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timothydhalleine contributor

Hiking the Torres del Paine "O" Trek 4/9

Day 4: John Gardner Pass (17 km / 10 mi)

This morning we would cross the highest point of the circuit, the John Gardner Pass, at 1300 meters (4265 feet) in altitude. This section is infamous for its extreme weather, and it is not uncommon to experience hurricane-like wind gusts mixed with snowfall. This is a good reason to go with a guide and ours certainly made a difference. We were incredibly lucky though - there was no wind at all during the whole day, which is very rare in this area.

We left at 8am after a warm breakfast. We were going to hike uphill for 600 meters and then downhill for 800 meters. We hiked through a muddy forest trail and reached the exposed pass after a couple of hours. The temperature was dropping down but I did not feel cold at all as we were all sweating on the steep way up. “Hooray!” -  What a stunning landscape!

Chasing ice at John Gardner Pass Chasing ice at John Gardner Pass

Grey Glacier was extending before me, as far as my eyes could see. This was the most spectacular viewpoint I had ever seen, and a fantastic way to get a sense for the scale of the vastness of the ice fields. The way down was far steeper than the way up and not the most pleasant experience for my knees. I was definitely happy to have my hiking poles on the descent. The contrast of lush green forest and blue ice was absolutely majestic.

These are the most incredible suspension bridges I have ever seen These are the most incredible suspension bridges I have ever seen

We crossed a hanging bridge that was a challenge for the ones afraid of heights, but the glacier in the background made it an unforgettable experience. We crossed two other smaller bridges before reaching Grey Refuge, a pretty modern construction at the foot of the mountain range. We had reached the trails of the “W” Trek and the campsite was way more crowded than the ones we had been staying in the last couple of days. However, there couldn’t be a better reward than a hot shower and a cold beer at the bar after the 10-hour hike we had just finished.