running back into the wilderness of Torres del Paine forever were my crippled knees. The descent from Mirador Las Torres all the way to Hotel Las Torres took 4 hours, almost all downhill. If it were not for that, I would’ve gladly continued on to do the ‘O’.

“I wish we could stay in the park,” I told Seth on the bus.

“Same,” he replied, “but I’d want to be helicoptered to each campsite… and to all the good views.”

Before long, we all passed out for the entire 2-hour bus ride back to Puerto Natales, arriving at the bus terminal. Besides being way smellier and bone tired, it felt exactly the same as the first day we arrived, before we’d started our trek… but more accomplished.

Final Thoughts

Wow. Just wow.

Physically, it was easier than expected

Second only to the beauty of the park was how I felt when I took that last step. Before, I had no idea whether I was physically capable of thru-hiking.

“What did you think was going to happen??” AJ asked incredulously when I confessed that I was surprised that I made it to Day Three. “Were you just going to sit there and wait to be rescued if you couldn’t do it?”

Honestly, I didn’t expect anything because I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was going to push through no matter what. And I’m lucky enough to be at an age where I can still take on physical challenges without much preparation.

Sure, I’ve hiked 12-milers before… but with a 10-pound daypack on my back. Even then, my shoulder started hurting from the weight of it. Our packs easily weighed 30, if not 35 pounds each at the start. It was the first time I was to use my 75L Osprey bag, it was the first time I was going to be hiking long days consecutively, eating freeze-dried meals, spending so much time walking one trail.

I had no idea how people ate on the trail (snacking vs set meals?) or pooped on the trail (never came up for any of us). Prior to starting the trip, I’d been using the hike as an excuse to eat everything in sight, but still felt guilty for doing so. I shouldn’t have worried because all of us lost at least 5 pounds, if not 10 on the hike. We ate something calorie-dense almost every single hour, but still shed the pounds quickly.

My poor body went from 2,000 steps at most in a day at the office to over 35,000 steps a day. But I didn’t feel hungrier than usual. I ate about the same amount until we realized that waiting until we were hungry wasn’t going to give our bodies enough fuel to finish the hikes. We had to start eating before we were hungry and drinking before we got thirsty.

I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was easier than expected (and harder than all the blogs I read say. Beginner my ass). At worst, I imagined I was going to be dragging myself across that finish line, toenails missing, knees broken, maybe spiritually and emotionally defeated. But I only started feeling aches and pains on the last day, after 4 hours of continuous descent.

Throughout the trek, sure I was just a little bit stiff in the mornings, but by afternoon, any discomfort was gone. Other than muscle fatigue and feeling tired overall, I wasn’t sore, I didn’t develop any blisters, and I didn’t injure anything by being clumsy (most surprisingly).

I made sure that I always had energy left in the tank and I never arrived at a campsite completely drained. I don’t know how much of this you can control, but I did so by not trying to keep up with the others (surprise, surprise, I was the slowest hiker), and sticking to a pace I was comfortable with. After all, it’s just walking, right?

There were a few emotional hurdles to clear…

Emotionally, on the other hand, I was a complete mess. The first two days were so emotional. And I’m never emotional. Ok, I’m emotional and mushy when I write, but when you meet me in real life, I’m hardly what you would call emotional. I’m like the tough love kind of person, you know?

But man, those ups and downs during the first two days. It was like every emotion that I’d avoided feeling came rushing back. I was insanely hyper, insanely happy, insanely AWESOME… until I wasn’t. Then I was insanely insecure, insanely worried, insanely sad. I would love the shit out of the people I was with and the next moment, I would hate the shit out of them (and then feel guilty about it because that’s who I am).

It eventually leveled off on the third day, to my HUGE relief, but it wasn’t something I expected to happen. I mean, you read about it in Wild, but you never think it’s going to happen to YOU on a 5-day hike. That kind of emotional torment only comes in MONTH-LONG hikes, right?

In the end, I believe it was my willpower and mentality that saved me. Much of anything is more mental than physical, and that includes hiking. I never allowed myself to think that quitting was a possibility, to look forward to the end of the day, or to wish that it was over. I was there to hike, and damn it, I was going to enjoy and live every single moment of it, no matter how uncomfortable I was.

Before I embarked on my trip, I discussed my nerves with a friend that had climbed Kilimanjaro without training. And she said what helped her most was to truly believe that she would be hiking for the rest of eternity. I don’t know, but it definitely worked for me. Maybe something to do with putting it in perspective; if you believe you’re going to be hiking for YEARS and your hike ends in 10 hours, it really doesn’t seem too bad!

Weather

We couldn’t have had better luck with the weather on our trip. I read countless accounts where hikers arrived, expecting what you see in the photos, but not being able to see anything the entire trip due to poor trail visibility. I read about the notorious Patagonian winds, capable of flinging a 200-pound man 5 meters. (“Well, there goes Michelle,” AJ quipped upon hearing this.) I read about rain one moment and then sunshine the next.

I arrived having not googled any photos except that of the towers at the end, just so that I wouldn’t have any expectations of what we’d see while hiking.

But mother nature was on our side for once. Other than the first day, which was cloudy, the weather for each day’s hike was absolutely perfect for that day. Days 2-3 and 5 were gorgeous and averaged about 30C/80F each day. We were able to see clearly for miles as Patagonia stretched out before us. During day 4, we’d heard that there was little shelter and little shade all along the trail, which would’ve been dangerous given the temperatures we’d been experiencing.

However, on that day, it was just the right amount of overcast.

And lastly, on the day we were to view sunrise at the towers, we couldn’t have been luckier. I’d heard from some people at breakfast at Refugio Los Cuernos that it isn’t enough to have clear skies when viewing sunrise at the towers. In order to get that perfect pink reflection that you see in famous photos, there has to be just enough cloud to dust the tops of the peaks–but not too much that the towers aren’t visible at all. These circumstances were so particular that I immediately lost all hopes of seeing the sunrise of my dreams. Especially when, just the day before, no one was able to see the towers at all because of the clouds.

But it happened. The day that we clambered up for sunrise at the towers… it was exactly that. There were just enough clouds to get that pink effect without completely obscuring the towers themselves.

I’d begun to think that these winds they talk about were fictional, but the day after we arrived back into Puerto Natales, we finally experienced the famous Patagonian winds. Even in town, I could barely hear my friends over it; fighting for each step. All I could think about was how grateful and lucky we all were to have experienced perfect weather for 5 days in a row.

Squad Goals

And, lastly, the crew. For those that have been reading for a while, you know what to expect. I’m often really mushy about the people I’m with, and this is no exception.

Strangely, the trails made me a little antisocial. For that reason, I’m happy that this was the trip I chose to invite friends on. Usually, when I’m traveling solo, all I want to do is meet new people, make new friends, all of the social activities!

But there’s something about hiking and being outdoors that makes me shut down and not want to interact with anyone. Maybe it’s that a hiking trip is a little cathartic and you need silence for that. Sometimes, I didn’t even want to interact with the group I was with. I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual at some points, so I didn’t worry about it too much.

Out of all the people I could’ve invited on this trip, I’m so happy that it was this group of people. Since knowing them from my tour guide days, I knew that we were all similar enough and knew each other well enough to get along drama-free for days on end. And not only that, but we would have fun even in the most miserable circumstances. And they didn’t let me down in that aspect. Though our jokes deteriorated into poop and fart jokes since we were so tired, I had so so SO much fun with these people.

I absolutely would not have been able to do it without the camaraderie of the group (especially you, Seth, if you’re reading, ugh). They kept me going when I felt weak, made me laugh when I was down, kept me in check when I was temperamental (or at least were polite enough to label it as “sassy”). We took care of each other, made sure that we all were eating and drinking enough, and never left anyone behind.

There is seriously no better feeling than having no obligations, worries, or chores other than to make your way to the next campsite while enjoying each other’s tired, dirty, smelly company in the wilderness. Although the trek itself was phenomenal, some of my favorite memories are not of the scenery, but of the time spent together with people I love. No wonder Frodo’s gang was such a tightknit group of people.

If I could change anything…

If I had to change anything about the way I prepared for the trek, it was to prepare just a little more. I did absolutely no cardio leading up to the trek, and had I not lost weight and gotten relatively fit through weightlifting for 8 months, I most likely would not have been able to make it. (But to be fair, I did think the days would be no more than 10 miles each)

If I had to change anything about what we did on the trek itself, it would be to spend two nights at Refugio Grey and to have hiked halfway to Paso to where the suspension bridges were, making our trek a total of 6 days and 5 nights. Also at Refugio Grey is this glacial kayaking/ice climbing tour outfitter that isn’t too pricey for the experience. I wish we could’ve taken that into account, but because of our reservations–and lack of–we were already pushing it.

Overall, time in general. We had 16 hours of daylight to work with, but our pace–slow as it was–could’ve been even slower by my standards. I would’ve loved to just lounge and enjoy the time walking sloooowly, but I totally understand the need to get to camp and set up. (Listen to me go, 10 hours of hiking a day and it’s still not enough!)

I might’ve also sucked it up and brought my camera out a little more. Hiking for so long each day, you’re distracted enough by all the wonderful views and just soaking up each moment as they come. Having a camera out and strapped around my neck meant that I would’ve had to take extra care in not banging it against a rock while scrambling up tougher sections. I’ve been moving away from photography and videography recently, but sometimes I do miss it, especially when I recall a particular moment that I didn’t document. I think in this case, I wish I had video footage so I could go back to my roots and make a nifty trekking video. Those are always a bunch of fun.

If I could change anything about what I brought on the trek, it would be more movie scores. Music makes such a difference to me that I almost regret this most of all. If only I’d had all of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit soundtracks, I would’ve been the happiest person. I might even go back, if only to complete the ‘O’ while listening to epic instrumental scores.

Unrelated to music, I’d bring more sausages–NOT a euphemism. Like a lot more. Those were THE SHIT and I was so upset when I finished my stash. I wouldn’t have brought as many sweet things, because I just don’t crave sweets as much as I do savory. I don’t know why I thought it would be different on the trails.

I love hiking

I seriously loved everything about this. I loved sections of the hike where there were no dayhikers because it was so remote (is that the word?). I loved being surrounded by, living in, seeing all of the nature.

When we’d been back in town for a few days, I was surprised by how much I missed hiking for hours on end. You’d think it’d be utterly boring, but there’s something comforting in the repetition. I even went as far as to say that I would start running again, maybe even long-distance running. After all, what’s an hour on the treadmill compared to 10 hours of hiking?

This weirded me out since I haven’t even thought about seriously picking up running again since I was in college, guys.

So, in summary (and these adjectives are absolutely understatements):

  • awesome trip
  • amazinggg people
  • made me want to long-distance run again?!
  • marginally fitter than I was when I started
  • MORE HIKING TRIPS.

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  • http://beertimewithwagner.com/ Jordan Beck Wagner

    I’ve been waiting for you to publish this post!!! How amazing and was a great experience xoxoxo

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks Jordan!! It was definitely out of this world :)

  • http://www.crumbsinthebed.com/ Kerri

    Damn, that looks epic. I can’t wait until next year, so Kris and I can do more multi-day cycling (or maybe hiking) trips.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Ooh, I’ve always wanted to do a multi-day cycling trip! That would be so much fun. Do you guys have an idea of where to go yet?

      • http://www.crumbsinthebed.com/ Kerri

        Not yet, I’d like to go back to the Ardennes in the summer. We did a one night camp this summer, so I’d like to go further next year. We also cycled the whole Belgian coast with a camp in the middle, so it could be fun to go up into The Netherlands next time.

        Too much choice! I need to make some decisions!

        • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

          It sounds like you really can’t go wrong with any of those options though!! :) The coastal trip sounded like there were breathtaking views.

  • http://www.melaniefontaine.com/ Melanie Fontaine

    This honestly looks and sounds like such an amazing trip!! I honestly can’t believe how epic the landscape in your pictures looks, I mean how do places like this actually exist?! I don’t think I’ll be making it to South America any time soon at the moment, but from all the places on this continent, Torres del Paine is the one I am most desperate to see and I would definitely love to attempt this hike myself one day! :)

    I’m really looking forward to your tips & tricks post as I have SO MANY questions for you – like: Did you plan this entire trip yourself? Where did you stay? Did you guys just pitch your tent wherever or where there campsites? How about showering? What did you guys eat? Did you bring all your equipment from the US? Did any of you have any thru-hiking experience at all or was it a new experience for everyone? Sorry for the onslaught of questions, but I’m genuinely interested in learning about the logistics of your trip so I can learn what to expect when I finally make it there myself! :)

    Hope you have a great day,
    Melanie

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Oh, Melanie. It was terrific! Honestly, I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing at times. It’s more what you see in movies than ever in real life! YES, eventually, you’ll have to make it down there :)

      Haha, dude no worries. The more questions the better! I remember researching all over the place for what to expect, but it’s really hard to even imagine being there and completely different when you’re experiencing it yourself. So you’re actually helping me plan out my tips & tricks post!! Hopefully I can answer all of them very soon!

  • http://adventitiousviolet.com/ Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

    Wow, great post, you are a boss! I mean first, congrats for doing this hike, it looked emotionally and physically draining. I was tired reading it haha when I started reading it I was like ‘I’d never do this’ and by the end I was almost super inspired like ‘hey I could do this, it seems like an amazing experience’. Would make me experience my ancestral country in a different manner too :) I will definitely save it for inspiration!xx

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks so much Camila (for also reading this longggg post)!! It was definitely draining, but a reset at the same time–which I needed dearly. Haha, I definitely did not expect to inspire anyone, but hearing that makes me feel so happy :) it is an amazing experience and I feel like almost anyone could try it out! xoxo

  • http://www.slightlyastray.com/ Anna | slightly astray

    I LOVED reading your summary and thoughts on this hike, Michelle (and wow, the scenery!). This sounds like the hike of a lifetime and sounds like you discovered so much about yourself on this hike. I cannot imagine walking for 5 days (and yesssss I always wonder where/how people poop on these things!), especially with such a heavy backpack, because I have like no stamina at all. But this makes me wonder if I can do it too someday. :)

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks for slogging through a rambly post, Anna ;) The scenery was nothing I’d ever seen before for sure. I was constantly wowed. Hahaha, we were all so paranoid about the poop part!! But being on such a schedule for all 5 days, it makes you super regular (hopefully not TMI!). You definitely could! I know you walk around so much when traveling that I’m not surprised if you were a better hiker than I am :)

  • http://www.twofeet-oneworld.com/ Jessi @2feet1world

    GodDAMN those views are amazing. What an incredible story. It does sound hard but also so so awesome. Well done for surviving and thriving!

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Thanks Jessi!! Now that I’m back at work, I can’t even believe I did this haha. It seems so long ago!