Chalten part deux

4 Feb

A receptionist of two personalities (I managed to win her favor but she was rather cold to a lot of the others), recommended an 8 hour hike that would produce a unique panorama of Fitz Roy and its surrounding mountains. We decided to take her advice, especially because the weather seemed just right. It would be a steeper climb that day, and for longer. We would also tire quicker as we were still hurting from the previous day.

The trail began its ascent through green hills and though I’ve never been to Ireland, that’s how I would imagine it. The Dutch couple were also on the trail and we saw them often throughout the day. They were practically the only other people we saw. It was a much less frequented trail than the hike to Fitz Roy and we truly felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

One of the highlights was when we were led out of the forest and onto a fertile green valley with the mountains rising sharply beside us. We continued on the path, which was always ascending, and we did our best to find the path markers, which were thinly sparsed.

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The view on top was just as the receptionist had described. It was a panoramic of everything we had seen the day before and more. You could also see the glacier that I would hike on in a few days. We grabbed lunch and after a brief rest, decided to climb the looming hill to our left to truly get to the top.

We were joined by the Dutch for the final ascent and we made it up the mountain with no clear path in sight.

Zigzagging all of the way up, we were more than relieved to be done with the 45 degree angle before us. And man was it worth it. The view was spectacular, levels better than what we had just seen no more than thirty minutes prior. And we were the only ones up there, which made it even better.

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We hung out on the peak for as long as we could. It was already evening and we calculated we needed about three hours to get back into town before nightfall.

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We started on the way back and I practically ran down the mountain with my ipod blasting in my ears, keeping an eye out for the first market. The same descent might have also been the final straw for Danny’s knee and by the time we got back to the hostel, it was clear I would be going it alone in Torres del Paine. He trooped it out and even though he was obviously hurting, he never sounded a complaint.

We never did find the first marker, nor the second or third. And pretty soon we were walking down the hill with a clear feeling that we might be lost.

We had two ideas for directions. I wanted to steer the group right and Danny and the Dutch woman were pretty confident that left was the answer. The Dutch guy, Dolph, tended to side with me I think. We made our way down, walking around evergreen shrubs that were definitely not part of our walk up. Sometimes they would produce a dead end for us and we would have no choice but to cut through.

Eventually I thought I saw our path to the right. But Dolph suggested to keep going down and only go right once we’ve reached the valley. I can’t say I was thrilled with the decision, but I deferred to his opinion as he was much older, and I wasn’t too sure myself.

The terrain then quickly turned from mountainous rock to fertile wet grounds. Our feet sunk (and stunk) with every step and I was glad to be wearing Gore-Tex sneakers. It turns out the fertile valley was home to immense herds of cows which went to the bathroom wherever they pleased!

Dolpf scoured the horizon for markers and nothing came to view. We had been zigzagging some, being pulled in different directions by the group’s different views of where to go, and it was time to make a decision.

I wasn’t positive we would find the path if we went right. But I really did not want to go left! And I was prepared to argue the group if that’s the decision we would reach.

Danny normally has a sense of direction that rivals mine. But I think it dissipates outside of city limits. I asked him why he thought we should go left and his reply was that there was a forest to the left.

“Danny, do you think its possible that there is also a forest to the right, especially since we are in the mountains with a lot of trees?”

I don’t remember how he answered, but the group was still indecisive and finally I just started to walk. At first I walked straight, and then gradually I steered right. We agreed that any decision was better than no decision, especially with daylight under a tight deadline.

We wandered through the cow field for a while. Gradually we began to spread out from each other as we walked. While the others kept a steady diagonal, walking simultaneously downhill and rightward, I hugged close to what I can best describe as a plateau, on which I thought was the true destination of the path.

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There were trees on the horizon, just a few, something of an oasis it seemed. I was feeling stubborn and instead of veering left to cross the trees on the same side as the others, I ventured the other way thinking we would see each other in just a few seconds.

The oasis turned out to be a forest and suddenly we were separated by a dense field of trees. I kept going and stumbled upon a field of geese, which scattered at the unusual presence of a human. When they cleared, I spotted a path!

It wasn’t the right one. It was too unkempt to be the same path travelers use every day. But it was a path nonetheless and I figured it had to lead to somewhere.

Meanwhile, I started yelling for the others and using our voices, we soon joined up again.

The path never actually lead us anywhere. It ended all of a sudden by another field of cows and our motto soon became to just follow the cows. Hiking was as fun as it gets at this point. Far off the trail, we had to make our own way by ducking under branches and cutting down others. But as long as we kept heading downhill, we knew we were at least getting closer to home.

Eventually we came across another cow field (filled with the same cows we kept chasing away, who were really intimidated by us at that point). We wandered across and bam, we saw the path we had come from.

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It was nearly three hours since we had begun our descent, but as it turned out, we didn’t actually lose that much time. We had gone mostly parallel to the real trail. Our route just happened to be filled with an abundance of cow poop and thorny branches.

That night we were invited to dinner by the Dutch couple, which as it turned out, would mean they would pay for dinner. We uncorked a bottle of champagne, and then followed with the bottles of wine. It was a really fun dinner. Go Holland.

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