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A Breathtaking Journey in Patagonia

By: Grace Park

Grace Park is Mountain Travel Sobek's Marketing Coordinator. Her recent travels have taken her to Korea, Israel and Cambodia, where she helped teach Cambodian high school students as part of an international mission. Grace enjoys drinking boba & coffee, eating good food, hosting people at her home, playing board games, and trying out new cafes!

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May 9, 2024 | Adventure Experts

Written by Diane Berthel, MT Sobek guest who journeyed with us on our Chile & Argentina Ultimate Patagonia Hiking Tour in 2024. See her original blog piece here.

Finding a way to describe this journey is a challenge. 


I feel like a mountain of experience is trying to squeeze through a tiny hole of perception. Patagonia has reset my meter for beauty. More than what you see: it is the alchemy that occurs when, what you see, blends with drinking in the pure air and water from the river streams. Often hiking alone in the forest, the sounds are the essence of comfort. Then there are the winds, so demanding that they stop you in your tracks. 


Diane gazing upward during a hike on a trail in Patagonia

It is impossible to simply see Patagonia. It demands that you experience it with all of your senses. A zig zag between Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a wonder of nature, and our only job was to walk it in gratitude.

My plan is to take this blog on our day-by-day journey. For backdrop let’s start with the people, where the chemistry of the group matched the grandeur of the experience.



Part One – The People


Dianes friendship with Paul during a hiking adventure in Patagonia, Central America

First my friend Paul. We met in grad school, 30 years ago. This trip was to celebrate his longtime coming retirement. He brought his big camera on our long hikes and unapologetically stopped to capture every angle through his lens. The daily extra weight was impressive. It was a clear signal that I could snap people pictures with my iPhone and meditate on the scenery, while Paul documented the trip. It is important to recognize that he did every mile of the trip with that camera!  


Diane with her traveling female companions during hike in Patagonia

Paul initially felt left out, as our two fellow hikers were young women. It didn’t take long for us three independent women to connect. Sydney labeled us the Bad Ass Bitches, then Babes, and in time, any other adjective beginning with B that reflected our independent spirits.


Diane and Paul dining together during Patagonia hiking trip

Paul eventually understood that, although not a Babe, he was treasured for his scowls and methodical approach to a conversation. We all teased him and he took it with good humor.


Dianes female traveling companions with bright smiles in Patagonia

On our flight to Chile, Paul and I speculated about the two women joining us. Did they know each other? Were they a couple? Age? Would they be super-duper hikers? On our first day’s six-hour drive, all questions were answered and boy did we hit the jackpot! Never having met each other, Kate from New York and Sydney from LA were two beautiful (inside and out) little mountain goats.  They could scramble up a mile of boulders without breaking a sweat and with complete humility. But best of all they were wonderful to hang out with. Conversations were never dull or without humor.  They teased Paul and passed out sage advice to him about his girlfriend. Each are successful in their career and very connected to family with strong mothers my age!  I loved that they told their mothers about me. Whenever, I struggled they would remind me that most women my age would never attempt this venture.

There is no question that the four of us will be friends for life!


Diane and her traveling companions traveling solo to Patagonia
Kate, Me, Sydney & Paul

It would be criminal for me to let you believe that we made this journey without help. Not only were the team, who supported us, highly competent but they easily blended in with our little family of hikers. 


Diane and local guide Andre during her Patagonia travels

Ro (Rodrigo) our leader, was with us the full 13 days. Chilean, he has been leading hiking, skiing, and climbing adventures for more than 15 years and it shows. No detail escaped his attention. He made sure that our only job was experiencing Patagonia. You will see later in the day-to-day description how important his support was to my hikes after I injured my knee. Ro shared all meals with us and conversations about his family experience in Chile, during the Pinochet dictatorship, were fascinating. Dad of a 16-year-old, he is kind, thoughtful and was – oh so – responsive to our needs.


Claudia, hiking assistant guiding for Patagonia trip departure

Claudia was our assistant guide during our time in Chile. She was a full member of the BABs.  Independent is her middle name. Last year she won the Chilean free style ski competition. She spent years as a ski instructor in Switzerland and has been guiding for as many. She was not only a guide on the W Trek (more to come) but also a porter, carrying 2 times her body weight in gear!


Lucho patagonia hiking guide assistant on Patagonia Ultimate Hiking adventure

Lucho, assistant guide on our long hikes in Argentina, is a hiking and skiing guide and a serious climber. I was entertained by the stories of he and Ro hiking up 5 hours to ski down – no chair lift needed. Tales about climbing the majestic peaks in our view, were downright scary. Lucho taught me new techniques for my iPhone 15 camera. His photos are amazing. Married with 2 young sons, they are a family that climbs together.


Claudio laughing while donning the MT Sobek logo on his jacket

Claudio was our assistant guide on the first two hikes in Argentina and prior to reaching Mount Fitz Roy area. He and Ro have been guiding together for years and are good friends, as evidenced by this photo.


Porters and cooks playing a supportive role during Patagonia trip
Gratitude to our porters and cooks on the W Trek, Luis and Miguel.  

Edwardo the driver helps travelers during a Patagonia trip

Edwardo, our driver in Argentina and master of attention, met us at the Grey Lake boat and stayed with us until the end. I swear that he reads minds. Bags magically appeared and disappeared at exactly the right time. Every lost item ended up in my hotel room. When we returned from a hike, chips and beers met us at the back of the van. He was never without a smile.


Part Two – The Path


After our day long drive, we checked into a lodge with comfy beds, good food and wine. Our first briefing for the next day hike included the trail, what we should wear (LAYERS) and most important – what goes in your backpack. You hear two things about Patagonia 1) the weather changes every 5 minutes and 2) the wind can take you to your knees. Both are true! Late fall there, so every day is a down jacket day.  In addition to lunch and snacks, backpack must haves included rain pants and jacket, stocking and baseball caps, neck gator, warm gloves, hiking poles, extra fleece plus any additional gear you couldn’t resist buying before the trip. Kate’s gloves had battery powered heaters! Everything was used at least once. 

I am blessed with good vacation weather karma. We had a bit of rain and snow but most of our trip was beautiful sunshine casting red shadows over the mountains in the morning and sprinkling afternoon mountain peaks with glitter.


Group of hikers with Diane facing Patagonia breathtaking scenery during a sunset on a hiking trail
 Hike #1 selfie. 

First hike 11.5 miles to Torres Del Paine


Miles of stunning river, valleys, forest distracted me from the fact that my training for this trip was not adequate. But the last mile, I came face to face with a steep boulder field that screamed “back off old woman”. The little mountain goats were already eating an early lunch at the towers with Claudia, and Paul had at least 50 photos. I was worried about slowing Paul and Ro down. But Ro was having none of my thoughts about skipping the last part. He took my backpack and carried two to the top.  A couple things were clear to me at this point. 1) Ro would be part of the magic of Patagonia and 2) I need a better day pack for my next hike!


Diane with her fellow adventurers trekking Patagonia on an adventure with their local guide

We made it! Torres Del Paine, the towers!!! My lesson for the trip – keep going the rewards are endless


Diane arriving at Torres del Paine with guide in Patagonia Ultimate Challenge trek

Lunch and water to replenish and I’m excited about my newfound energy. Too excited to watch where I was going, I fell hard on to a boulder with the impact to the knee that was replaced 10 years ago.  DAM……. We retraced our steps the few miles back to our lodge. I’m accident-prone so am good at pretending there is no pain. But when Ro and I looked at my swollen black and blue kneed there was no pretending. 

After dinner Ro had the talk with me. “The W Trek has no out.  For the next few days we hike through with no loops. We could leave you behind and connect in Argentina. What do you think?”   Never ….. I promised him that in the first mile I would turn back if I couldn’t do it. I knew I could deal with the pain and hoped I would not further damage my knee. Spoiler alert: yesterday I saw the ortho doctor who said I bruised my kneecap and bruised bones hurt for a few weeks but keep hiking! I am one lucky woman! 

Already, I knew that this would slow me down but MT Sobek – fabulous – has two guides for that purpose. This was one of the toughest days with a bum knee so I had the confidence to continue, knowing the group could speed ahead at any time. And they did, the two beauties were a full hour ahead of us for the day. My hiking companions for the remainder of our adventure were sometimes Paul, always a fabulous guide, my little buddy pain, and my contentious relationship with boulders.

As would become our pattern, we spent the evening exchanging robust dinner conversation and airdropping photos. Always a fitting end to a perfect Patagonia day!

Second hike – 8 miles Cuernos del Paine

Paine is not pain; the Spanish translation is “blue”. Yesterday the towers of blue and today the horns of blue. In every photo I post, you will see how blue is used to describe the stunning peaks.


blue clouds in Patagonian skies during hike in the fall

This day followed the Paso Los Cuernos trail to the bluest lakes and a tapestry of greens and browns on the shores. We are crossing rivers on suspension bridges and filling our water bottles from river streams. Kate joined Paul with a big camera, and both were finding endless opportunities for grand photos.


Diane on a hiking trail to Paso Los Cuernos trail on a suspension bridge near a river stream in Patagonia

Late morning our group separated. While the speedsters went ahead Claudia (my guide for the day) and I chatted about life, its challenges, and its joys! A strong wind joined us for lunch and ran off with part of my sandwich. 


Strong winds in Patagonia during group hiking trip

Later in the afternoon we rejoined our group and hiked down to our little cabins next to a waterfall.  They were closed for the season (late fall) so we were alone, each cabin had a welcome pot belly stove to keep us warm, except on our trip to shower and middle of the night bano visits. 


travelers staying overnight in cabins next to waterfall and Patagonian scenery in late fall in Patagonia

Luis and Miguel passed us on the trail carrying our food, equipment and small stuff sacks with our toothbrush and overnight necessities for 4 days on the W. We joined them in the little lodge where Luis had cooked a nice dinner served with wine. WHAT…. they carried wine for us!!!!


Celebrating with wine and snacks after a successful hike in Patagonia with group

Third hike – 11 miles to the French Valley or 15 miles up the valley


There is no guessing which option I chose. While Paul, Sydney, and Kate headed off to the higher point, Claudia and I walked the splendor of the W. I’m so grateful that I did not miss these glaciers, valleys, lakes, and peaks. 



Late afternoon we arrived at Refugio Paine Grande, just ahead of the wind and rain. I took a quick shower, ADVIL and crawled under my comforter for a quick nap. No heat in the Refugio rooms. This respite reset my idea of chilly luxury and mitigated the pain in my knee. I then joined Claudia in a private room with a roaring fire, beers, and snacks. 

Outside it was dark, windy and LOTS of rain. Our team was out there with hours to go! Around 6:30 PM they arrived, wet, cold, and totally high from their feat. I was in awe! They took to the warm cozy room like ducks to water. We did not carry extra clothing on the W. All wet layers were strewn around the room in the hopes they would dry for the next day’s hikes. 

The Refugio is a dormitory, so we shared the hallways with more than a hundred hikers. Sleep came a bit later than in our cozy cabins but eventually hikers (no matter their age) need rest.


Fourth hike – 7.5 miles to catch a catamaran to Lago Grey


Up early to do the 7.5 mile hike for the 1 PM boat to Grey Lake. All clothing from the previous hike was dry and the rain had stopped. But 80 mile an hour winds had put us to sleep. The weather channel’s promise of slowing winds lacked accuracy. Our plan – push against the winds to the 1 PM boat. If the boat can’t get through the wind, hike back for the 6 PM boat from the Refugio. 

Ro checked the boats progress throughout the morning, and we continued. The wind was a crazy dance partner, but we had our fingers crossed that the dying winds forecast would materialize.  About two thirds of the way Ro got word that the boat had turned around. We would too. 

But first, ensuring that we experience all of Patagonia, Ro took us to an outlook to meet 45 – 50 MPH winds. What a ride getting to the top!!!!



It is important to stop here to remind you that no amount of knee pain or weather challenge could alter that each step we took, on this entire trip, was drenched in beauty.

Got it? Good now we can go on. 

We returned to the Refugio and reclaimed our warm room, but the sun and beauty of the lake were way more inviting.  Ro asked if anyone wanted to repeat the end of the previous day’s hike. There was time and our later group came in when it was dark, missing stunning views. Sydney’s and Kate’s eyes lit up and off they went to retrace a chunk of the previous day. I think you are now seeing that I don’t exaggerate when I call them the beautiful little mountain goats!


Diane with fellow traveler in autumn in hiking scenic trails in Patagonia

Around 5 PM we all headed to the dock ensuring that we were in front of the line to board the first boat. We were not the only ones to miss the early transport. Starting to feel a little melancholy, our transfer from Chile to Argentina meant the lovely Claudia would leave us. Especially me. She was my Rock! As we stamped our feet to stay warm, we did final group selfies with Claudia. 


With group of travelers in Patagonia in autumn with hiking assistant

Wonderful Edwardo collected us at the Gray Lake dock and stayed with us the remainder of our trip! He was a treasure with the sweetest smile.

The wind delays meant we arrived at our Hotel Lago Grey in time for a late dinner. There were long faces as we reunited with the clean clothing from our suitcases in a beautiful warm room – but no time to enjoy. YES, we had an early morning breakfast and then off to avoid the crowds at the border into Argentina. 


Drive to El Calafate


Goodbye Chile! Goodbye W! So sad, how can Argentina ever measure up? 


backdrop of snowcapped mountains in the autumn in Patagonia with iconic sights like Grey glacier, Paine Grande, Cuernos, Torres del Paine, and Almirante Nieto

We crossed the border in record time. I was missing Chile. It didn’t help that we landed in a nice hotel in a charming town, El Calafate, which is the gateway to Moreno Glacier. This was the hotel and glacier from my stop here on the way to Antarctica in 2017. Like a spoiled two year old, I just wanted NATURE! 

Well, sometimes we get what we need, not what we want. Later I would find that the majesty of Argentina and Chile are first cousins. In the meantime, I got a nice little respite that included clean laundry, a warm bed, a bit of a rest for my knee, and a fabulous day at the glacier!


Fifth hike – 2 miles around Perito Moreno glacier


Ok, so the glacier is beyond amazing! The walk was leisurely in light rain. The bright blues of the glacier require sunglasses on a cloudy day. Parts of the glacier continually dropped from their perch to demand your attention. Not as remote as we had been in previous days, it was other worldly.


hiking scenic trails around Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina with guide and group

We headed in for a lunch overlooking the glacier. The fabulous food and wines rocked. Laughter and camaraderie flowed! Claudio was our stand-up comedian. It was a family affair. 


Claudio is making funny faces and making people laugh during the hike to Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina

Claudio….run!

No planned dinner. Paul and I headed out to find a gift for his girlfriend and found Kate for a “fancy” meal before we head back to nature.


Sixth hike – 11/2 miles overlook at El Chalten


Another driving day as we head to Fitzroy and Cerro Torre ranges. We stop at the coolest little brewery in El Chalten for lunch. Then on to a short hike up to a scenic lookout. We finished our drive at Laguana Condor Cabanas. A quick check into the most amazing main lodge, where we will do everything but sleep over the next two days. 



Given our keys we go off to assigned cabins where, thanks to our magician Edwardo, our bags are there.

We don’t spend much time in our barely heated cabins when the lodge offers mega charm, a warm fire, wine, and treats. Paul found his way to the “extremely hot” outdoor hot tub and the beauties suggested a lobster alert. 


Seventh hike – 11 miles Rio Electrico Valley


Edwardo dropped us at a bridge where the trail head started, and the sun cast a red sheen over the mountains. It was a totally cool invitation to the day. We walked into a beautiful forest and rippled through gentle hills with beautiful fall-colored trees and sun sneaking through to light the path. Ro and the beauties were off to a lake that extended the hike. It was a beautiful day why not follow! 


Diane the traveler with a red beanie and layers in Argentina in the fall

travelers embarking on trip in Rio Electrico Valley in Argentina with lake streams and fall-colored trees in the autumntime

snowcapped mountains in Argentina in the autumntime

solo traveler on rugged terrain during hiking trip to Argentina

Snow in autumn time near mountain trail in Argentina

rugged terrain and rocks on hiking mountain trails in Argentina in the fall

Mount Fitz Roy was playing hide and seek behind the clouds and the open valley was an opportunity to snap my first photo of its north face.    


playing hide and seek with Mount Fitz Roy in the clouds in hiking trip to Argentina

Better yet Paul and Lucho (both fabulous photographers) were hiking with me. Out of the forest along the river, we got several shots of a hazy Fritz Roy – lovely. Then BAM we came face to face with a boulder field on our path to the lake. From the beginning of the W, I had a pact with my knee.  I could ignore the pain, only if I respected its hostile relationship with boulders. Paul wanted the lake, but I could only make it halfway through the boulders. So sorry Paul. We learned later that no one got all the way as there was an issue with the path.


male traveler from Diane's group looking out with binoculars at Fritz Roy in Argentina during a hiking trip

We all convened at a little mountain hut to eat our lunch and share stories. By now we were all fully formed, for life, friends. Lucho and Ro treated us to coffee and tea. Who knew a tomato cheese sandwich with a little coffee could taste so good? 

After our lunch break my knee rewarded me for the morning compromise. Full of energy I bounded out in front of the group and finished first (only time) for the day. Waiting at the bridge was a warm smiling Edwardo who had set out chips and beer. Kate was teaching me to take selfies, allowing me to capture the pleasure of the group when they discovered Edwardo’s makeshift pub.


Ro and Lucho the guides with group of travelers having group camaraderie during lunchtime in Argentina

We headed back to our cabins for a quick shower and then on to our little lodge of bliss.

Pre-dinner Airdrop activity ensued in front of a roaring fire, bottle of wine and a charcuterie board that could only be found in the meat capital of the world. Sydney schooled Paul on WhatsApp and other tech things. Ro did his daily doctoring – Kate’s ankle strain, my knee and my toe blister he was keeping at bay.

A fabulous dinner of Lamb and off to our cabins for cold noses and a warm comforter. From our cabins and the Refugio in the W, we learned to sleep with the clothes we would wear the next day to avoid freezing long underwear.


Eighth hike – 13.5 miles via Laguna Capri to El Chalten


A beautiful snow met us on our short walk to the van where Edwardo collected us for a transfer back to the bridge at the trail head. It was other worldly. The same red lit mountains welcomed us to a slightly different trail. 


snowy day during walk from Laguna Capri to El Chalten in autumntime in Argentina

beautiful scenery shot of El Chalten in rosy sun glow in hiking trip in Argentina

Lucho was stuck with me for the day. It was wonderful having his stories as we climbed through the forest to come nose to nose with the cousin peaks Fitz Roy, Saint Exupery and Poincenot.


male guide with traveler walking to cousin peaks of Fitz Roy, Saint Exupery, and Poincenot in Argentina

female traveler near Fitz Roy hiking trip in autumn time in Argentina

All were loving connected by a jewel of a glacier. Over our lunch I bullied Lucho into showing photos from his climb to Poincenot. I will never forget the rush of imaging the climb to reach it. 

We climbed, then zigzagged through a field of buff balled red and yellow bushes and clear streams. 


fall leaves and red and yellow flora in Argentina near Poincenot

Lucho gave me a lesson on how to capture the grandeur of Patagonia with my iPhone. In the beginning we established that you cannot see it but must experience it with all of your senses. That never changed. No matter how good the photos or my descriptions, the real gift is how you feel.


fellow travelers in Argentina hiking expedition with guide

 The rest of the group found a higher, even more majestic, lookout with snow.  They made a snow bunny that they named Diane.  Aww…. 


Having skipped the higher lookout, we tumbled into El Chalten ahead of the group. Well, I tumbled, Lucho sauntered! And who should appear? Yes, Edwardo! He took us to a lovely hotel where all little items, I had carelessly tossed around, were in my room! See I told you that he practiced magic!

I grabbed a beer and greeted the hikers for post airdropping. After showers and a briefing for our final hike, we headed to a restaurant that specialized in red meat. I think that is an oxymoron in Argentina. There is only red meat! Sydney treated us to Tequila shots appropriately paired with the meat.


Ninth hike – 11 miles to Laguna Torre – 6.5 for me


I woke to a leg screaming in pain. For the first time I wondered if I was doing permanent damage.   My knee was having no part of my negotiation to do this one final hike. I needed reinforcement so headed down early for breakfast, where I knew I would find Ro. To my surprise, the never early, Paul was with him. I shed some tears into my coffee. Paul was compassionate and supportive.  Ro, as always, said the magic words “you can do it”. As it was an in and out, hike he said we will go until you can’t continue, then turn around. 

I did not make it to the lake but navigated a couple of boulder climbs to the second outlook at the face of Cerro Torre, possibly one of the most stunning views on the planet. 


ninth hike toward Cerro Torre, another hiking adventure, in Argentina

Ro and I had a two-hour lunch discussing history, philosophy, family and more before heading down. I will forever be grateful. Without his emotional and physical care Patagonia would have been lost to me.


Diane looking proud as she continues her hiking adventure into Argentina

After depositing me at the trail end, he scrambled back up to do the last mile with the group. Not long after, I heard them coming down the road to collect me for our traditional “day end” selfie.  Watching them, I knew that I would always carry their spirit from this experience we shared. It was now part of my DNA.


Diane Berthel, MT Sobek Guest

MT Sobek Trip: Chile & Argentina Ultimate Patagonia Hiking Tour, 2024

Diane’s personal travel blog, Diane’s Travels