Chicago native completes historic hike on trans-Bhutan trail


CHICAGO — A Chicago man is sharing his journey which he hope may also be an inspiration to others.

It’s a trip Patrick Wingert has dreamed of for years and finally made it happen despite adversity.

There are times when our steps lead us onto a new path. And that path for Wingert began on Oct. 24.

It’s when a 20-year dream to visit the country of Bhutan, sandwiched between China and India, became very real.

“I actually read about Bhutan when I was a sophomore in high school in 2002,” Wingert said. “I read that the king was abdicating the throne and that blew my mind. I couldn’t understand why a monarch would do such a thing and it was just on my bucket list ever since.”

His life after school took its own path with marriage and a career in the city’s bustling restaurant industry.

“In the last three-and-a-half, four years, I got divorced, I got sober, the restaurant group I was part of had to close all of their restaurants and lay off slowly and ramp back up,” Wingert said. “And then I got into a car accident, I lost my leg.”

In the months after the accident, his path changed in so many ways.

“It’s kind of like, not the start of a new chapter, but a whole new book and for me. It kind of opened my own eyes,” he said.

After his accident, Wingert became involved with Dare2Tri, an organization helping to remove barriers for sports and fitness. 

He said it was then he decided he wanted to do something “a little bit crazy.”

“I read an article that the trans-Bhutan trail was opening up for the first time since the 1960s,” he said.

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So he sent an email and that’s when a new book started. A new path stretched across a country, over 14 mountain passes, staying in hotels, farmhouses and camping all along the way.

It was 250 miles in 27 days.

“The people of Bhutan are great. They’re very friendly, very welcoming,” he said. “They hadn’t seen a Westerner in three years since the country was closed in the pandemic. “It was gratifying to be the source of joy for so many people when I was finding joy in doing something I wanted to do for so long.”

On Nov. 22, Wingert became, what the locals told him, the first Westerner and first amputee to ever complete the trail.

“I didn’t go to Bhutan to try and find anything spiritually. I went to hike a trail and I came out of it with a very different mindset and kind of an inner peace and spirituality that I didn’t really know that I was looking for,” he said.

It goes to show how mind over matter can make all the difference to change perspective and start a new path.

“The book is still very much open and unwritten,” Wingert said. “I don’t know what comes next. I’m just taking the journey as it comes at this point.”

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