Travel Journal: Clymb Does Patagonia

You’re read­ing The Clym­b’s Trav­el Jour­nal, an insid­er look at our Epic Patag­o­nia Adven­ture to Torre del Paine Nation­al Park, where our very own Michelle Mas­sara will be offer­ing you insight into what our trips are like, what makes Patag­o­nia so epic, and what you might need to take with you on this human-pow­ered adven­ture. To take this trip, you can find it here on our website. 


Michelle Mas­sara is the Pro­duc­tion Lead for the Clymb Adven­tures. Her roots are in Buf­fa­lo, NY, but she’s called many places home, from Alas­ka to Tahoe to Port­land. When she’s not out explor­ing around Mt. Hood with her Bernese Moun­tain Dog, Sum­mit, she can like­ly be found perus­ing the streets of Portland.

Why Patag­o­nia?
Patag­o­nia has always appealed to me, its vivid turquoise lakes and icon­ic land­scapes caught my atten­tion, and I’ve always want­ed to expe­ri­ence them in an authen­tic way. The Clym­b’s Epic Patag­o­nia Adven­ture was the per­fect way to take in all that this amaz­ing place has to offer.

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Pack­ing Essentials?
Sacred Socks. These are your end of the day socks, the socks you slip into after 12 miles of sweaty hik­ing through rugged terrain.
Day Pack. For day hikes, some will repur­pose their big back­pack pack, and that’s fine, but the con­ve­nience of a small, pack­able day pack for the essen­tial items — water bot­tle, cam­era, jack­et — was perfect.

What did you wish you had?
A Kin­dle. I brought one book with me (because I was con­scious of weight) and fin­ished it before we even arrived at the park. Trav­el from San­ti­a­go to Patag­o­nia takes a whole day and there’s a good amount of down time at the refu­gios- espe­cial­ly in the evenings, so there were plen­ty of times where I des­per­ate­ly wished I had brought a Kindle.


Trip Itin­er­ary
Day 1
Arrived in San­ti­a­go around 7am after a long flight. After a well-deserved nap at the B&B I spent the rest of the day explor­ing the main tourist attrac­tions in the city.

Day 2 
Depart­ed for Chile’s famous Maipo Val­ley for a day of wine tast­ing. We vis­it­ed a fam­i­ly-owned organ­ic vine­yard and were treat­ed to home­made empanadas and Pas­tel de Choclo, a tra­di­tion­al Chilean meal.

Day 3
Trav­el by plane and bus to Tor­res del Paine Nation­al Park. I took in the wildlife from the bus win­dows, excit­ed to see gua­na­cos, con­dors, rhea, and oth­er unfa­mil­iar ani­mals. As we approached the park, I caught my first glimpse of the epic Cordillera Paine, com­plete with the awe-inspir­ing towers.

Day 4
Began our hike to the Tow­ers through rocky ter­rain and over crys­tal clear glacial rivers. The tran­si­tion from lenga for­est to high alpine was a stun­ning tran­si­tion between diverse ecosys­tems. We end­ed the hike with lunch next to the emer­ald lake at the foot of the towers.

Day 5
Today we trekked for the first time with the full weight of our packs. My favorite moment of the day was as we approached Lake Nor­den­skjold for the first time. Being the tail end of the sea­son, the brush and veg­e­ta­tion were turn­ing red and brown, cre­at­ing a greater con­trast for the vibrant blue water.

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Day 6
We left Los Cuer­nos and hiked through old-growth for­est to an impres­sive view­point of the French Val­ley. This day hike through the French Val­ley was per­son­al­ly the biggest high­light of the trip for me. The views con­tin­u­ous­ly got bet­ter as we climbed over boul­ders and across streams to get to our des­ti­na­tion, which once there, pro­vid­ed a panoram­ic view of the Cer­ro Hoja and Cer­ro Máscara.

Day 7
The hike from Refu­gio Paine Grande to Refu­gio Grey had strong winds, luck­i­ly behind us and not against us. As we hiked we looked for pumas and enjoyed the beau­ty of Pehoé Lake and Grey Lake as we passed on our approach to Grey Glacier.

Day 8
The addi­tion­al day at Refu­gio Grey was nice, as it allowed us to sleep in and plan a half-day activ­i­ty. I took a leisure­ly hike toward Cam­pa­men­to Paso with two oth­ers and Ser­gio, who lead us as we fol­lowed along the side of the glac­i­er. We crossed two sus­pen­sion bridges with the glac­i­er as our back­drop and stopped at a few look­outs for pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ties. We returned to the lodge and relaxed in Adiron­dack chairs on the front porch while soak­ing up the sun.

Day 9
Our final half-day in the park we hiked back to the lake at Refu­gio Paine Grande and took a cata­ma­ran to Pehoé to exit the park. From there, we took a bus up to Puer­to Natales and enjoyed the most deli­cious farewell din­ner at a quaint seafood place near the ocean. And wine. So much wine.

Day 10
The last bit of trav­el was the bus ride to Pun­ta Are­nas fol­lowed by the flight back to San­ti­a­go for a final evening in the city. Our group met for one more din­ner togeth­er as we exchanged con­tact infor­ma­tion and planned our next adventures.

Day 11
This final day is set aside for depar­tures, though I chose to stay in San­ti­a­go for an addi­tion­al 2 days to explore, which I high­ly recommend.

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Who were your trav­el buddies?
I trav­eled solo, then joined a group of 3 oth­er Clymb mem­bers. All were east coast­ers, around the same age, and we con­nect­ed nice­ly to form a small and tight-knit fam­i­ly for the dura­tion of the trip.

Trip High­lights?
The hike to the Tow­ers was so extra­or­di­nary because of the diverse ecosys­tems we passed through along the way. The French Val­ley was jaw drop­ping, we stum­bled over boul­ders and rivers to a remark­able view of mas­sive moun­tains ahead and tiny lakes below, all the while hear­ing the rum­ble of avalanch­es up above. Depart­ing Grey Glac­i­er we walked over a sus­pen­sion bridge that was about 120ft off the ground with the face of the glac­i­er as our backdrop.IMG_0756 (1)

What Made This Trip So Special?
Patag­o­nia lies under the radar of pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions. The hard to access Tor­res del Paine is com­plete with wild and rugged ter­rain that is every bit remote as you imag­ine it.

What was the cra­zi­est thing that happened?
On Day 5, as we were pass­ing Lake Nor­den­skjold, we ran into John Gar­den­er, the man who found­ed the cir­cuit trail back in 1976, which includes the W route, the very trail that we were trekking on. I would have walked right past him and nev­er known, but luck­i­ly our guide, Ser­gio, was ecsta­t­ic at our encounter and made intro­duc­tions to the group. It was pret­ty neat.

Where Do You Want To Go Next?
I’d like to trek to Ever­est Base Camp. Nepal has such a unique and heart­en­ing cul­ture, it would be a tru­ly unique expe­ri­ence to hike in the foot­steps of some of the most prodi­gious alpine climbers.

My trip was made pos­si­ble in part through One­seed Expeditions.
One­seed leads expe­di­tions all around the globe and has been rec­og­nizes as a leader in social­ly mind­ful trav­el. In addi­tion to offer­ing trav­el expe­ri­ences all over the plan­et, One­seed’s mis­sion also revolves around pro­vid­ing micro-loans to local entre­pre­neurs and they give 10% of there total rev­enue to local busi­ness­es in need of capital.

My guide,Ser­gio Nuñez, is actu­ally the Region­al Direc­tor of Latin Amer­ica Trav­el for One­seed. Ser­gio grew up close to Tor­res del Paine and has guid­ed in the park for almost 20 years. It had been a few years since he’d last vis­ited, so I could tell he was expe­ri­enc­ing Torre Del Paine’s beau­ty all over again. He clear­ly has a deep-root­ed love for Patag­o­nia and it was real­ly spe­cial to wit­ness and see that come through in his guiding.


Pho­tog­ra­phy pro­vid­ed by Michelle Massara