THE GREAT FEAT OF THE JOHN GARNER PASS
The John Garner Pass is part of the Paine Massif Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. The pass was discovered over 40 years ago in an unforgettable expedition made by two young men.
In 2016, John Garner, along with his friend Oscar Guineo, visited the park to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their amazing feat. During their visit, they hiked the 8-day Paine Massif Circuit, something that took them months to complete during their expedition 40 years ago. This time, they were lucky enough to stay at Vértice Patagonia Lodges along the way, making their journey more comfortable.
John Garner shared this trekking celebration with his wife, Val, his dear friend and ex-park ranger, Oscar Guineo and Oscar’s son Ricardo. Many hikers learned about this milestone and wanted to accompany Garner in his celebration. As Garner’s team approached the pass at 1,200mts, they were warmly welcomed by many anxious hikers waiting to celebrate this magical moment and enjoy the incredible panoramic views of Glacier Grey and the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
THE ORIGINAL STORY: OVER 40 YEARS AGO
The English mountaineer, John Garner, came to Patagonia with the hopes to explore the Southern Patagonia Ice Field with three other European climbers. At this time, it was believed that the Paine Massif was attached to the massive field of ice. It was not until the team was able to reach higher altitudes, that it was discovered that the two were separate and the possibility of circulating the entire Massif was a possibility.
After finishing their expedition, the European climbers returned home, all except for 23-year-old John Garner. Garner was filled with hope and ambition after his expedition and decided to stay in the area to live and volunteer with CONAF, (the park rangers), a decision that would forever change his life!
At this time, there were five park rangers in charge of the challenge to take the land that was previously leased by the Tierra del Fuego Livestock Society and incorporate it into the protected areas of Torres del Paine National Park. Thanks to Alejandro Sepulveda, a member of CONAF’s administration, Garner lived with these park rangers, teaching them about mountaineering and first aid.
Garner was convinced that he could create a pass that would allow hikers to circle the entire Paine Massif. Through many conversations with park rangers and with his previous experience, the possibility of further exploring the area was considered.
In 1976, Garner, along with park ranger Oscar Guineo, set out to look for a route that would completely surround the Paine Massif. The expedition took approximately three months and would change Torres del Paine National Park forever!
The expedition started at the Pudeto Ranger Station and began with a 15-day horseback ride to Sector Grey, the last point in which the trails were known. After arriving to the area, the first difficultly arose when they approached two massive ravines sitting at the base of the Olguin Mountains. The forest was thick and dense with beech trees, preventing them from continuing on horseback. The frustrated pair returned home and began to plan for another journey.
With further planning and more knowledge of the area, two other expeditions were made and the duo was finally able to cross the deep ravines and were able to build a small campsite, today known as Camping El Paso. As they continued West, they began to climb, reaching an altitude of 1,200mts, where they were left speechless by the impressive, wild winds and the snow-covered rocky terrain. They had reached the infamous John Garner Pass and had views to the other side! It was from here Garner and Gunineo were able to descend towards the Los Perros River and Dickson Lake, eventually finishing their three-month feat of discovering and marking the entire Paine Massif Circuit!
Thanks to John Garner and Oscar Guineo, Torres del Paine National Park has the Paine Massif Circuit. Their adventure has opened opportunities for hiking enthusiasts from all over the world to visit the John Garner Pass, one of the most impressive and beautiful spots in Chilean Patagonia!