HMI Gap Returns to Patagonia!

Spring Trek’s First Update From Patagonia! 

After 13 days in the backcountry, we are all back “home” happy and healthy in Chile Chico. And we have had quite an adventure over the past two weeks!

We started off with a long van ride to the Chacabuco Valley where we began our camping at Laguna Erica. We like to call that “the night of the moscas”. We enjoyed our first night under the stars regardless of how many mosquito bites we got. On our first real day of hiking, we headed to Laguna Guagua. As we checked the map on our hike we learned just how vast and beautiful the mountains here are, and how we can relate this astronomical terrain to the contour lines and features on our map. We also learned how prickly the nenas are!

After a night sleeping under the stars, we started off our layover day with important lessons about how to care for ourselves, our peers, and the environment. Now we know how to Leave No Trace, practice good Expedition Behavior, and how to set realistic “SMART” goals. These skills all came in handy as we continued on our journey. On our way to Lago Gutierrez we gained a significant amount of elevation and though it was challenging we were rewarded with some gorgeous views. We also lost some elevation and in doing so, learned how to manage steep and exposed terrain. We spent one windy night on the rocky shore of Lago Gutierrez and woke up to our first rainfall in Patagonia. It was really cold and there was more rain than we’d expected but we were eager to make our way to Casa Piedra, where we were greeted by HMI Gap’s Logistics Coordinator extraordinaire Steph, a sunny afternoon, and new food. We learned how to make pizza in the backcountry and split up our new ration before heading out to continue our journey along Rio Aviles. This was the first day we followed our student leaders and we also learned the joys and dangers of glacial rivers. Some of us also spotted parakeets and an Andean Condor! 

We camped along the trail for the next few days and had a few lessons on observing nature, giving and receiving feedback, and of course, Spanish! One of our hiking groups had an immersive Spanish-speaking day, leading us to our second round of rain. This time, the rain lasted much longer! But we were determined to make it to our next location, which was a hut owned by our dear friend Juan, who also hosts us at Campamento Nandu in Chile Chico. The trek to the hut was long, rainy, cold, and filled with new challenges. We crossed drainages that were overflowing with rainwater and rivers up to our thighs! Through the fog, we could just barely see the huge glacier, which made the arduous journey worth it. The hut was the perfect refuge for our tired group. When the sun came out the next day, we enjoyed it by practicing yoga, discussing environmental ethics, sitting by the lake, and of course, a karaoke night to finish it all off. We headed back down the same valley but this time in the sun, which was a wonderful reintroduction to the landscape around us.

After a few more river crossings we reached Lago Verde for our final evening. Some of us took a dip in the freezing lake to cool off after a long day. Many slept outside under the stars to savor the last moments of the first expedition. The next day we hiked out and said goodbye to Patagonia National Park. 

The challenges and joys of these past two weeks have taught us so much about ourselves and the beautiful world around us. As we prepare for our coming expedition, we reflect on our experiences and practice gratitude so that we can grow, change, and ripen over these next few months. 

Love, 

Nora and Laila 

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