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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

9 hours got nothing on us

During the last week, our group spent our time trekking in the Cordillera Real. Our journey was breathtaking – both by the views and the challenging terrain. On the second to last day of the trek, we left camp for a 9 hour long day hike to a glacier nearby. Not knowing what a glacier really is, I didn´t have really any expectations for this hike, besides the fact that I would probably come back crying because I would have to walk for 9 hours. Our guide also told us that what we should expect is a 6 hour climb, followed by a 3 hour descent back to camp. But with that, we got started, with positive energies, and lots of snacks in our day packs.

The hike was challenging to say the least. The terrain constantly changing. We crossed rivers, climbed boulders, and carefully walked on slippery rock. After about 3 hours uphill, we reached what looked like to me, an uncrossible, extremely steep hill. Little did I know, that would not stop Ricardo (our guide). All of a sudden, I see him literally hop up the side of the mountain, and throwing down a rope. He then gave us directions to “trust the rope” and scale the mountain. One by one we climbed, and climbed, each step hoping that our hiking boots had good enough grip so that we wouldn´t slip all the way down. All I could think about was “don´t look down”. After conquering that obstacle, we had another 3 hours to climb. I could see the snow capped mountains more and more, but still they seemed unreachable. Eventually I just kept my head down, as to avoid discouragement when looking up and seeing how much more uphill we had left. It was a climb requiring me to think one step at a time, pushing myself to limits I didn´t know I could reach. Not to mention, the fact that we were at 15,500 ft in altitude didn´t make breathing any easier. Suddenly, as I was climbing, I looked up, and just as I looked up, the clouds cleared away, and there it was. The infamous glacier. I couldn´t have been happier. I was mesmerized. The size of the mountain and the compacted snow was beautiful. It was definitely worth the panting and burning sensations in my leg muscles. We took our lunch break at the foot of the glacier, definitely making that one of the best lunch views I had ever had. The 9 hour hike proved to be worth. Our group got back to camp proud, and in awe by nature´s beauty.