We Got a Gig!

We’ve gone a little radio silent here lately. And I can’t blame a lack of internet this time, we’ve just been busy working.

As of mid-March, for the first time in the last six months, we actually knew where we were we going to be FOR THE NEXT TWO MONTHS!! I realize that probably doesn’t sound as shocking to you, but for us it’s insane! The first stop has been San Martin, doing volunteer work with a bible school…


and the second stop will be Tumunan Lodge in Chile. We will be working there in exchange for room and board! It’s our first Workaway job. It’s located in the Andes, has fly fishing, horseback riding and it’s own little vineyard. We aren’t sure what all we’ll be doing, but it could be anything from general lodge cleaning, cooking, garden tending, to helping in the vineyard, to helping guide guests on fishing trips. The owner was also excited that we have marketing and graphic design backgrounds, so probably a little of that thrown in too. They have a couple horses on property which they say I can ride in my free time! Oh, and did I mention they do wine tours of the Colchagua Valley? We start on April 15, so more to come. Here’s the website if you want to check it out: http://www.tumunanlodge.com/

Anyway, since mid-March we have been here in San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina. We are volunteering with a Christian ministry here started by a friend of Rick’s, Pablo. Rick met Pablo about ten years ago; Pablo was the translator for a 10 week mission trip Rick went on to La Plata, outside of Buenos Aires.

P1140414 Pablo saw a huge need in this area of Argentina for people to be able to understand and apply the bible to their lives in a transformational way. Traditionally here the only way people hear the bible is through a sermon on Sunday at church. This area, and Patagonia as a whole, is very cut off from the outside world – mostly due to the government. Importing anything is crazy expensive, sending any kind of package here means you have to pay 50% of its value in import fees (we speak from experience on that – long story!), and outside information or goods are not taken kindly to. So there is just not any resource for people to know how to read the bible, or how it can transform their life.

P1140546 So Pablo started a bible school here, and we learned earlier this year that it has been struggling to get attendance and really take off. Pablo asked if we were in Argentina if we would like to come help – sort of a consulting job, see what the situation is, what improvements might help, give some marketing advice and redesign the website and materials. So that’s what we’ve been working on for the last few weeks. Rick has designed an incredible website that will really draw people in and engage them! We were able to share with Pablo a lot of the successes we’ve seen with equipping classes at Watermark.

And as we studied the situation, we came to the conclusion that Pablo needed a new target audience, and we got leadership to agree on that!! (ok, marketing nerdiness – but that’s HUGE!). The leadership has even asked that we rethink all of the courses for the year – all new topics – and I’m taking the lead on that! It’s very exciting. So we have developed a whole new marketing strategy, course content, radio ads, Facebook content and strategy, rebranded everything, including the website, logo, flyers, everything!


Pablo and his family have been incredible and generous, they invited us to share their home while we are here. We have laughed and learned so much getting to spend this time with them… so much so that it deserves it’s own post….


El Chaltén: Day 2 Piedras Blancas

Lago Hija, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina We woke-up to the most vivid rainbow we’ve ever seen just outside our camp. I mean we could see each individual part of ROY G BIV – Hello, elementary school science! And it was a complete arch with a second one right in from of the Fitz Roy Mastiff that was obscured by clouds. It was so bright and so close I really wanted to go find the start of it. We walked a few 100 meters towards it and it always seemed like it was just a few 100 more. So we gave up the hunt for the pot of gold that would have extended our trip substantially. No leprechaun related upgrades for us… yet!

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

One of the many lessons we’ve learned while camping is that oatmeal is an extremely versatile food. You can make it taste like just about anything. My new favorite breakfast recipe is for Orange Danish Rolls… Make oatmeal as usual then add a 1/5 packet of Sprim (Tang) and a little bit of powdered milk. It tastes just like orange Danish rolls; though the texture is a bit different.

Oatmeal, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

After a hearty breakfast it was time for us getting down to business, so we put on our business socks for a little bouldering at Piedras Blancas. Piedras Blancas is a glacier and lake with a huge boulder field between it and the river about an hour down river from Campamento Poincenot. We climbed around on a couple of the boulders and had a lot of fun. After scoring some awesome views of the glacier and the lake we made our way back to Poincenot to pack up camp and move to Campamento de Agostini.

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

With the wind starting to pick up a bit (as the climbers had predicted) we made our way past Lago Madre and Lago Hija past more stunning views of the mastiff. At the southern shore of Lago Hija we found the coolest little beach with tiny flat and rounded smooth pebbles. We took off our packs and sat down on the beach and it as so comfortable in the sunshine and the wind blowing on our faces. We ended up just sitting and talking there for over an hour. Liz said it might be one of her favorite places we had been on the trip. It was an unforgettable hour. I couldn’t get over the rocks.

Lago Hija, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina Lago Hija, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

By the time we made it to Campamento Agostini the wind was in full force and we could see the clouds building. We looked at the sky and made the call…

Yep. We bailed.

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

It was a hard decision, unless you looked at the sky, and if the climbers weather prediction held out, which it looked like it would, it would be nasty tomorrow… and the next day… and the next… for the foreseeable future. With no hopes of beautiful vista views and no desire to spend a soggy night in the tent, we made our way back into town. Again, that’s one of the nice things about El Chaltén, you’re almost always within walking distance of town. We found a campsite in town and made a new friend who settled in for the night with us. (Liz’s note: WTH?! Rick is becoming a cat person!!! I do not approve. Ruger does not approve!!! ….and the cat not only kept us up ALL night, but peed on my shoes the next morning. Not. A. Fan.)

El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

El Chaltén: Day 1 Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

We, surprisingly, had a plan when we arrived in El Chaltén and we were ready to execute. Liz loved the efficiency. We were planning to spend 4 days and 3 nights camping at the foot of the Fitz Roy towers. We knew from our conversations with climbers at Erratic Rock, that had recently come for Chaltén, that our weather window was quickly closing but we thought we could squeeze this little trek in before the weather totally turns to … well… something that would need this shovel.

Poop Shovel - Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

With the sun sheading its first rays of light on the tops of the mountains we made our way to the trailhead at the edge of town under clear blue skies. One of the things that makes El Chaltén “Argentinas Trekking Capital,” is the trails all, basically, starts in town and everything, conceivably, could be done as day hikes. We were climbing up hill in no time; after grabbing a couple of empanadas on the way out-of-town of course. The climbers report promised, “Friday will be perfect.” So far so good.

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

It wasn’t long before I found a place I thought we could turn into a home. Liz insisted the tree wasn’t big enough for the two of us, so we kept moving. Inspired by the towering peaks in front of us we made our way closer and closer to camp.

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, ArgentinaFitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

Shortly we came across a trail sign and we new we were in the right place, Campamento de Agostini. I’m starting to think there may be a reason I feel so at home in Patagonia. Padre Alberto María de Agostini was a missionary and explorer in Patagonia in the early 20th century. There is a bunch of stuff name after him down here and I saw a picture of him in a book at Pingo Salvaje… Now I’m sure of it, we must be related.  Padre Alberto María de Agostini on the left, my dad on the right.

Agostini vs Agostin

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

We made it to Campamento Poincenot around lunchtime, so we set up camp and ate a quick lunch then made our way on to the mirador for the Fitz Roy and Lagos de los Tres in the early afternoon. We had wanted to climb the peak right next to it but found out we had to register with the guardaparque to legally climb it, so, maybe another day. With that plan out the window, we had the rest of the afternoon to play around on the boulders around the mirador and just enjoy the views.

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

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Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

We were graced by a fly over from 3 condors that seemingly came out of nowhere. I barely got a picture of them as they flew right over our heads. They are HUGE up close.

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

Back at camp we still had a while before it was dark so I worked on “Camp Improvements” while Liz cook an amazing dinner. Camp improvements loosely translated to me building little walls and wind blocks with rocks and logs.

We at dinner and watched the clouds form over Fitz Roy from our camp and settled in for the night.

Stay tuned for the next part of our Fitz Roy adventure…

Erratic Rock

Erratic Rock Hostel - Puerto Natales, Chile

This is the first time we’ve been compelled to write an entire blog post specifically about a hostel. No place on our current trip has felt more like a home and been harder to leave than Erratic Rock.

The vast majority of people that stay at Erratic Rock use it as a base camp for their adventures in Torres del Paine National Park spending a night before and a night or two after at the hostel, which will store a bag for you for free while you’re in the park. That was our plan as well, spend 2 nights to get our selves organized for our trek spend a night when we get back and be on our way. The words of a guy we meet in Pokhara at the very beginning of our trip came echoing back into my head, “Don’t get sucked in!” he had been in Pokhara for nearly on 2 months. I could feel the magnetic pull, like a black hole, sitting at the breakfast table in Erratic Rock.

Erratic Rock Hostel - Puerto Natales, Chile

So yeah… we got sucked in. We spent two nights before our trek and then almost two weeks afterwards, as we couldn’t bring our selves to buy a bus ticket out of town. And we’re so glad we stayed as long as we did. We felt like such a part of the family, and we’ve got memories to last a lifetime: Watching Veronica draw mandalas; Bruce yelling, “You two are still here?” pretty much every day then pulling out one of his awesome maps to show us where we should go next; Having a number of people we talked to before their trek come back and tell us how awesome the park was; Liz cooking more meals in the same kitchen than she has since we left Dallas, and getting to cook for a dinner party or two; Celebrating Paul’s birthday at Base Camp with the locals and a Chilean reggae-ska-punk, band that didn’t start playing until 1am and a party that didn’t wind down until well after 6am; Bill regularly offering us jobs between random goodhearted monologues on Politics, Philosophy, Religion, Street Dogs and more; Kit telling us how much he’s becoming like his mother as he make us omelets; just sitting with new friends getting sucked down the YouTube rabbit hole of SNL clips; and having people in El Chaltén know our names from Erratic Rock though we’d never made formal introductions. These are the memories we’ll take with us until we make it back.

So how did we get there? Erratic Rock came highly recommended online but after a little research we found they were going back to their hostel roots for the 2014-2015 season and not taking reservations unless you’d stayed their before. First come, first serve. We figured we’d try their first and if they were full find somewhere else. Luckily we made friends with three other people waiting for the bus to Puerto Natales from El Calafate and one of them, Matt, had a friend who had stayed at Erratic Rock previously and had made a reservation for him, We figured we’d try and ride those coattails in as well. We were in luck as the 5 of us got the last 5 beds for the night.

Erratic Rock Hostel - Puerto Natales, Chile A wood burning stove that had been converted to gas warmed the kitchen and similar stove warmed the living room which also housed the largest collection of VHS tapes in the southern hemisphere (as well as Netflix and Apple TV if you want something produced after 1998). A couple of cats that were or were not allowed inside depending on who you asked sat curled up on a couch and a jovial but straightforward guy from Portland, Oregon, Bill, ran the whole show; which often felt a little like a 3 ring circus with all the different characters playing their parts right on queue.

Erratic Rock Hostel - Puerto Natales, Chile

There’s no hard sell at Erratic Rock, take a look at the room and if you want to stay great, if not no worries. Breakfast is included and is nothing short of wonderful, that is if you like omelets, homemade bread, their proprietary blend of cereal and what feels like a never-ending supply of yogurt. There is hot REAL coffee (or Nescafe if you’re into that) and there is almost always a mate going somewhere in the house at any given moment. Paying for anything that wasn’t included as part of your stay, like keeping one of the homemade recycled tent shopping bags or breakfast when you didn’t actually stay there that night, was handled by a donation the one of their non-profit causes via the tin cans up front.

Erratic Rock Hostel - Puerto Natales, Chile

There is no hiding the slight hippie vibe of the hostel, highlighted by the bins for every type of recycling and compost imaginable and you can borrow some of their homemade shopping bags made from old tents to run to the store. And if you like the bags, which we did, you can buy one, which we did, for a donation to one of their causes, of course. Zip-lock bags are washed, dried, re-used and traded like rations during war. And luckily, there is the occasional incense stick used to dull the smell of stinky hiking boots drying by the stove.

Erratic Rock Hostel - Puerto Natales, Chile

It’s a haven for big wall and rock-climbers of all types, who are happy to share their knowledge of where to camp or what to do when you’re go to insert your next destination. We also learned, climbers are better than most weathermen when it comes to predicting the weather. I guess when you’re hanging on the side of a cliff by a rope it pays to know what the clouds mean and what the wind is doing.

Brad Rocking at Base Camp - Puerto Natales, Chile

Erratic Rock is probably best known for “The 3’o’clock info talk” at Base Camp next door to the hostel. Bill’s brother Paul runs Base Camp and they rent everything you need for a trek into the park as well as serving delicious pizza, beer and wine and hosting the occasional concert. As we’ve mentioned before “The Talk” is awesome and totally worth the time if it’s you’re first time visiting the park.

Rocking at Base Camp - Puerto Natales, Chile

So, if you’re ever in Puerto Natales swing by Erratic Rock, tell Bill we sent you, and make some memories of your own!

Erratic Rock Hostel - Puerto Natales, Chile

Another Bucket List Item: Riding in Patagonia, Gaucho-style

Horseback Riding Pingo Salveje Cabalgata Patagonia Chile

I’ve determined that there is a serious need for a review website for experience horseback riders looking for good places to ride – it is so hard to find! But fortunately we found a great place for riding in Patagonia.


We just got back from a two day riding trip at Pingo Salvaje Estancia and it was amazing. We arrived at the estancia (that’s a ranch) to meet our guide, Cristian, who we quickly recognized from Base Camp just two nights prior. We met him through Kit, another friend from the hostel, and they play in a band together. Cristian has a great voice and plays guitar so well, beautiful original music.

We told the estancia when we booked that we are experienced riders and only wanted to go if it was more than a “nose to tail” ride. They said they could do that…. But when we arrived we realized we were with a group of inexperienced and first time riders. I was really concerned that this ride was going to be a disaster!

Pablo, the head guide, told us that we would be “evaluated” the first day of our ride to see how skilled we were… which is fairly standard practice. But I was ready to get to the real riding.

P1130444We met our horses and things started to look up for us when Pablo said he would give one of us his horse – her name was Maria, but he told us that every calls her Crazy Maria. A few of her quirks include:

  • the wind makes her crazy, she hates it (note that we are in Patagonia, a place known for constant, strong winds)
  • she doesn’t like any other horses and bites and kicks them
  • she goes from walk straight to gallop
  • her gallop is like an exaggerated bunny hop of sorts

I loved her immediately!


And Rick got to ride her mom, Pinta. She was very responsive and Rick really like her. He says she may be his favorite horse he’s ever ridden.

P1130247We started off toward the mountains and rode through some beautiful valleys, passes and up towards the condor lookout and cliffs. We were fortunate to see over a dozen condors – the largest flying bird in the world, with a wingspan of over 10 feet.


We got a beautiful view of Laguna Sofia, where we had ridden through the laguna earlier.

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Then we got to do a little riding lesson for the newbies. Rick says I got my guide on. I just couldn’t help myself, and they actually did really well. We taught them in a circular clearing to canter. Then after, Cristian told Rick and I we could go ahead of the group so we got to have a little race across some of the flat area, of course, Rick “Saco-de-papas” Agostin won – he’s got the speed, I’ve got the style.

P1130312We got to ride for about 6 hours total, and returned to the estancia to set up our camp. We thought we were going to be eating pasta and lentils for dinner, but we hung out chatting with Pablo and the team for a while and were offered a bottle of Carmenere and some left over Cordero Asado, fire roasted lamb.Upgrade! So we heated it over our bbq pit at the campsite and drank wine from the bottle, it was delicious. P1130299We went to bed early, excited for our big day the next day – we had proven ourselves as good riders and Cristian said he had some big ideas for us tomorrow!

We woke up to almost completely clear blue skies, a rarity in Patagonia, it was the best weather day of our trip. Upon arriving at the barn, Cristian told us we were going on an exploratory ride today, a route that he hadn’t been to before. Claudio, one of the gauchos would go with us to show us the way, it would be a long ride. So long in fact that Rick had to switch to a younger horse that could make the ride, so he got Estampa for the day. I got to stick with Crazy Maria.

P1130321Immediately we took off at a strong canter. It was like a dream, completely unreal, we were galloping along the ridge with incredible vistas of the lakes and mountains.

We crossed through a couple of other estancias and arrived at a bluff that overlook a panorama with both mountain ranges and multiple lakes. We stopped to rest the horses and have some yerba mate.

P1130349We all sat around and just chatted and sipped our mate, the moment could have been out of a movie I can’t picture anything more perfect.

P1130345 P1130352

We continued on through an ancient Lenga Tree forest. We had to go around the mountain to get to the entrance to the valley we were going to. We started up toward the valley and got incredible views of the entire Torres del Paine park. We could see the southern most torre, the Valle de Frances and John Gardner Pass.


We continued into the valley and that’s when things got a bit scary. We were cantering through the valley and I looked back to see Rick, and when I turned around all I saw was Cristian’s horse upside down, legs flailing in the air… she just hung there, somehow perfectly balanced stuck on her back… then I realized Cristian was UNDER her!! All I could see was a leg sticking out from under the horse’s side. I had no idea what to do, I just started to ride towards them. Pluma, Cristian’s horse, stayed balanced on top of him for what felt like 5 minutes, but was probably 45-60 seconds. She finally got on her side and was struggling to get up, I watched in slow motion and the hooves landed on either side of Cristian’s head, one hoof kicked him in the stomach, another in the knee. Pluma ran off spooked, but Cristian laid on the ground not moving. I honestly thought he was dead or unconscious. People just don’t get up from that kind of thing.

When I got to him, he was moving… a little. Quite shaken with some bruised ribs and a messed up leg, he was actually able to stand up. It was a miracle. I went to retrieve Pluma, who was also shaken up, but let Maria and I get close enough to grab her. By some miracle Cristian was able to get up and walk around, and insisted he was good enough to continue riding.


We continued on through the valley headed for the puesta (a rustic, very isolated cowboy camp) where we would have lunch, and celebrate Cristian’s amazing survival skills!


It was a good time for a break, we let the horses graze and we feasted on chorizo, homemade bread, queso fresco and yerba mate. This was special mate through… it came from a calf container!


The views continued all of the way back. The afternoon light made the lakes and mountains a completely different color. We got to gallop back across the beautiful landscape.

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We arrived back at the estancia and realized that we had been riding for 10 hours! It had been amazing, some of the best horseback riding we had done.


Thank you Pingo Salavage and Cristian! You are the best!!

Torres del Paine: John Gardner Pass Summit Day!

John Gardner Pass - Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile

When the alarm went off at 6am it was accompanied by rain and lots of it. So we stayed in the tent hoping it would taper off. About 7 am it did and we quickly grabbed our stuff and decided it would be smart to pack our bag in the dry/warm cooking shelter… we weren’t the only ones with that idea. Campamento Perros, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

We quickly ate some breakfast, got our bags packed and discussed our plan to go over the pass with a couple of fellow hikers. One in particular, a search and rescuer from Oregon, warned us not to go, that the weather wasn’t great. A couple of others said they were waiting it out too. But we felt good, and Liz had eaten her “summit day apple”, that she had carried with her for the last 7 days, for breakfast, so we headed out for John Gardner Pass. We were moving really quickly, in the zone to get over the pass, and not ones to spend more time than necessary in the cold and rain. We passed two larger groups of trekkers as we made our way through the woods, and all the other people who had been in front of us. It was now raining quite a bit again. As we reached treeline we were feeling good and we could still see the trail in spite of the rain turning to snow. That was our rule for the pass, “If you can’t see the trail from treeline turn back.” We can see the trail, we’re feeling good and we’re moving quickly, we’ll be on the summit in no time!

John Gardner Pass - Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile

Above treeline the wind really starts to pick up. The snow is now blowing directly into our face. As the snow continues to dump and starts to stick in places, we realize most of the trail markers are spray-painted rocks, not an issue, unless they’re covered in snow. We’re now flowing the few cairns and poles that are spread along the trail. This begins to prove difficult as the wind and snow are making it near impossible to look uphill for more than a couple of seconds at a time and searching for the next trail marker is becoming a real challenge. We’ve lost the pep-in-our step we started the morning with and stopped taking pictures because our hands were freezing cold. We’ve now resorted to Liz hanging back at a trail marker while I go uphill looking for the next one then call for her to come up once I find it. We agree that if we don’t make it to the summit in the next 20 minutes, we have to turn back.

But we knew we were getting close to the top of the pass when the wind started to accumulate the snow in drifts that went up higher than our knees. We fought through the deep snow for the last 50m of the climb, and just as we could see the summit we got a glimpse of blue sky as well.

At the top the wind is the first thing to give away that we’ve arrived. It’s blowing so hard the snow can hardly stick (which resulted in the deep drifts we just climbed). We see a small rod with a Chilean flag and few other things attached to it we now know were at the top of John Gardner Pass and we’re elated!

John Gardner Pass - Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile

We snap a few pictures, smile at the small window of blue sky above us knowing that God spared us from disaster then we see the enormous Glacier Grey with a rainbow over it. Glacier Grey is just a small part of the Southern Ice field but it goes on almost as far as you can see. The ice field that its attached to is the second largest ice field in the entire world, after Antarctica. As you can imagine the wind coming off of this is COOOOOOLD!

Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile John Gardner Pass - Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile

We are momentarily relieved to find that there’s no snow on west side of the pass just a lot of rain… and slippery mud! We skid and slide our way down to tree line then through the woods to Campamento Passo where we take a quick break and continue our decent. Shortly after we caught up with Brad who had taken a late start out of Paso that morning.

Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile

We climb some rickety ladders and a brand new bridge before reaching the end of Glacier Grey where it melts into Lago Grey and occasional calves an iceberg. We make it to Refugio Grey, our goal for the day, with extremely sore bodies, blisters and plenty of daylight to make it down to Refugio Paine Grande. We decided if we stopped moving we wouldn’t be able to start again so we keep moving. As we reached Paine Grande we saw Diego and Jacky who left Paso early that morning. We had a quick celebratory huge with them then saw the boat coming across Lago Pehoé. We could catch the boat and the bus back to Puerto Natales and be at Erratic Rock by dinner! It was a no brainer once we realized that camping at Paine Grande is almost as much as a stay at the hostel and the hostel comes with hot showers and an amazing breakfast.

Torres del Paine: Patagonia Chile

As we boarded the boat, tired, muddy and a little dazed we sat down next to a guy from Mississippi and in exchange the usual, “Where you from? What are you doing?” He asked about our hike. He was on a National Geographic group tour and his guide over heard us say we came down from Perros today. He corrected us and said, “You mean Paso?”

“No, Perros, on the other side of the pass. It was pretty nasty up there this morning knee-deep snow for the last 50m.”

The guide is clearly surprised and then points out our route for the day on map on the wall next to us to our Mississippi friend, “They went from here, all the way around the mountains to here!” Then, turns to us and says “I gotta buy you a beer. You deserve it!”

We savored our “well deserved” beers as the boat made it’s way across the lake then found our bus and a few hours later we walked into Erratic Rock a day early!

We totaled 138K!

Torres del Paine: Serón – Dickson – Perros

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine: Campamento Seron - Patagonia Chile

We woke up early to another beautiful day in the pampas and after packing up, we quickly found ourselves climbing again. There is one big hill before a mostly flat hike to Refugio Dickson.


Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

As we crested the hill we were greeted with views of Lago Paine. And some more wind. At times it was difficult to walk a straight line as the wind gusts would push you around and you never knew how long our how strong the would be. We discovered Liz and I have very different ways of handling the strong winds. Liz crouches low and moves quickly to try and limit her exposure. I on the other hand, spread my arms out like a bird and lean into try to see if I can get it to hold my whole weight.

We fought the wind the rest of the afternoon but it was totally worth the awesome views. We really got treated today to some awesome glacier views and an epic rainbow.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Once we made it to Dickson I thought it was a perfect opportunity to try and patch the hole in my Therm-a-rest sleeping pad. Try being the optimal word here as first I had to find it. After a failed attempt with some soap and water (soap wouldn’t really suds enough to blow bubbles) I resorted to a knee-deep dip in Lago Dickson’s glacier melt to locate the holes. Liz opted to not join me for a swim and instead to take pictures from above.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

With camp set-up it was time for dinner… Mmm lentils. Again.

 We woke up to more blue skies; where is this notorious Patagonia weather? I mean yeah it’s windy as heck but the blue skies are no lie, it’s B-E-A-utiful here! #Foreshadowing

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

From Dickson it’s all up hill to the last camp before John Gardner Pass and it’s 1200m, the highest point on this trek. We made our way through the woods filled with some of the thickest moss we’ve seen and a million shades of green.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

We made the 4.5 hour hike from Dickson to Perros in closer to 3.5 hours which meant we were at camp a little after noon. Awesome we’ll get the afternoon to relax before the big summit day tomorrow and maybe check out the day hike to Glacier Puma. We found Diego and Jacky already at camp. They said they were feeling good and going to make the most of the great weather and go over the pass.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

I went ahead and set-up our tent and as I was coming out of the tent I look up to see what at first glance looked dog not 15 feet from the tent. What’s a dog doing way up here… NO THAT’S A FOX! I scrambled for the camera and got a couple of shots. When I told Liz she said “I was wondering why they called this camp Perros, I guess that explains it!”

Fox Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile We’d heard varying instructions on the pass, some saying it takes between 2 and 6 hours to get to the top depending on weather and it’s ill-advised to start after 7 or 8 am. As we sat in the cooking area debating “go/no go” we saw Brad pass through camp with out even stopping for a break; he was going over the pass as well!

It was now almost 2pm so we decided to enjoy the afternoon, do the day hike and get an early start for the pass in the morning. We went over to the Guardaparque (Ranger) Station to find out where the trail to Glacier Puma is and find out it’s closed. So we ask about the pass and they said we could go if we left right away and we’d be the last ones allowed over for the day…. so much for having to start before 8am. We already had camp set-up and decided to stick with our plan of summiting the pass in the morning.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Jose rolled into camp not much later and we spent the evening in the cooking shelter. We finished the evening with Liz and Jose comparing camp cooking recipes and I modified the door that was troublesome to close.

110 Kilometers!




Torres del Paine: Los Cuernos – Torres – Serón

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

We hung out well into the evening with our new friends Diego and Jacky and talked about where we’d been and where we were going. They are just a few weeks into their “world trip” and like the mountains as much (if not more than us). They’ve got their mountaineering boots and big plans for the taller peaks up north. Hopefully we’ll be joining them down the road.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

After a wonderful and warm nights sleep we awoke to clear blue skies, more views of the lake and a lot less wind. We planed to make it up to the Mirador Base de las Torres, and it’s classic views of torres.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

The trail spends most of its time today on a private estancia (ranch), which also contains the high-fuletin’, Hotel Las Torres. As we make our way up a hill we hear something rumbling on the other side, Liz instinctually, says, “It’s horses and they are running… towards us!” We see a couple of ears quickly appear and then a whole herd at a full gallop right towards us. We parked ourselves next to a big boulder assuming they wouldn’t want to run into it (or us).

That’ll get you’re heart going!

Shortly after, we come to a fork in the path where you continue up to the Campamento Torres or down to Hotel Las Torres. We make our way up towards the campamento and quickly find ourselves in a place know for “Rolling Stones.”

Rolling Stones: Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

We cross a stream and we’re at camp just in time for lunch… mmmm lentils. We quickly set-up camp and decided we’ll make the hour hike up to the mirador as the weather is prime and we’re feeling great. On the way up we passed some friends from Erratic Rock who had gone up early to film sunrise and were on their way down, they said sunrise was a “must see!”

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

The views from the top were nothing short of amazing; Blue sky, turquoise water and granite peaks poking out of the snow and glacier. We attempted our trademark “airplane” but we’re discovering getting a proper photographer to capture the moment is proving more and more difficult; that and my back really doesn’t like laying on rocks.

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We set our alarm for before the crack of dawn with big plans of a glorious sunrise. They say they weather at a camp doesn’t always equal the weather and to try to go up for sunrise even if they weather is crap at camp. The weather was crap at camp. We figured we didn’t need to hurry since we didn’t expect much of a sunrise in the rain so we brewed some coffee in our water bottle made some oatmeal to eat at the top in the dark threw our sleeping bags in my pack and started moving up.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

We quickly made it to the top, it was completely overcast and we felt bad for all our friends that had gotten up and hour earlier than us to sit in the cold and dark dreaming of beautiful sunrise… that beautiful sunrise never happened that morning.  We made the best of it eating our raspberry flavored oatmeal bundled up in our sleeping bags under a rock hiding from the wind and rain. We’ve discovered you can make oatmeal taste like just about anything with the right flavoring. Our raspberry drink powder (think Tang) made it taste like Fruit-loops and looks like something neon designed to convince kindergartners to eat it.

 Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Maybe less drink powder next time.

Well, it’s all down hill (for the most part) to the next camp Serón so we pack-up camp and start down. The weather is misty at best, which generally means we hike faster, I can hear Liz saying to herself, “Get me out of this!” She is bound and determined to be a “fair weather hiker” but the weather is not cooperating with her. After a little discussion, we come to the realization that it’s Valentines Day at the half-way point of our trek, just as the rain starts to pick up, and we see Hotel Las Torres. Maybe they have a restaurant?

Hotel Las Torres: Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

We figured a celebratory meal was in order. As we polished off our gourmet lamb sandwiches and champagne lunch we saw the clouds part and blue sky. My fair weather hiking buddy might just be in luck. We headed out across the estancia and into the pampas.

Hotel Las Torres: Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Hotel Las Torres is the end of the W for most people so the crowd thinned out a bit as we made it to Campamento Serón, which is basically camping in someone’s backyard. We enjoyed dinner with all our friends that were continuing on the Q, Brad, Diego and Jacky, and also made a new friend, Jose from New York. His blog Jose’s Worn Out Boots chronicles his treks round the world. He’s a gear junky at heart, so we instantly bonded over the finer points of camp stoves, wool base layers, and hydrophobic down feathers. Liz meanwhile turned a fuel canister into a make-shift foam roller, and showed our new friends how to work out the soreness in their IT bands.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile

Past the 77km mark!

Torres del Paine: Valle del Francés and Mirador Británico

Torres del Paine, Patagonia Chile


We woke-up, had breakfast, left our most of our stuff at camp and made our way up the 5 hour round trip hike up Valle del Francés to Mirador (look-out) Británico for some epic views. We were feeling great scrambling up the rocks with nothing but a small day pack. My Osprey usually doubles as our day pack because it’s so light. We threw in a couple of granola bars and our down jackets to enjoy the summit in (it gets chilly when you stop moving) and our rain jackets in case it really starts pouring and started up.


About every ten minutes there is an incredible view we took a ton of selfies and even managed to get photobombed by some of new Chilean friends, who had earlier in the morning shared their Chilean “breakfast of champions” with us – Johnny Walker Red and cookies!

It is so cool to be so close to glaciers. Every 20 minutes or so you’d think you heard thunder, but with there being no lightning in Patagonia, not to mention the clear blue skies, it’s not thunder, it’s a huge chunk of glacier breaking off and tumbling down into to the valley. We saw one huge crack towards the top that we swore was getting bigger before our eye and we were sure it was going to fall at any moment, but despite our stares, it never fell, at least not while we were watching.

P1120378  P1120389 Among the many, seeming outrageous, claims Patagonia has made, is the most unbelievable in my book; You Can Drink The Water… from the tap, and right out of the creeks! They say, in the park you don’t need to filter or purify anything, it’s all straight off the glacier and super pure. They say the only place you need to be even a little concerned is at the camps (because not everyone is responsible/respectable). I haven’t googled the validity of that claim but, we didn’t have any issues.


The views from Mirador Británico were amazing! The valley just wraps you up with views of the towers all around.


We hiked back down to camp, packed up our stuff and made the 2.5 hours hike along the windy shores of Lago Nordenskjöld to the most amazing campsite Refugio Los Cuernos.


The Refugio had a wonderful clean and warm kitchen area; Fires are only allowed in very specific, enclosed, areas in the park, and of course, some of them are much better than others. And finally we said goodnight to a glorious sunset.

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Torres del Paine: Erratic Rock – Campamento Italiano

Guanaco, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie

Wild and Surreal

Hiking at the end of the world, here in Patagonia, has been one of the main “pillars” of our trip since the very beginning. It’s one of the main reasons we’ve been moving so quickly up to this point with a small window of not “freezing cold and dark.” So far we are so glad we got here when we did, even in the height of summer down here it can be cold, wet and extremely windy, hot and sunny, hail and sleet followed by snow; and that’s all in the same day… before noon. To say the weather changes quickly is an understatement, it was pretty surreal to be rained on in extreme wind and look up and see nothing but sun and have to search the sky for the cloud that is providing the present shower. And then there are times when there aren’t any clouds and you realize that what you thought was “rain” was just water blowing off the lake. Add to the extreme weather gorgeous towering peaks, condors and llamas, and it gets even better.

We arrived at the Erratic Rock hostel after a few hours on a couple of buses. Erratic Rock partners with the Bar/Pizza/Rental place next door (Base Camp) to make the unofficial base camp of Puerto Natales, Chile’s backpacker/climber/trekker scene. Every day through out the summer at 3:00pm they put on a free, hour and half long, info session on hiking in the park. I must say, it was one of the best “info sessions” we’ve ever heard on hiking, the info provide is extremely helpful, if you’re planning to spend time in the park it’s extremely valuable.

At the info talk we found out about 3 most common routes through the park named after the rough shape the trail makes through the park:

  • The W – Torres del Paine National Parks bread and butter. It’s it’s a 3-4 night hike to the most popular views with the option to stay in refuigos (little, expensive, bunkbed-style lodges) or camp and enjoy a boat ride from the bus stop to the start of the trail at the beginning and end.
  • The O – Follows, more or less, the same route as the W with the addition going over John Gardner Pass and around the backside of the towers and a more extensive look at Glacier Grey with few more nights of camping and a few less people.
  • The Q – Takes The O and adds a 16km hike through the pampas (grass lands), another night or two of camping and cuts out the boat ride (and the cost associated with said boat) and covers pretty much the entire park.

You can probably guess what we did; The Q! And it was totally worth it, all 138 kilometers of it!

We took a bus out to the park and after registering at the entrance, watching the mandatory fire prevention video (There’s no lightening or anything like that here in Patagonia so fires don’t occur naturally and the landscape isn’t really adapted to recover from forest fires and after they huge fire a few years back they are hyper vigilante and understandably so) we went from a dozen buses at the entrance to 5 buses at the boat dock where the W starts to 8 of us on one bus to the last stop “Administration” and the start of the Q. Due to the park being about 2.5 hours from town and after registration and everything we don’t really start hiking until almost 1pm but it’s not a huge deal as our first planned camp is only a couple of hours from administration. We start our hike through the pampas with our new friend Brad who we meet at Erratic Rock during the Base Camp info talk.

Wow. We were not ready for the wind. I knew it would be windy but it was crazy windy, like makes you want to crouch down so you don’t get blown over. The three of us stumbled our way to the first campsite, Campamento Las Carretas occasionally catching glimpses of the Paine Massif. Just before arriving, as we made our way over the first hill a few guanacos (like llamas) curiously made their way over to see us. Once we arrived at Las Carretas, we took a look around and found the perfect campsite. Brad decided he would go on to Refugio Paine Grande, but it would certainly not be the last we would see of him.

Guanaco, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie

Our first night was great. There were only a handful of other campers at Las Carretas. We meet a couple from New Hampshire that was on their way out who gave us some great advice on the hike as well as a Swiss couple that were also just starting the Q.

We woke-up early, had a big bowl of oatmeal and made our way through the wind to our next destination, Paine Grande. The morning was really rough, with constant 40 mph wind, with 55 mph gusts, blowing sleet into our faces the entire time. Liz learned that her beloved Merrell hiking boots had finally met the end of the road, as she saw bubbles of air and water gurgling out from about six different places on them. Liz was not a fan of this part of the hike.

We stopped for lunch by the lake and watch the mad-house that is Refugio Paine Grande; most peoples first and/or last stop on the W. It’s where the boat arrives/departs and has a huge facility for paid camping, a small store, and a large refugio. After a quick lunch of reheated lentils it was on to our destination for night Campamento Italiano, another free site. The weather had improved, still windy but not getting pelted by sleet, just a steady rain.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie

Most of this day was through the area that was devastated by the fire in 2011, you can imagine how beautiful it was with all the trees, but the views were still pretty awesome even on an overcast day.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie

We crossed a couple of bridges, set-up camp in the most protected spot we could find, built a rock wall to help with the wind and made a big a meal!

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chilie

25k down!