While we were in Santiago, Brock remembered that an old friend he went to high school with lives there now. He reached out to him and we met up for brunch. After 15 years, they were reunited.
They had a lot of catching up to do. One of the main topics was about Patagonia. We had mentioned we were going at the end of the week, and what do you know, so was Scott!
Scott is a Geomorphologist and is studying glaciers. He would be in Cerro Castillo where his team would be doing research and collecting samples. He invited us to join.
He headed out a couple of days before us and gave us directions on how to get there. Then, he lost service. We knew what we needed to do, or so we thought.
We arrived in the small town, rented our camping gear, and headed for the entrance to the park. The park ranger said camping is not allowed in the area that we were trying to get to. He said we would need to go to the other entrance 2 miles away, where there is another completely different campground. Without service on our phones, this wasn’t an option. The problem was it was 11:50 and they do not let anyone through past 12. We didn’t understand why we couldn’t get through even though Scott was already up there.
It was really frustrating to try to communicate the directions we were given so intricately in a language we aren’t fluent in.
We were about to give up. Brock suggested that perhaps just do the 8 hour roundtrip day hike the next day just to say hi? I think not.
I convinced him to try one more time. We should just tell him our friend is up there doing research on glaciers and that we’re meeting him.
In a hail mary play, we talked to the ranger again and told him exactly that. His response….
“Oh you’re Scott’s friends? Yeah he told me you guys were coming. You guys can camp.”
The hike was ROUGH. I was carrying 20 lbs on my back and Brock had 40. It was all uphill. At some points we were stopping every 30 seconds to rest. It felt like we were never going to get there.
It seemed like every time we got to the top of one of the hills, there was an even better view of the glacier and the peaks of the mountains.
After 6 hours and 3,500 ft in elevation gain, we finally made it. We got to the campsite, threw our stuff on the ground, and laid on the grass. We were exhausted. Scott and his team had just finished a long day of work, so we settled in and decompressed. They invited us to join them for dinner because we had only packed days worth of food and had decided we were not going to do that hike back up the next day.
The night was intense. It was about 30 degrees, 60 mph winds, and oh yeah….it started raining. The wind was so strong that it kept causing our tent to collapse. Brock left his pack outside of our tent, but it was still protected by the tarp. This was until the wind ripped it out of the stakes we’d set down.
In the middle of the night, I woke up because my feet were numb because they were wet. I adjusted my sleeping bag to try to warm them up and that was soaked. I looked around and there was a puddle at our feet. Water was getting in. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep much that first night.
All of our stuff was completely soaked. Brock found my phone in a puddle of water at the corner of the tent. Before we headed out with the team, we had to air dry all of our stuff on tree stems.
It was definitely frustrating but when we looked around and saw the changing trees and the huge glacier that was right on top of us. It could have definitely been worse.
We ate breakfast and joined the team to go out and SCIENCE!
Scott did a great job of explaining exactly what they were doing and what research they’ve collected so far. Every so often, he would stop to point out a large rock with markings made from previous glacial movement.
They had told us to keep an ear out for something that sounded like thunder. It was ice literally melting, detaching from the glacier, and falling down off of the cliffs.
In the middle of our hike, we heard the sound and actually saw the ice falling piece by piece into the lake below. It wasn’t the huge blocks that you see on tv but it definitely made a difference.
It sounded like a huge rumbling. Then it turned into a thunderous sound. We stopped and watched as the ice falling down into the lake below. It was AMAZING but then the reality set in. I knew glaciers were melting around the world but I thought it was a rare occurrence. We were there for 3 days and we heard that sound about 4 times. Each day these glaciers are slowly getting smaller and smaller and we were there to witness it.
Most of their work involved finding boulders and essentially blowing them up. They would find ones suitable for small samples. By taking samples of these rocks, they are able to determine how long it’s been since a glacier existed in that location.
I saw a rock. What they saw was history.
We hear so much about “Climate Change” and we watch so many documentaries about it on tv, but actually talking to someone who studies the effects is completely eye-opening.
They finished up their research the next day, we packed up, and began the long hike back.
When we finally made it down and after getting a quick bite, we decided to meet up in Rio Tranquillo, a small town 2 hours away. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough room in their truck so Brock and I tried our luck at hitchhiking.
The problem was that the town we were in was a not a hub for hikers. It was a ghost town and was even more ghostly on Sundays. Chileans do NOTHING on Sundays. They take their day of rest, literally.
After standing by the road for 1 1/2 hrs, only about 10 cars passed by. I refused to give up. It became like a game to me and I wanted to win. It was about 20 minutes before we were about to give up.
A truck 100 yards away heading in our direction, stopped to drop off some hitchhikers. We held our thumb out, half expecting to be disappointed. NOPE! It was this older man, a banker, who does this same route every week. We got so lucky!
We’ve found that the further south we get since we started in Costa Rica, the Spanish gets a lot faster and more slangy. This was no exception. This sweet man was trying to communicate with us and we understood about 50% of what he was saying. It was a quiet ride.
He dropped us off in front of a restaurant, we turned the corner and there were our new amigos coming toward our direction.
Scott helped us get a room and we enjoyed sleeping in an actual bed.
A couple of days later we were able to sit down with Scott to pick his brain. We asked him about what his research has shown so far, how climate change affects everyone (no matter where they live), and how people can do their part to preserve the environment.
Later that day we were trying to get to Rio Tranquillo. We had no service and no idea about what time IF ANY, a bus would be in town.
We set up a little area to sit and wait. A girl also trying to catch a ride set up her area about 30 yards from us. She pulled out her sign saying where she was going.
DAMN! Why didn’t we think of that!
She got picked up before we did, EVEN THOUGH the car that picked her up passed us first.
After 3 hours trying to hitchhike, a bus finally came. It was more money than we’d hoped to pay and in a completely different direction, but we wanted to try to get out of that town. We got comfortable and made our way to Cochran.
Here is a video we created that documents our hike through Cerro Castillo.