Saturday, January 2, 2010

Torres del Paine - Day Eight

The most crucial day for weather of our trip, was our best day of weather. What more can you say?

Here we have our make shift gaiters. Reports from those that had been over the pass were that the first third of our hike would be nothing but mud. Finally, the mythical mud!

So we wrapped our socks in plastic bags and then duct-taped the bags to our pants and left with Waheed from Oregon. Warriors all.

And they worked! The mud was more fun than foreboding. Truly, it was knee deep at times, but with the weather clear and our spirits high, we tromped and laughed our way through the forest.

Doesn't quite do it justice..

..nor do the rest of these pictures.

We made the Pass with, I suppose, relative ease. By this time our lungs, legs, and bones were powerful, in-tune. The snow added a certain level of difficulty, but our determination to traverse was too great - we could taste the glacier.

And we made it. Again, to another world. The surface of some other planet. Paine Pass leveled off to become a tarmac of fist sized shards - one side the deep muck forest - the other a deceptively massive glacier. We stayed there for a while as the wind took off down the slope and out over the ice field, eating chocolate and being proud.

A glacier, especially of this size, is something one truly must see for oneself. No picture can manage the scope. Even though I trekked nearly half its length and spent an evening watching it - I don't quite think I understand what it was I was seeing. The magnitude.

Energized by the crossing of Paine Pass, we convinced ourselves that we had enough in the tank to soldier on past Campamento Paso to Campamento Guardas. Making it to Guardas would make the last day a simple five hour stroll out of the park - I'm still not sure which would have been best.

The path from the summit to Guardas was a literal obstacle course at times. The trail had been so deteriorated by snow and sludge that we slid down portions of the descent as if we were taking for granted the once-every-four-years snow on Kite Hill in Clemson. It was fun and disconcerting. Climbing up a massive ladder was random and fun, climbing down as gusts of wind toyed with your pack was not. We hopped down the trail until our knees revolted. We were forced to ascend stair after stair. It was haphazard and infuriating, but just like the weather - it was temporal.

We arrived in Guardas a little after midday and with the understanding that this would be our last night in a tent we happily set-up our digs. That evening we talked for some time with the couple from Seattle. They had been kind enough to let us use their stove and they were forthcoming with exciting parallels in interest: Seattle, education, humor, and of course travel and nature...

We exchanged contact info. Bethany knows some principals and other potentially important figures in the Bay Area and might be able to save me some trouble in figuring out who I need to speak to. They also offered their guest bedroom next time we come up to Seattle.

Offers that can be made anywhere, but when you're huddled in a three wall shelter eating mystery soup and dehydrated mac and cheese - you don't feign interest or sincerity. I will keep Jerry's business card and we will write to them if/when we make our next trip to Seattle. So many good people...

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