|Jan Dudeck and his wife Meyllin, creators of the GPT|
The GPT immediately taught me that I was wrong! It turned out to be very different from what I had expected and from any other long-distance trail I had hiked before. My previous experiences had led me to a wrong anticipation despite a meticulous study of the 700 page „Hiker’s Manual“ and long talks with other GPT hikers. It took me a long time to adapt to this trail and to enjoy it. These were my primary challenges:
|Endless snow on the Puyehue Traverse|
dedicated hiking trails. Hardly any day went as planned. Again and again unexpected obstacles turned up: large snowfields, overgrown trails, impossible river crossings, volcano alerts or denied access. My average „mileage“ dropped from 30 - 35 kilometers per day to only 20 - 25 kilometers per day on the GPT.
If you are not 100% free of vertigo and 100% sure-footed you will need a lot of willpower to cope with some of the steep, exposed and eroded trail sections of the GPT. I‘m personally not much afraid of heights and have hiked thousands of kilometers in alpine landscape. But I learnt on the GPT that it is a big difference to traverse a steep slope on a well maintained dedicated hiking trail in a popular area or on a badly eroded horse trail in the middle of nowhere. On one occasion I even turned back because the traverse of a very steep slope seemed too dangerous to me.
|Relatively good horse trail|
All these obstacles and threats prevented me from getting into the “flow”, the state in which I can hike mindlessly and unimpeded for hours and days. On most other trails I take a rest day every seven to ten days, but the GPT was so stressful for me that I took more rest days than normal. I also had to say good-bye to my diehard principle of connecting footsteps. This rule is just not feasible on a trail with unpredictable river crossings and volcano alerts.
|I climbed dozens of these fences|
I am usually a very happy solo hiker and prefer going alone but on the GPT I wished for company - not only for safety reasons, but to share the frequent frustration with unexpected obstacles and to take decisions with a hiking partner. This does not mean that you cannot hike the GPT alone. I did it and will do it again. It just means that you will endure a lot more mental stress than on other trails. Be prepared to be psychologically overwhelmed and treat yourself accordingly.
|Frolicking in the hot springs while washing my clothes|
There is no trail community whatsoever and you will hardly meet any other hikers but I have had the most interesting and friendly encounters with settlers, arrieros (Chilean cowboys) and Carabineros. It was a cultural experience that was completely new for me.
|Shop owner in Trappa Trappa|
Did I like the GPT? Yes and No. On the GPT I have been singing with joy and I have been screaming frustrated curses. I loved it and I hated it - sometimes both within five minutes. Would I do it again? Yes, I am planning to hike and paddle the Southern part, too - but only after a decent break recuperating from my first hike on the GPT.