We woke up before the alarm; we must've wanted to see what Santa gave us. To our delight, Santa gave us clear blue skies. For the first time in forever, we could see the top of Paine Grande, the mountains on the left as we looked out from the hotel. Justin ran out to take some pictures, as there was no reason to believe the skies would stay like this for long. We grabbed an early breakfast, and then Justin took more pictures, walking down the hillside near the restaurant to where the waterfall goes past the hotel.

Our morning excursion was the Nordenskjold hike, with the Costa Ricans (Daniel and Rozio) and Paolo (from Spain). We left very late, around 10, as it was a short hike and close by. Nordenskjold is a relatively short 3.6 mile hike, with only 154 feet of elevation gain. It was a very short drive to the beginning of the hike, probably the shortest drive for any trail near the hotel. It was an easy and enjoyable walk, but it was windy as hell, and looked warmer than it was. There weren't many (or any) mammals, but there were some eagles in the sky, and a condor sitting on a rock above the trail. There was a lookout at the end of the trail, which we had to ourselves. Paolo told us about how the rock formations in the Paine Massif are unusual, as they have a combination of granite (in the middle) while still having sedimentary rock at the very top (the black portions). Daniel, who was a geologist himself told us that the top portions "shouldn't be there," but because the region is so geologically new, it hasn't completely eroded yet.

On the hike back, we passed lots of people coming the other way. People had come in for the day, and Nordenskjold is one of the easiest hikes for people on bus tours to do. Several of the people didn't look appropriately dressed, and were frankly lucky that the weather was "good" today. It was still quite windy, and clouds were coming in, making us worry about the view from Ferrier for the afternoon. But we could see the Ferrier lookout from where we were hiking, and it was clear, with the clouds well above there. We got back to the hotel just before 12:30, and ate first, so we'd have time to digest before starting the Ferrier hike. Justin's lamb was awesome, and Crystal's food was good as well.

The hike to Ferrier left at 14:00. We'd been on this hike in 2008, as the people at Explora Atacama recommended it, and so we asked for it when we got to Patagonia. The folks at Explora Patagonia were happy to do it, as it is one of the guide's favorite hikes, and many guests have no interest in doing it, since it is 3.5 miles round trip, but 1920 feet of elevation gain (so over 1000 feet of gain for every mile headed up). In 2008, the weather was awful, with rain that turned into snow that turned into a blizzard. At the top of the hike, we couldn't even stand up, and the picture of us shows how bad the weather was.

Today, the weather was better, and we were with Nino, Brian, Stacy, and Austa. Brian and Stacy were hoping Austa could make it, as it is a very steep trail, but they figured at 10, she could probably do it better than any of us. They also said they planned to bribe her with chocolate to continue, if she pouted. Our guide was Gonzalo, one of the people who had come back just the day before. The drive was the same as to Pingo. The first 10 minutes was a low incline, but then we went straight up the hill. There were signs every 100-150 meters of elevation gain, to let us know our progress. The signs were welcome, and could've been even better if they had daily affirmations. We kept looking over our shoulders to see the good views, which kept getting progressively better. We could see Grey Glacier, icebergs in Grey Lake, and several other points of interest. When we would stop at the signs and look around, lots of people were huffing and puffing, and everyone was asking "Anyone want to go in front?" Austa was whining a little bit, and Brian told her to cut it out, to which she responded "I wasnt complaining, I said 'Woo hoo!'" Pretty quick wit for a 10 year old.

Justin was now doing fine as we headed up, and not the slowest any more. He walks like a freight train, very slow to begin, but fine once he gets going, so he didn't really want to keep stopping, except the photo opportunities were too good not to. Crystal was doing fine as well, but she never says anything about anything, just trudges on without complaint and gets the job done. About 80% of the way up, the forest got thicker. We had remembered there being more forest in 2008, but given that we'd tried to forget most of the hike, it's not surprising we didn't remember correctly. Near the lookout, we actually walked up behind it and circled around from the back, in thicker forest. Right at the top, the forest gave way, and the wind picked up a ton. Then on the summit, it picked up even more.

But the view was spectacular, and worth the wind and the effort hiking straight up the hill. Between the skies and all the lakes, there were so many shades of blue. Our picture this time (from the same spot) turned out much better than in 2008. The group spent 20 minutes at the top, with it being somewhat cloudy, but more than clear enough to satisfy everyone. The walk down was fine, and the wind stopped almost immediately once we were back in the forest. There were no real slips or stumbles, despite the steepness of the trail. We kind of just quietly motored down.

We got back to the van just before 18:00, and were back at the hotel around 18:30. We got cleaned up, downloaded our pictures, and headed to the bar. We met Nicholas, who was going to be our guide in El Chalten. We discussed the Travesia just a little bit, and signed up for our excursions the next day. Justin signed up to head to the Towers. It was supposed to be sunny, but also supposed to be very windy. Given how windy it is normally, we wondered what "very windy" for Patagonia meant. On the other end of the spectrum, Crystal signed up for Mirador del Toro, which supposed to be a lazy morning hike, and then nothing in the afternoon. We grabbed a relatively early dinner, bummed out when we saw George Michael had died, and then crashed shortly thereafter.

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