The Quest to Complete the Greater Patagonian Trail

In late 2017, German engineer Jan Dudeck was just completing a decade-long quest to create a new long trail through South America. The Greater Patagonian Trail (GPT), as he named it, would come to be 1,900 miles, stretching through the southern Andes from Santiago to the Argentinean climbing mecca of Mount Fitzroy. “This trail rewards the humble,” Dudeck says, “and humiliates the proud.”

Stories were emerging from some of Dudeck’s collaborators of glacial river crossings, trailblazing, and frontiersman-like bushwhacking on the GPT. These challenges were compounded by the fact that Dudeck’s creation has no trail markers, nor official recognition. It passes through isolated arriero cowboy country and the settlements of indigenous people.

Resupply points are up to 120 miles apart and separated by 10,000-foot mountains. Several sections are reached by culturally sensitive negotiations at restricted access points. Only a trio of adventurers so far have had the sufficient linguistic, logistical, and technical skills necessary to thru-hike Dudeck’s labyrinth.

Dudeck and his Chilean wife, Meylin Ubilla, spent ten years hiking the few established trails in southern Chile and Argentina before beginning to knit together the GPT. Dudeck got the idea for a single trail after returning home from a 2012 horse trek; once back in Europe, he deciphered the route his guides had taken him on using satellite imagery.

“You don’t see it continuously,” he says, “but you see enough to know there should be a connection.” The 12-inch-wide depressions made by the arrieros and Pehuenche people driving animals could be seen in images captured from space. It was a eureka moment, enough for Dudeck to start creating his massive Andean thru-hike.

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