Cerro Provincia Round Two: 22 km In 7 Hours 

Having previously hiked the beast known as Cerro Provincia, Steffi and I were skeptical about making it to the top of the mountain in one piece when we decided to hike it as a day hike. We were even more skeptical about making it to the top in a timely fashion when the park ranger who signed us in said that we should try to sign out around 6 that evening. As you might have read from past posts, Cerro Provinicia is a 22 km hike round trip, that ascends to 9,020 feet. The first time we hiked this ‘foothill’, it took us probably over 6 hours to get to struggle our way to the top; we were anticipating our hike up to be similar in time to the first time.

So our first hour in, we tried to do something different from our former time hiking Provincia: we made the effort to keep a steady pace, which meant that we took our time going up the turpentine paths of the foothills. I struggled taking my time at first, because I prefer to hike quickly and take more breaks in between (such a sprinter prefers to cover short distances quickly and take more walking breaks). Although eventually, I got the hang of it and let Steffi lead the way to the top with her steady endurance based pace. After that hour, pace wasn’t a problem for us; we found the perfect median in which we could keep hiking without really taking breaks. When we reached the top, we found that it had only been 5 hours since we left the bottom, which meant that discounting lunch, it only took us about 4h20 minutes to get to the top. I guess you could say that it goes to show how slow and steady can win the race (as well as lighter backpacks)!  In between the bottom and the top, we made some acquaintances during our lunch break. A native specimen to the Andes and the western region of South America, the Mountain Caracara is a scavenger as well as a bird of prey. This first guy that we encountered in the midst of the hike was definitely in hunting mode, as it ate some of the scraps that we threw to it and took some food from Steffi’s hand (in regards to this: DON’T FEED THE WILDLIFE. This probably wasn’t the best decision we made here in Chile so far). While we were naively feeding the wildlife like we weren’t supposed to be doing, another Mountain Caracara joined us for the festivities. It was a magical encounter for us, having the company of large birds of prey. Later, as we came down the mountain, we saw the pair canoodling together near the top, which makes me wonder if it’s possible that they are a traveling pair (maybe not mates — based on the images I’ve researched, it seems that there is definitely some dimorphism between the genders).   [Lucky — as we dubbed him — getting his model-stat on for the camera]  [Probs thinking about how stupid we are for feeding them]  [The place where Steffi and Danny camped out last time we hiked the mountain. I’m never going to forget this place and the memories that come with it…]  [The smog is really gross. I mean sure, it kind of makes the mountains look cool, but it’s disgusting the amount of pollution that we’re breathing in daily.]  [Really though, isn’t there a way to clean the atmosphere here?]  [Looking over towards the snow capped Andes]  [The geographic formation of these mountains is just incredibly — I can’t even imagine how long it took for the Andes to be the way that they are now!]  [The False Summit — where Steffi and I thought we had reached the top — fooled me twice now.]  [Artsy selfies on the mountain — smiling is hard]  [Giraffes are evil creatures, you should look up some terrifying videos about them]  [I tell you, smiling is difficult]  [Panorama – unartsy!]  [Panorama – artsy!]  [Last selfie before going down — the last smile of the trip as well]  [It’s hard to see here, but a lot of the rock faces are very purple] [Steffi’s trekking outfit — fashionista in the making! Also, gringa in hiding.]

The real problematic part of our journey was getting down the mountain and not dying. We were pretty tired by the time we reached the top — something that we hadn’t completely thought over. There were times coming down the mountain where we slipped because we weren’t paying the best of attention to footing or our shoes failed us when we needed them to work (actually there were numerous times where I probably could have fallen off the mountain but didn’t… I’m lucky I came away from this only with a cut on my palm). There was also a time near the bottom where we were walking past a quail nesting area and we heard a deep growl and a bunch of the quails flew off… If Steffi hadn’t pushed me to keep going, I might have completely stopped and turned around to see what produced that sound (Brennie’s common sense also decreases with an increase of fatigue). After listening to some youtube videos later that day, we determined that the noise we heard was more than likely a puma.

In conclusion to all of this, I’m pretty excited to have conquered Cerro Provincia (the first time doesn’t count), but I think that I might not hike it again, unless if I feel like having multiple close encounters with death. I secretly think those Mountain Caracaras were waiting for us to fall off a cliff so that they could eat us for supper, but that’s just my naive idea.

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