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Saturday 18 Mar
Torres Del Paine, Chile

Just Three Rocks (Part 2)

As we climbed the snow came harder and harder. Sara wasn't coping well, but concentrated on every step by continually counting, whilst I looked for the next marker which signified the path. Our jackets were caked in snow and it was hard to tell whether the next step would be a solid rock or an ankle-breaking hole.

We finally made it to the top. On the other side of the mountain we looked down onto an immense glacier filling the valley below. It was utterly sublime, but we had no inclination to hang around and enjoy the view. With great relief we soon hit the treeline, but the going continued to be treacherous as it was steep and muddy and our heavy backpacks bore down on our tired legs. That night we huddled in a park warden's hut, trying to dry our sopping boots while he fed us coffee and toast. I was shattered and had had enough.

Day 6 started well, although still raining and cold. We followed the glacier down the valley to where it terminated like sharp knives sticking out of the lake. We had to climb a series of ladders between great ravines at one point and hiked long and hard to try to reach the bottom of the valley before nightfall. When we did, it was howling with rain and we had to put up our soaking wet tent before all our stuff got wet through. That night there was nowehere to dry our boots and only a cold shed to cook in.

We were supposed to carry on the next day - for the final part of the circuit - but I was in no mood for it. I had been broken by the time on Gordon's pass: battling to find a way through the mud and then the snow and keep Sara going all the while. We had made it, but I was mentally finished by the ordeal. Sara, on the other hand, felt that after that, there was nothing that could stop her finishing the circuit. Sara then explained how she had been unable to come to Torres Del Paine the last time she was in South America, as it was winter. I, on the other hand, had no such objectives and selfishly refused to continue. There was a boat from this campsite which would take us out of here and I was going to be on it.

We took the boat the next day. Sara almost stayed on to finish the hike, but felt it would not be right without me. She was thoroughly dissapointed and, although she assured me it was ok, it was my fault that she could not complete what she had come here to do. Of course I felt bad, really bad, as I had let her down. Her dissapointment with our day at "The Three Rocks" and the bad weather made more sense now. Sara had been planning this in her head since she was here seven years ago. On one hand I was proud of the way I had got us through the mud and over the pass. It was the hardest day's hiking I had done in my life, but this didn't make me feel any better about how I had given in.

We sat on the bus back to Puerto Natales, gloomily watching the mountain range dissapear behind us. The Torres Del Paine were clearly visible - the first time we had seen them all week.

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