Coralie gives us the down low on their first month in Patagonia:
It’s been a month now since we arrived in El Chalten and we’ve done, learned and experienced A LOT. Last time I wrote you, we had just finished the two first weeks of hiking and climbing. What’s happened since then?
Well, we had our second hiking module with a 4-day hike to explore a little bit more our neighborhood and to train on new types of terrain. This time, we were leading the trail, in groups of 3 and I was part of the first group. We started in the rain and the cold, hiking through the Patagonian forest in the direction of our first campsite: Piedra del Fraile. The plan was to arrive for a late lunch, set up the camp, drop our heavy gear and go up to one of the most beautiful viewpoints of the area. But, despite our strong desire to take the group up there, sometimes, you have to change plans for safety reasons. Leader’s choice, but group decision: well, we’ll come back another time for the peak. That’s how we ended up spending the afternoon at the campsite (which was actually stunning) to learn more skills around the table and to get warm inside the open refuge onsite. This was totally unexpected but really appropriate on a cold and wet day like this one!
The next two days, we switched leaders and went further down the valley. We explored new areas and crossed stunning views of Fitz Roy, the mountain that we can now consider our 13th team member (well, he is always with us!). We slept on the beach at the amazing Playita campsite, close by El Lago Electrico. Diamond blue waters, rocky mountains, far from any kind of civilization, almost lost in the middle of nowhere… We checked our map reading skills with Logan at the bottom of beautiful mountains, we learned how to cross (many) rivers safely as a group, how to correctly pack our bags, how to hike on a track with rock avalanche risks nearby, how to brief the group on rocky terrain, … And we went for some cold therapy baths. We knew how good it can be for the body and the mind and going as a team definitely made the decision easier. I can’t really explain how good you feel after swimming in a glacial lake but it is like your whole body starts fighting the world for you. It makes you feel strong, powerful, resilient. And it is so much fun especially when you share it!
Last day, big day. We had to come back all the way to El Chalten with a 25-km-hike. If some of us were getting a little bit tired, the others were just pulling the group forward, acting as a team. That was really cool to see. If you had asked us what would be the first thing we would do once back in town, some would have said a shower. But for me, Ronnie and Logan, this was Ice-cream time. As dirty as we were, backpacks on, we went straight to the best ice-cream maker in town for the local incredible dulce de leche…
The following week was time for our second climbing module. I couldn’t wait for it and I was really surprised to see how everyone was so excited to be back on the rock. For most of us, the objective of the week was to pass the assessments with Logan and Manuel and be signed off to go climbing on our own when we are off. Once again, we’ve been very lucky with the weather as we had no rain and we spent the full week outside. We also started leading some parts of the day, with our team mates as guinea pigs. It was so good to try it out and see if we enjoyed being a climbing guide or not. Personally, I loved it. You could get me up there, sharing my passion for rocks with new people everyday, I think I’d be one of the happiest girls in this world. But let’s see after a few more leader days haha.
I can’t believe it’s been a month already. For people who were complete strangers to each other a few weeks ago I need to say we’ve done pretty well. I’m even surprised we didn’t have a big fight yet. We’ve been having really good times all together since we arrived, teaching, learning, guiding all together. But also in town, going to the bouldering gym, going for some drinks, for good food or just for a wander. So many good stories and shared memories. We try as much as we can to have some alone times and to create our personal space but living in a hostel doesn’t always make it easy to find. I feel like we all start to be in need of some more little escapes away from each other. Perfect timing as our 4-day break is coming at the end of next week! This should give us enough fresh air before coming back for some more team experiences! =)
We are now off for the day and we’ll start the First Aid week tomorrow.