Lago to Lago – Connecting the two great lakes in Patagonia Park
By Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia VP of Public Engagement
The official grand opening of the new Patagonia National Park in southern Chile is scheduled for late November but the park, even now, is attracting thousands of visitors including three of our trail running ambassadors who, in January, ran parts of the 100-plus miles of trails already constructed. Patagonia-the-company funded part of that construction but the new park, projected to be nearly 650,000 acres, has entire watersheds currently outside of the existing trail system.
Editor’s note: As we continue to expand on The New Localism, it’s important to revisit previous campaigns and breathe new life into them. Today, Rick Ridgeway reconnects with Mile for Mile which is more than halfway to its funding goal. Remember, Patagonia, Inc. will match your Mile for Mile donations through 2015.
In March, I joined two friends, Jib Ellison and Weston Boyles, to scout a potential route that could provide a more-or-less direct link between the two great lakes that bookend the park: Lago General Carrerra on the north and Lago Cochrane on the south. These two lakes are so stupendous that when people first see them they appear mythical, like scenes from a Maxwell Parrish painting.
Above: Finding a route above the Aviles Norte on day two. The team had Google Earth maps and an iPhone app that recorded positions that Patagonia National Park will use if they create a permanent trail along the route. Photo: Weston Boyles
We made camp and made our strategy. The next morning, I stripped and made a ferry-angle swim to other side. My friends tossed me a small line tied to a rock that I secured to a tree. We zipped the packs across and then Jib and Weston made their own swims across the glacial-fed water. We had another crossing later that day but this time we made it with packs on and arms interlocked.
That evening, we camped at a col between drainages and by the end of the third day we joined one of the existing trails in the new park on a segment that our trail running ambassadors had traversed the month before. We were back at the park headquarters by the end of our fourth day where we reviewed our route and photographs with Kris Tompkins, Patagonia’s former CEO who now directs Conservacion Patagonica, the foundation creating the new park.
She agreed it would make a terrific addition to the park’s trail system. The only thing needed is two, new swinging bridges over the river crossings, a short extension of existing trail to reach Lago Cochrane, and acquisition of the land where we started the hike, property that is currently out of the park’s boundaries. But Kris and her husband Doug have built this park using private donations and philanthropy so acquiring more property, and building one or two more bridges … it reminded me of a sign that Doug used to have above his desk when he owned the woman’s apparel company Esprit. It said, “Commit and then figure it out.”
Jib Ellison (left) and Rick Ridgeway (right) wave goodbye to Kris Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia and founder of Conservacion Patagonica, at the start of the hike. Photo: Weston Boyles
On day two, in the most secluded part of our route, we encountered the fresh print of a huemul deer. The wildlife officials at Patagonia National Park were very excited to learn this critically endangered, red-listed species was in this area. Photo: Weston Boyles
Rick and Jib on day three in the Furioso Valley. Their route has now joined the one that the Patagonia trail running team followed the month before (see Mile for Mile). Photo: Weston Boyles
Rick makes dinner with the new Patagonia Provisions Tsampa Soup although for him it was “not so new” because he’s been eating tsampa with Yvon on their climbing trips going back nearly 40 years. Photo: Weston Boyles
Rick (left), Weston (center) and Jib (right) at the end of the hike in front of a newly renovated hostel and campground that will someday make a welcome ending to the hiking trail that the team pioneered. Photo: a local gaucho with Rick’s camera
Donate to Conservacion Patagonica, and help build 50 miles of trail. Patagonia will match your donation, mile for mile through December 31, 2015.
Rick Ridgeway is Patagonia’s Vice President of Public Engagement.
For more on the original Mile for Mile trail run by Krissy Moehl, Luke Nelson and Jeff Browning, check out our previous posts.