A Month in Patagonia // Adventuring in Chile + Argentina
First of all, I am not sorry for the amount of photos of Fitz Roy there are in this post. When I was originally picking photos, I had about 80 photos of that mountain alone. You’ll see why.
It is so difficult to wrap up a trip that contained so much—a week spent in a tiny port town, 8 days backpacking through one of the most beautiful places on earth, a few days in a small climbing town in Argentina, three days backpacking at the base of Fitz Roy and hanging out with some of the most creative & inspiring friends. We've barely been home a week, so I’m sure in the months to come I will draw more from this trip than I even realize right now.
Backup. The original inspiration for going to Patagonia started about three years ago. I (Megan) was working at REI and one of my managers was from Ecuador. Despite the fact that our time working together was brief, Eduar has had a big influence on my life in a lot of ways (he even made my wedding dress). He's a mountaineer and has climbed some of the craziest peaks in South America, and he always talked about how much he loved Chile. I started doing research and fell in love with the idea of going there. Its such an interesting place socially & geographically, with a highly developed economy and low unemployment rate. It has a big Italian and German influence and the Spanish they speak is almost a different language compared with the rest of South America. The country is stretched long & thin against the Pacific Ocean, going from sea level to 18,000+ feet in a matter of a hundred miles. I've wanted to visit for so long, and I even considered applying to grad school in Santiago for a while (then I realized my Spanish is not near proficient enough to attend college level courses, hah). Nate and I talked, and a friend told us about his experience hiking the O Circuit in the Torres Del Paine on the Chilean side of Patagonia, and the idea quickly evolved into visiting the southern tip of the world. On sort of a whim, we bought round trip flights to Punta Arenas, Chile for the month of January.
The plans further evolved when we found out our good friends & adventure photographers, the Hearnes, were going to be there at the same time. They road tripped and we backpacked, and we all met up in El Calafate before driving to the sweet little climbing town of El Chalten. We met up with Anni Graham & her husband Rich too, mutual friends we met through Instagram who are also incredibly talented adventure photographers.
PUERTO NATALES, CHILE
Our trip started with a full week staying in a cabin on the south side of Puerto Natales. We didn't plan much for that week, but after an unexpectedly busy wedding & holiday season, we needed that week just to rest & recoup. We walked to bakeries everyday, climbed at a little bouldering gym, drank mate, and took a boat ride to Bernardo O'Higgins National Park to see some glaciers.
THE O CIRCUIT // TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK, CHILE
Skirting around the Cuernos of the southern Andes, climbing up to the granite Torres that jut out of an icy blue lake, the "O Circuit" circumnavigates the park and it seems as though each day of the trek gets better than the last. I've never experienced such a beautiful place, where around each bend in the trail, there's a new view of a giant glacier, jagged peaks, lush forest, or an alpine lake. Its hard to really describe, and one of the best parts of the trail is the fact that so many people from all over the world travel here to make the trek as well. We made friends from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and various parts of the US.
Patagonia is known for the worst weather imaginable, and we got to experience all of it during our hike. Downpouring rain, intense wind that knocks you to the ground, and we even had snow the day we crossed the infamous John Gardner Pass. We also had several days of sun & mild weather, and our last day on the trail, we woke up for sunrise to see the Torres and had the most incredible clear sky & alpenglow. We kept joking that we had to go through the worst weather ever on the pass in order to earn a good sunrise on the Torres.
The hike is relatively easy, you camp in established sites every night that have showers and bathrooms and nice cooking areas. You can even stay in dorms (refugios) and have hot meals every night if you so choose. Each day is low-mileage and not much elevation gain, aside from the pass. I will say though, that the trails are not well maintained like they are in the states. If its steep, there's no switchbacks, it just goes straight up. When it rains, the trail turns to a river of mud. Regardless, it is undeniably beautiful, a landscape that is so unlike any other. When you can watch an avalanche happen, and hear glaciers cracking & thundering, and cross huge suspension bridges over deep ravines, and see first light hit giant granite towers, it is an indescribably inspiring experience.
EL CHALTÉN, ARGENTINA
After our hike, we took a bus back to Puerto Natales where we rented a car, crossed the border into Argentina, and picked up Abbi & Callen in El Calafate. From there we drove to El Chaltén where we rented a cabin for three days & met up with Anni & Rich. The following day, we finally saw Fitz Roy emerge from behind the clouds and I was completely taken aback by the massive mountain peaks. That night we drove out to a field outside of town, hopped a fence, and swapped photos of each other while drinking boxed wine. I'll be posting more about this part of the trip in particular in another blog, but for now check out the Hearnes blog & keep an eye on Anni's website for more from their perspective.
FITZ ROY // LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK, ARGENTINA
For three days, we backpacked at the base of Fitz Roy with Abbi & Callen. The trail led us to the most beautiful alpine lakes fed by glacier melt. This is the hardest part of out trip for me to really sum up, because I'm still at a loss for words for how beautiful it was. From our campsite one night, we could see the little lights of headlamps on Fitz Roy, imagining what it would be like to be up there. It is surreal to be so close to something that has had so many infamous adventure stories written about it.
We ate glacier ice and made our dinner by melting ice chunks we pulled out of the lake. We listened as tiny bits of ice bounced together and against the rocks in the tide and sounded almost like wind chimes, but lighter and more delicate. I keep saying how unbelievable & inspiring it all was, and I honestly can't think of any other words to describe it.
PERITO MORENO GLACIER // EL CALAFATE, ARGENTINA
On our last day in Argentina, Nate and I drove out to see the massive Perito Moreno Glacier. At its height, the glacier is 70 meters tall. We watched as ice chunks broke off and crashed into the lake below.
The day we left Patagonia, we learned that the Tompkins Foundation and the Chilean government signed off on a deal to preserve 10 million acres of land to expand three national parks and establish five new ones. The Tompkins Foundation is the non-profit started by the late Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face. Doug and his wife Kristine relocated to Patagonia in the 90s to focus on conservation. This is one of the biggest single land donations in history and it was so exciting to see this happen on our last day there. Felt like the perfect way to end an incredible trip.
We'll be posting more photos of our trip in the coming weeks, so keep checking back for more updates!
Cedar & Pines is an adventure wedding photography duo made up of Nate and Megan Kantor, a married couple based in the mountains of Colorado. They believe in honest wedding photography, capturing the small candid moments to the epic landscape views. They love photographing intimate weddings and adventure elopements from the mountains of Colorado to destination weddings in California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Washington and the ends of the earth.