We wake early, hoping to hike 6 hours over the pass to the free campsite at Paso. With no reservations, however, we may have to press on to Grey, an additional 5 hours according to the map. Unable to find room at the tables, we huddle around the counter where a few years ago I melted my jacket when my stove flipped over. While we heat water for coffee and oatmeal, a woman at the table knocks over her stove with a huge pot of hot milk, sending it everywhere, including the laps of strangers sitting across from her. Suddenly the counter seems nicer than the table.
We pack up and begin our long climb up the pass. The forest is a tangled web of roots and mud. We break through the trees into the exposed rocks. The light rain comes and goes, but eventually turns into light snow. The views are still spectacular. Brian’s knee is slowing him down, but not Mark, as he plows up the pass ahead of us. We are blessed with little wind and decent visibility. We meet Mark at the top, and celebrate by posing in front of the now visible Patagonia Ice Field. We are clearly National Geographic Explorers, at least it seems to us.
The hike down is steep and grueling, even more so for Brian with his knee. The light snow turns back to light rain. We begin to soak through. It is deceptively slow, so Brian and I fail to switch to full rain gear. At Paso we are turned away, even with Brian’s limp and knee brace. As the rain grows in intensity, we press on. The down is not quite as steep as below the pass, but steeper than Brian wants. We negotiate a stream crossing and ladder with no problem. Knowing that a bridge has already failed in the park makes crossing the long wooden planked suspension bridge over the gorge even more exciting. Although we each cross alone, it feels as though someone is messing with us, as the bridge bounces up and down.
We soldier on in cold rain, but thank the Patagonia wind gods for their gentle kindness.
We arrive at camp soaked, drop packs and go straight to the cooking area. The propane stoves and body heat have created a soothing sauna, which we slowly absorb. Unable to stop to eat much on the way in, we gorge on calories. I shovel in spoonfuls of Nutella, while Brian makes hot water for miso soup. We pound down crackers, cheese, cookies and anything else we can dig up. Rather than set up tents, we stay until we cook dinner. Once the tents are set, we are pretty sure we will not return, and we are right.
Tomorrow we will sleep in, and attempt to dry out – assuming the sun god is willing.