Cerro Guanaco – Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego

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Okay. You know how when you visit parks the hiking trails are labeled easy, intermediate, or hard? Then you do an intermediate hike and you remember that these ratings are labeled to protect the parks in case someone whose never exercised ever decides to try a hike, has a heart attack, and then sues the park? So you never can really trust the labels on the hike?

Well, Cerro Guanaco is the first time I’ve ever seen a trail labeled strenuous.

This left me all sorts of befuddled. I am in South America, which doesn’t have as litigious of a society as ‘Murica. Maybe the rating is accurate. Am I strong enough to do a strenuous hike? What does that mean?

Well. Let me tell you what Cerro Guanaco means.

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Cerro means hill, and Guanaco is a type of llama that is native to the Tierra del Fuego/Patagonian region. It was an incredibly important food source to the native people, but now is protected.

The hike is roughly a 4.5km hike (2.8mi) one way. Though if you measure every single turn and switch back, it could be more. The thing is that the hike is straight up. The trail says the hike is 4 hours there, but we did it in 2.5 hours.

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We woke up late in our way-too-small tent and made our way out to the visitors center for some coffee before our hike. We really didn’t know what to expect. I tried to get more information beforehand, but everything was basically saying “yup, it’s tough, but worth it.” We packed as much water as we could. Layers for the top of the hill, and food to snack on.

Basically you can break Cerro Guanaco down into three parts:

  1. Switchbacks up through forests
  2. Dead Marshes of Mordor
  3. Straight up

I was feeling pretty good going up through the forests. It was my idea to take on this hike with the support of Jeff and the reluctant hesitancy of Taylor. I felt like I needed to take on this hike to really conquer Tierra del Fuego. Was I going to let a “strenuous” label stop me? Hell no! So yes, the first part is tough, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

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Then we got to the Dead Marshes of Mordor.

All the other guides were like “oh, it gets a little wet, bring hiking boots.” What the frick were they thinking? This is not “a little wet” this is “really fricking wet.” I luckily had water proof shoes on, Taylor and Jeff were not so lucky. They still made it out okay though with minimal wetness. It is possible to do with running shoes.

It is a bit like a scene in an adventure movie where one wrong move and the floor moves out from under you.

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After the bogs, you have 2km straight up a hill with only slate rocks to comfort you.

This sucked so hard.

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As I have mentioned before, I can be a bit stubborn when it comes to hiking. I take a gasping for oxygen as a challenge. I think it comes from running cross-country in high school and doing hill workouts every Tuesday. The only way to make the pain stop is by getting to the top of the hill.

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Thus after staying with Jeff for a while, he took a break and hung back to hike up with Taylor and I kept going.

And going.

And going.

I started getting dizzy, but I kept going.

That view better be worth it. I should have rested, but no, I kept going.

And finally, I could see the end.

But that wasn’t the end so I had to keep going.

And I got there.

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And I was greeted with a 360° view of mountains. And a little fox.

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This is what the last 2km of the hike is.

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This is Ushuaia in the distance.

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This is the chilean mountains of Tierra del Fuego with Bahia Lapataia in the bottom.

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And this is the ridge line that Cerro Guanaco is at the end of.

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There were just mountains as far as the eye could see everywhere. It’s beautiful. It’s incredible. You work your ass off to get to a spot that is the highest point that you can see. Then you look out and see more peaks in the distance that you haven’t climbed yet. That are taller than the peak you just hiked. You know that this is only a pin point of beautiful views that the world has to offer and you’ve seen so little of them and you are so little compared to them.

And isn’t this so much more rewarding than anything else I could have done that day?

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