Postcard from NOLS Mountain Section

We received a third postcard from Phil last week. I transcribed it today and may have gotten some of the locations and spellings incorrect. He should be in the middle of the last section of his NOLS course finishing mid April. We hope to hear more from him then – perhaps even a phone call! The front of the card is a picture at “Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine” which is where we think all of these places that he mentions are either located or are close by. Enjoy the card: (transcribed by Dani Magistro)

March 9th, 2004
Hola Familia!
Life has changed in Patagonia! We are now on mountain section.cold, wet, windy. Life as a kayaker was fat and happy. here it is lean and hard. We carry huge loads: 60 – 70 lbs of rations for 10 days plus equipment over the most interesting terrains. boggy turba with knee deep water, hellish jungle-like bushwhacking through Calafate thorns and dense Canelo trees, all the while dealing with incredibly harsh weather. First day of mountain section we hiked 4 km. through massive rain, 50 degree F temp, 50 mph wind gusts. It has rained for most of every day this week.though today is nice, 60 degrees F and only rained a bit this AM. Now we’re at the intersection of Rio Balmaceda and Rio Serrano near the home of a poblador (subsistence rancher) named Marin who is holding our rations. Unfortunately, we’re losing another group member. Gailan hurt her leg on a steep downhill bushwhack two or three days ago and has been struggling since. She was kind enough to mail this card for me. We’re all sad. Anyway, we are hiking in probably the most amazing place in the world. From camp yesterday and this AM we could see Cerro Balmaceda, Cerro Donoso, the Cuernos del Paine and the unbelievable bulk of the Tyndall glacier stretching off into the limitless icy waste of the Southern Icefield. We hope to cross the Tyndall next week. 8 km across the windy, crevassed ice. May be able to do some peak ascending as well. Donoso in particular. Again learning a lot like aggressive drying, appreciating the blue sky I’m writing under like never before, crossing waist deep rivers, dealing with constantly wet boots, suffering and loving life. Eating tremendously well.baking lots, huge meals every AM, PM. Starting to smell bad. wasn’t a problem on kayak section.but nearly 40 days in the same clothes is adding up.
Not much else to say now. just wishing you could see this place I’m in and have just a taste of the life we’re living out here. Can’t say I miss civilization at all, but I am really looking forward to talking to you and everyone!!!! Miss you all!
Love,
Phil

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