An area within Patagonia, near Chile's fragmented southern tip, is a park that is Chile's showpiece: a world biosphere reserve with all the diverse scenery of Alaska in an area a fraction of the size. The Torres del Paine are spectacular granite pillars which soar almost vertically for more than 2000m (6560ft) above the Patagonian steppe. Cascading waterfalls, sprawling glaciers, dense forests, and the chance to see Patagonian guanaco make it a truly awesome experience.
6 Dec 2001 - Patagonia, ChileOn day 4, rather than walk back the way we had come we elected to get a ferry. This had the benefit of whiskey and glacier ice and a close encounter with Glacier Grey for some spectacular views and photos.
After this it was back to Puerto Natales for a couple of days before returning to Santiago.
Chile - Leaving Camp Grey
On the ferry taking us past Glacier Grey and back to civilisation. It looks cold - thankfully we didn't have to sleep in the tent that night!
Chile - Digging out the tent
We spent the night in the refugio at Grey but still erected the tent to look like campers. We weren't supposed to stay in the refugio as we had only paid for camping so it was a bit naughty. Just as well that we didn't stay in the tent as we would never have got our clothes dry. In addition to this, it snowed heavily in the night collapsing the tent which thankfully we were not in. However, if we were it, our body heat may have melted the snow thus preventing a collapse.
5 Dec 2001 - Patagonia, ChileDay 3 began overcast with the hint of rain. After cooking up another pasta meal we went to see the nearby glacier and then began another march, this time to Grey. The weather held firm for the first hour and a half before a constant drizzle settled upon us. This drizzle turned into rain and began to turn the paths into mud baths. This slowed down our progress as staying upright became a challenge in itself. I could see the harsh conditions to come so I decided to stop at hut for chicken and rich which was delicious whilst Adam, resolve strong, stayed true to the trekking, self sufficient spirit.
After 4 hours of marching we became wet through despite having sturdy shoes and waterproof clothing. The rain had even penetrated our rucksacks and some of our dry kit. Some of the small streams that crossed our path became fast flowing larger streams that complicated their crossing but this only made it more enjoyable to cross them - though if we had fallen in that joy would have soon changed. When we reached Grey we were both quite soaked, the rain hadn't stopped and the thought of another night in the tent with wet clothes was a worrying prospect.
In this hostel further 'mental weakness' occurred, despite Adam earlier being the one chastising me for similar weakness and had some food other than pasta - plus a few cartons of wine as well. We dried our clothes in front of the fire and pretended that we had paid to stay in the hostel. When everyone went to bed we got our sleeping bags out and slept in the warmth. Just as well! When we woke up at about 6AM (me because of cold) we looked out of the window to see that it had snowed heavily in the night.
Chile - Arrival at Camp Grey
Soaked through. Not that many pictures for day 3 despite there being some spectacular scenary. The heavy rain forced the camera to stay under wraps. On our trek to Campamento Grey we had to endure almost constant rain.
4 Dec 2001 - Patagonia, ChileDay 2 began with hot drinks and pasta to fuel us for the long march to Camp Italiano. We retraced our steps from the day before and made our way back up and over the mountain. After reaching the other side we thought we lost the path and took what we thought was the way. Instead, this took us through marshy but untrekked land. The land was undulating and each descent only meant that one hell of a slope was about to come. However, the views that this afforded was superb. It was a challenge to the legs but it was amazing how much the legs had adapted after only one day of tabbing.
After many hours of marching and a few sandwich stops along the way we eventually reached Chileno. This campsite was under a canopy of trees but I never have been in woods only to find so little wood on the ground. This despite fires being prohibited. Well we did search and found some wood so prohibited or not, we set up a small fire, warmed ourselves and cooked another large amount of pasta using water from the nearby river before retiring to the comforts of the tent.
Chile - Looking South to Lago Nordenskjold
After the Torres it was back along the valley retracing our steps and then a right turn to follow the trail for camp Italiano. This is about equi distant between Hosteria Las Torres and Chileno. The weather at this point is still sunny but quite windy. With a heavy backpack, the wind still wasn't enough to keep me totally cool. The green Lago Nordenskjold is in the background.
Chile - Lago Nordenskjold in Patagonia
Same area a few hundred meters further on.
Chile - Adam on the shore of the Nordenskjold
In the background are the ever present Andes mountains.
Chile - Crossing a stream feeding Lago Nordenskjold
There a number of streans that feed the lake. With the relatively clement weather, the streams presented no problem in crossing - unlike the weather the next day.
3 Dec 2001 - Patagonia, ChileDay 1 of our trek and after leaving civilisation behind in Puerto Natales we got a bus into the Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine. Upon registering with the rangers at the administration centre we were free to follow the circuit.
We got dropped off at Hosteria Las Torres on a windy but sometimes sunny morning. From here we started our walk and began the ascent up the mountain to just below the summit and then followed a path around the side of it. To our right ran a river, swollen with the melted snow running down the mountain sides in small trickles.
After reaching the snow line we encountered light snow and then began the yo yo descent into the valley where the Chileno hostel awaited us. This provided us with warmth and plenty of tea and coffee. After warming ourselves we erected our tent and then started on the walk to see the Torres del Paine. The weather was pleasant and the path took us on a gentle walk that followed the river. Eventually our path changed and we followed the sometimes badly signed boulder strewn path to the Torres.
As we progressed the going get tough and we had to continually watch our step. Even with sturdy shoes this is sprained ankle country particularly once fatigue sets in and the legs get lazy. The pleasant weather at the bottom soon gave way to wind and snow so the coat that I thought might be a burden became an essential piece of gear. After seeing the top we returned to the hostel, washed, cooked some pasta on our stove that we brought and had an early night with the wind howling around us. After this day of marching our uninitiated legs certainly needed the rest.
Chile - Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine
Day 1 - (A) Hosteria Las Torres to (B) Campamento Chileno 2.5hrs.
(B) > (C) Torres del Paine and back to (B) 4hrs.
Day 2 - (B) to (D) Campamento Italiano 8hrs.
Day 3 - (D) to (E) Campamento Grey 8hrs.
Chile - Patagonia, trek to Torres Del Paine
After leaving Hosteria Las Torres and the sunny lowlands behind we had a steady climb up the side of the torres, follow it around and then descend into a valley to Camp Chileno. This photo was taken shortly after starting our climb.
Chile - Patagonia, beginning the ascent
In the lowlands after been dropped off the walk was very easy going on the flat but it wasn't long before the steep climb began. This is when our legs got their first shock.
Chile - Patagonia, on the way to Refugio Chileno
The contrast in weather is amazing as you ascend from the lowerlands up through the snowline and into the moutains and valley sides.
Chile - Patagonia, descent to the Refugio Chileno
After the long climb up through the snowline, the first distination, the refugio Chileno ended the descent along the side of the valley. Chileno can be seen in the distance. For an idea of scale, the red spec on the left side of the valley trail is another hiker.
Chile - From Chileno to the Torres del Paine
On the way to the Torres Del Paine I thought I would take this photo of one of the pretty mountain streams that cross the path.
Chile - At the Torres del Paine
After the steep climb over boulder strewn terrain we are posing in front of the Torres. Up here it was very cold and the change in temperature was remarkable. The four towers are rising up behind us.
Chile - The Torres del Paine I
The first objective of our trek in Patagonia - the Torres del Paine. It was now time to return to the camp, fill our bellies and settle in for the night.
Chile - The Torres del Paine II
The spectacular view toward the opposite direction.