Andrea from Canada is currently a participant on the Adventure Guide Program in Patagonia. She's been on program for two months now and has kindly shared her journey so far with us.
Dreamy Patagonia… Land of the free! Surrounded by tall mountains, pebble rivers, glacier lakes and beech trees… It doesn’t get any better than this!
Fitzroy range seen from a viewpoint near El Chalten
Coming from Canada, I see some similarities with the landscapes of the Rockies… I feel at home. But at the same time… I feel like I am living on the flip side of the northern hemisphere, in an alternate universe, where all my dreams come true. Everywhere I look makes me feel so alive! Whether it’s outside our hostel, with a view on the granite giant Fitzroy, or on our hikes, crossing some of the biggest glaciers in the world. Sunny days fill me up with positive energy… But even on the rainy days, I feel strong! Somehow braving the elements of the rain, wind and cold temperature of Patagonia make me feel invincible… Especially when on the trail or camping with the group on one of the many multi-day hikes available in the region.
Pictures of the crew cooking dinner in the rain on a multi-day hike
It is no surprise that El Chalten, the town where we are living for three months, has been declared the National Capital of Trekking of Argentina. Nestled in the Parque National de Los Glaciares (declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1981), many world-renowned hikes originate here. Even though the area is becoming more and more popular with the years, it is still possible to find less frequented terrain and escape the crowds.
Ethan at a local crag with the village of El Chalten in the background
One of my favorite experiences was exploring the Rio Electrico Valley. On night two of the hike we found a secluded spot sheltered at the base of a cliff to setup camp. From here we had our own private theatre with a panoramic view of the rugged, raw and violent landscape. To the left there were steep exposed cliffs, carved out by the ebb and flow of an ancient glacier. Down the center sat the lake, filling in the void of the glaciers retreat. Rising out of the lake on the right the fiery peak of Cerro Electrico, glowing red in the evening light. And high above all of this was Mt Fitzroy. Living true to its name it pierced the sky, smoking with billowing clouds, dominating the ridgeline bellow.
Northern peak of Cerro Electrico
Cerro Anniversario from the Rio Electrico Valley
It really feels great to leave the big city behind and simplify my life. Everything becomes so much easier and enjoyable when your routine becomes eat-sleep-hike-repeat. You reconnect with your senses, your environment and your-self. I’ll always remember the moment where I left the comfort of my tent in the middle of a new moon night. The deep black sky against the bright stars made it seem like the sky was filled with sparkling diamonds. Or that time when all of us went swimming between icebergs in a bay on the Huemul Trail. I felt like I was downright burning the skin off my hands as I tried to climb onto one of the smaller ice chunks. It was so satisfying to stand strong on such a delicate platform… And then so exhilarating to dive bomb into the ice cold water… It literally set my soul on fire!
Photo of me do a dive bomb off an iceberg
Sunrise photograph of the iceberg field
Every-day life in El Chalten is also very relaxing. Afternoons are often spent sipping matte (a traditional South American hot drink) in the sun, playing on a slack-line or having deep philosophical conversations staring at the clouds above. The hostel we are living in is perfect for meeting new people and practicing our guide skills by recommending hikes/crags of the area. However, it can get pretty challenging when we need to take over the kitchen and cook for the whole group. People are filled with curiosity when we all gather around a table with a large amount of food and say grace to our two deities: Rocksputin (god of the crag) and Hikeules (god of the trails)… Haha!
The boys hanging out on the slackline near the hostel
The group having a veggie filled lunch!
We are now 2 months into the Adventure Guide Program. I already feel much more confident in my climbing skills! The intense 5-day climbing weeks really help to build endurance and progress quickly. The crags are so close to town, I often find myself borrowing the Pure Ex equipment to go climbing on my days off. I am stoked to say that I can now confidently lead-climb and lead-belay! I can’t wait to head back home and explore routes and crags that seemed inaccessible until now.
Climbing at a local crag
The end of 2019 is nearly here. It’s crazy to retrace all that has happened in my life since the beginning of the year. And think of how I got here… How I sold most of personal belongings, abandoned my career and left my home to go tree-planting in order to save up the money to pay for the course. To be completely honest I had no real expectations from the program. At first, it was really just an excuse to escape the daily grind. I wanted to go travelling and see something new. Hiking and climbing, while gaining certifications through the Adventure Guide Program, with a group of passionate people like me, seemed like the perfect opportunity to shake things up. Plus, I would be travelling to South America, in the mythical Andes, and learning some Spanish! So far, my Spanish is still terrible (haha!) but I’ve learnt so much about myself and developed so many valuable life skills along the way.
Pure Exploration AGP group in front of the Fitz roy range
I definitely feel the pull to find a job as a hiking guide or climbing instructor. Or maybe use this new knowledge, combined with my prior work experience, to find a leadership role in the outdoor industry. I also feel like I could probably travel some more and go to New Zealand for the start of the high season next summer. So many options and so many opportunities! I am excited to see where 2020 will lead me… Who knows?! Trust the process and trust yourself. LIFE is an ADVENTURE!
If you're inspired to hear more about our 10 week Adventure Guide Programs in Patagonia you can check out the website here. We currently have availability on programs departing October 2020 and January 2021.