Published: March 1st 2011February 23rd 2011
Distance - 18km Time - 8hrs
Greeted by our guide Rodrigo, we meet fellow hikers from America; Tomasz, Laura L and Laura M. Feeling tired before we begin (we are rudely awakened at 5.30am by someone turning on the radio and setting up breakfast), we start our journey to Torres del Paine. We arrive at the refugio (mountain huts/lodges) called Torres where we will be spending the night. Having packed what we think is the minimum required clothing for 4 days (but packing for all weather eventualities including full waterproofs, fleeces, gloves, woolly hats) we are told on arrival that it is going to be some of the hottest weather of the summer (up to 26 degrees most days)!
Good news for today’s walk is that we leave our bags at the refugio as the walk is up, up, up and a bit more up (before obviously coming down) and the sun is already hot at 11am. Full of energy we set off and immediately spot condors flying just in the air above. After an hour Emily already has the first signs of blisters (I’m thinking this is going to be a long 4 days) but
after some quick first aid from Rodrigo, Em is back on her feet. The main point of the days hike is to see the 3 torres (towers) and after a very steep 5 hour climb, followed by a scramble over large boulders we arrive. The view that greets us is so beautiful it actually makes Em feel a bit emotional (not that that is difficult)!
Back at the refugio we have much needed showers and a canteen style school dinner of soup, chicken and cake. We realise that our 6 bed dorms have no ceilings and are gently lulled to sleep by the sound of an orchestra of snoring and hacking coughs...
Distance - 11km Time - 4.5hrs
Feeling a bit achy and with a very bleary eyed Em we set off for our shortest hike of the 4 days (luckily as we have to carry our bags). For some strange reason my bag ends up being slightly bigger than Ems, not sure what happen here (Em - actually Si makes a big deal about this, but the only thing he carried of mine was my down sleeping bag and ultra light crocs). (Si -
and the rest) Laura M is disappointed to hear that the walk to the next refugio is not flat, but, ‘up and down, up and down, we are in the mountains...’ from Rodrigo. The views soon perk Em up and after being blasted by strong winds for the last km (which manages to knock both Em and Laura M over) we arrive at refugio Los Cuernos. I am very excited to see that this refugio has 3 storey bunkbeds and immediately choose the highest one, while everyone else strangely argues over who gets the lower ones (apparently something to do with aching limbs and not breaking your neck in the night when you fall out). Em and the 2 Lauras fall asleep, leaving Rodrigo to lead the ‘boys’ on a vertical suicide hike up to a mystery cascade... which has to be abandoned half way due to strong winds, which literally nearly take the t-shirt off my back. I arrive back to find Em still snoozing, blissfully unaware of my near death experience.
After dinner and a glass or 2 of wine, Em and I go for a small stroll and discover a hot tub complete with hot water.
Excited we ask Rodrigo if we can use this, and are disappointed to find out that a)this is only for staff after 10pm and b) that had we asked earlier we could have used it...(we learn the next day that Rodrigo sneaks in himself later that night and are slightly jealous)
Distance - 24km Time - 10hrs
The group are all a bit anxious about what will be the longest hike of the trip (half of which will be spent carrying our bags) and we are all pleasantly surprised that even though it is uphill again, the French Valley is shady and has a nice breeze which keeps us all cool. Reaching the first viewpoint we watch small avalanches from the glaciers and have a snack before heading further up the valley to the best viewpoint of the day which takes in a 360 view of mountains including the Cuernos (the horns) and the Torres (towers). We rest in the sun and have our lunch.
On the way down we meet some dutch people who inform us that happy hour at Refugio Grey is between 5-7pm. Now this walk is supposed to take 11hours
and we set off at 8am meaning that if we kept to schedule we would miss out on happy hour. Before I can say, ‘Pisco Sour’ Em races past (I have never seen her move so fast), leading the group and we manage a 3 hour walk in just 2 hours. We even make up a rhyme to keep us going which goes something like this:
Cheer up flower, Don’t be dour, Let’s power, It’s only an hour, To happy hour, And Pisco Sour!
We appreciate that this isn’t going to win any prizes, but it kept us simple souls amused (and it rhymes and everything). We arrive with an hour of happy hour left and began on the Pisco Sours – and carry on till late...
Distance - 22km (Si 30km) Time - 9hrs
It turns out that Pisco Sours, hot sun and hiking don’t mix... and with feelings of great regret we have breakfast at 7.30. Today’s hike to the Grey Glacier, without bags, is also without any shade, in 27 degree heat. Let’s just say that this almost broke Emily, who opted out of an additional 4km hike up a very
steep hill to a better viewpoint. I of course accepted this challenge and knowing that Tomasz and Laura L had set off 15 minutes before me, decided to run to catch them up. What I didn’t realise is that they had got lost, and after reaching the viewpoint in 30mins (rather than the 90mins it is meant to take) I had to resort to taking ‘Billy no mates’ pictures using the timer on my camera. After a quick snack I continued further in search of the Americans, managing to get myself lost in the process. I retraced my steps and found Laura and Tomasz also lost, and guided them back to the viewpoint... By this point it was 1.30 and thinking our boat left at 6 I was slightly worried that we still had 5 hours to hike back (you do the maths). So like fell runners we raced along the trail... and then caught up with Laura M and Em, who were chatting away and taking their time. Turns out the ferry wasn’t till 6.30 and having raced back we had plenty of time. Now we mentioned in the previous blog tht we stocked up on nuts before the
trip and this was with hindsight a big mistake as it almost drove us literally nuts. Everyday we were given as part of a pack lunch 2 additional bags of nuts so by now we had what felt like a ton of nuts left to eat as tomorrow we leave for Argentina and you are not allowed to take nuts accross the border.
Emily here – Simon’s upbeat commentary on this final day’s walk doesn’t reflect my viewpoint. For me there were moments of personal hell, particularly climbing a very long and steep hill on the way back alone, with the sun beating down on me, 27 degrees, no shade, and no water left I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a little tear! I was glad to hear from Tomasz that I was not alone. Tomasz speaks numerous languages and he overheard a Russian couple arguing on the hike:
Russian woman (crying): ‘I hate this, I can’t do this, it is too hard’
Russian man (pleading): ‘But you promised you would like it!’
Feeling elated, and slightly hysterical, we finished the walk (and the ‘W’), had showers and then had a lovely boat ride
across Lake Pehoe to meet our bus connection back to Puerto Natales. The bus ride is also an impressive experience as we get to view the colourful sunset over Puerto Natales which lights the clouds with an array of reds, yellows and blues and we manage to capture some cool pics through the bus window. All in all the 4 days was a great experience and we would highly recommend this to everyone – the rewards you get in terms of views and worth the sweat and every blister!
There are more photos below