Hiking Patagonia

To avoid boredom during our time in Patagonia, we have hiked roughly 200 km here and have covered roughly 9,000 meters of altitude difference, obviously uphill and back downhill. And once again we have learned things about others and obviously also about ourselves.

Parque Nacional Conguillío – Sendero Sierra Nevada

The first realization is that – no matter what we do – we are somehow competing. We are recording all our hikes with our GPS device. So we know exactly how many kilometers we have hiked, when and how fast, the average speed, altitude gain and obviously how long it has taken us in the end – and that precisely is the problem. It is about the target time. It is about scoring a good time. We do not quite know yet for whom but we’ve got the carrot under our nose and we start running. Better faster than slower. After all, it is about the target time. It is about finishing quickly, getting it done, preferably with honors. Nobody knows why but that’s the way we do it.

There is an added dimension when other hikers are walking in front of us. We need to pass them. To be able to say in the end that only the three crazy twenty-somethings or the crazy guys trail running the entire hiking trail were faster than us? Pretty insane. But that’s the way we are. Always competing.

Lago Epuyen – Sendero La Condorera

The next realization is that the “common” South American lives in a different time zone from us. Only Europeans or North Americans are up and about at 7 or 8 a.m. in the morning. So when the driven and performance-oriented ones head out to the hiking trail, the domestic hikers are still fast asleep. On our descent, we meet all those who are way more relaxed than we are. And when we climb into bed in the evening, on a campsite inside Humphrey, we wonder why the “common” South American needs to play football right next to Humphrey at 11 p.m. in the evening. Possibly because there is the last bit of daylight. Which inevitably leads to the question: If the days down here offer us 17 hours of daylight, why do we need to be on the hiking trail at 7 a.m.?

Surely it is open to discussion whether it makes sense to be so performance-oriented during our vacation, our time off – none of us hikes professionally obviously. Maybe we are so conditioned that we cannot help ourselves.

In the meantime we have got better, more relaxed while hiking. But the mechanisms are triggered over and over again, automatically and we have optimized our average speed from 3 km/h to 4 km/h. 😉

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares – Sendero al Fitz Roy

We also realized that we are fair weather hikers. We just can’t understand how people enjoy hiking through dull landscapes in the rain, without light, without sun. Without sun the body feels stiff and weary, the wind blows to the core and overall it really is not fun.

But maybe it is a huge developmental step on our side that we do not feel that we need to perform in bad weather. Or we are just old lazy bugs and do not want to get out of our comfort zone.

After having been out there on such a day, with no resources left and the next ferry to resolve our dilemma only leaving four hours later, made us realize that independence is priceless – as is being 20, at least when it comes to hiking.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine – Sendero Lago Grey

We obviously also have spent some time thinking about what makes a hike/trail great. We hiked trails where we were more or less alone and others, e.g. to Fitz Roy or Torres where the crowds were pushing through nature. We had trails where we were offered a fantastic view more or less throughout and then others where the goal was the only reason for the hike. We had hikes that had a fantastic profile, making it easy to hike no matter how far and strenuous. But then there were trails which required a two kilometer ascent on a lose gravel road after 20 km of hiking, just to get back to Humphrey. I don’t think anybody needs or enjoys that.

The most important aspect for us surely is how well we can connect with nature. And that works best if we can be alone in nature.

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares – Sendero a Laguna Torre

To be able to classify and visualize things, we obviously need a spreadsheet. Can’t be travelling without rating stuff and putting it into nice formulas, right? 😉

As you can see from the list, the hikes with a rating of 20 are those that we would do again and would recommend to anyone.

The most spectacular target destination surely were the Torres in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, having the best imaginable weather.

As you can see, there are two more very highly rated hikes that we have not even mentioned here. We’ll be posting separately on the Parque Nacional Patagonia as it was one of the highlights of our trip so far. More on that in our next post. We’ll continue hiking until then…

Update: In the interim we have hiked without recording our track and it was not about scoring but rather about having a good time.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine – Sendero Base de las Torres

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