HMI Gap: Cerro Colorado, “an incredible experience to overcome obstacles together and grow stronger as a result.”

Rock Climbing Group (F-Rock)

Written by Aaron Williams

Hola amigos y familias, from Chilean Patagonia. Upon our arrival here two weeks ago, we were welcomed by an amazing view of the sunset setting over the mountain peaks from our ferry during the ride over Lago General Carerra to Chile Chico. This was the last leg of our long journey from Colorado and the beauty inspired awe and excitement despite our tired state of being. When we reached the town, we were greeted warmly by the people here at Nandu Hostel as well as by the many dogs constantly running through the streets. After we had settled in, we spent the next few days preparing for our upcoming 10-day expedition to Cerro Colorado and exploring the local area in our free time. Living here has definitely been a different experience that has made us appreciate how different life is away from home. Even the grocery shopping was an adventure due to the different language, measurements, and currency.

HMI Gap students camped below Cerro Colorado

After finishing packing, food rationing, and gear distribution, we set out on our three days of backpacking to Cerro Colorado. This grueling hike humbled us, as we traveled 17 miles uphill through steep terrain, crumbly mountain faces, icy river crossings, and backcountry bushwhacking with packs stuffed full of all the food, gear, and clothing we would need for the next week and a half. Each night we set up our tents, made dinner, and passed out in our sleeping bags. We quickly realized that backpacking rationing is extremely different from car camping. Many of us underestimated the amount the of food we would eat after a very full day of hiking through Patagonia and went to bed feeling a little unsatisfied. Many of us had heard of the extreme Patagonia weather, but felt its full force when we arrived to Cerro Colorado on our third day, where we were met by a lovely combination of 40 mile per hour winds that flattened our tents, rain that somehow soaked all of our belongings, and occasional snow. After bailing out our tents with dip cups, we stabilized them with shoelaces and built rock walls to block out the wind.

Sunset over Lago General Carerra

HMI Gap students climbing at Cerro ColoradoDespite the challenging conditions, we did what we came here to do: we climbed Cerro Colorado. It was so rad!! We were able to use all the different skills we had acquired and practiced throughout the semester. The climbs were a really fun combination of face, crack, and technical stemming, enabling us to greatly improve specific techniques and achieve many personal goals on these routes. The highlight was a multi-pitch of Cerro Colorado. It was a three pitch climb that had been established previously by Chris, Becca, and Brad, so we got to climb something that very few people have ever climbed before.

We also got to celebrate Thanksgiving and Tim’s birthday together in the backcountry. We had a really nice potluck for Thanksgiving dinner which included mashed potatoes, pot pie, lentil soup, and pumpkin pie (made available by bringing down a couple cans of pumpkins from Colorado). Although we all missed our homes and families, it was a one-of-a-kind experience and we had a lot of fun eating, talking, and playing games.

HMI Gap Semesters arriving in Chile Chico PatagoniaOn our last day, we woke up early and began the 10 mile trek back to Nandu Hostel. Like on the way here, there were no trails except those made by the wild horses and guanacos (a close cousin to the llama, native to Patagonia), both of which made regular appearances throughout our time there. It was a long hike through a lot of challenging terrain but we were motivated by our dreams of the showers, beds, and food waiting for us back at the hostel, so we were able to make it there by dinner time.

All in all, Cerro Colorado challenged us all physically and mentally, but it was an incredible experience to overcome the various obstacles together and grow stronger as a result. We also got to spend a lot of time in one of the most beautiful places in the world. This journey was a once in a lifetime experience that we will look back on and smile about for the rest of our lives.