HMI Gap 2016: Why Do We Travel?

Upon arriving in Chile over two weeks ago, after many hours of traveling, we quickly got to see the breathtaking Patagonian landscape and culture. We spent the first few days getting prepared for our most challenging expedition yet, shopping for our ration at the local grocery store, reviewing the route with the instructors, and mentally preparing for a spout of bad weather. Then, on November 13, we set out and started our journey into a place only few have ever laid eyes on. We started off with typical Patagonian weather – a combination of rain and snow, and some kind of mixture of the two. However, the incredible scenery combined with good company made it hard to complain. The relatively bad weather was short lived. On the fourth day of our expedition, the sun came out to show us that Patagonia isn’t only cold and wet, but can offer sunny, clear blue skies! So much sun that we may be coming home tanner… or sunburnt. Over every hill we got lucky enough to see new snow capped mountains, giant glaciers, elongated waterfalls, and breathtaking, crystal blue lakes. We also had the pleasure to meet Andres and Miguel at a backcountry hut. There we spent two days “making the history of this land”, as Andres would say, but in reality, we were just making four new tent sites for future travelers. Two days of independent student travel led us to the end of the trek from Parque Patagonia to Lago Jeinemeni.

A short bus ride led us to the trailhead for Cerro Colorado, which involved a ten-mile hike with 4,000 feet of altitude gain. Though excited to embrace the challenge, we didn’t quite make it to our destination that day, finding ourselves still hiking almost into midnight. So the group decided to get some sleep on the back side of Cerro Colorado. While sleeping beneath the vast Patagonian stars, we could hear calls of the Guanacos echoing throughout the valley. We rallied early the next morning to finish the last leg and get to what would be our base camp for the next four days. The final leg was technical, but everyone was in good spirits and ready to camp beneath the impressive mountain. Once we had found our tent sites and retrieved our re-ration, we got to treat ourselves to a hot lunch and a much needed siesta.

The following three days included a lot of rock climbing on the unique columnar basalt of Cerro Colorado. One group scrambled to the summit of using a 4th class route, and another group topped out the wall via an exciting multi-pitch. We got to celebrate both Ben and Nikki’s birthdays, while also giving thanks for the amazing energy of the group and this incredible experience. On the last day of climbing we were greeted again by the clouds – something we hadn’t seen much since the fourth day of the expedition. It was spectacular seeing the clouds glide in and out of the valley, while giant condors soared above. On our final day, we hiked down back to Chile Chico, to welcome the luxuries of a warm shower, clean bed, and a BBQ enjoyed by all.


During the expedition, Nikki wrote a piece that she, (and hopefully many others) find very prevalent to this part of our many travels! We’ll leave you with that…

To a Traveler”

When things get hard I often find myself questioning why?
Why do we do this?
Why do we walk miles on end?
Carrying pounds upon our back,
Pushing our bodies to the limit.
Why do we trek through the wildest of weathers?
Shivering to the bone in Rockies,
Sweating through shirts in Moab,
Enduring hail, rain, snow, wind, and sun in Patagonia.
Why do we abandon our so called “real” homes?
To come to nature with strangers,
And call them our new family,
When in reality we are just scared of the fact that we are really just alone in this world.
Why do we spend so much money on this hobby?
On traveling,
On clothes and backpacking supplies,
On climbing gear.
Why do we sacrifice so much?
Our precious time,
Our meaningful relationships,
Our bodies, maybe even our life.

To an average person looking in, or just an adventurer going through a rough patch, it just doesn’t make sense; Why?

But then all of a sudden you find yourself sitting on a rock
Listening to the birds singing to each other in one ear
And in the other, the waterfall trickling down into a crystal blue lake.
Atop the lake sits a timid glacier
And if you’re lucky enough you might get a sunny day and you might just see it stir.
And you look to your left and right and see people, who two months ago were complete strangers, but now are friends to travel alongside.

We sacrifice so much for nature,
But it does the same for us.
And that makes it all worth it.

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