Published: December 27th 2011December 16th 2011 This is part three of my account from Torres del Paine National Park. You might want to read them in order. Part One: http://www.travelblog.org/South-America/Chile/Magallanes/Torres-del-Paine/blog-673779.html Part Two: http://www.travelblog.org/South-America/Chile/Magallanes/Torres-del-Paine/blog-674890.html Day 6 - Cirque du Escondido
View of the Lakes from Valley Frances
The route we will be backtracking later in the day.
Possibly the first of the campers to leave the site today, less faffing as we can walk up the valley without our tents or anything else we won't need for the 4 hour round trip. The walk went really well with some fabulous views all round accompanied by the thunder of collapsing ice bricks from the glacier and subsequent powder shower down the cliff.
Ok... The walk went well until at some undetermined point, we took a wrong turn from the trail and started walking in vastly the wrong direction (up the side of the valley instead of following the river). By time we had come to our senses we had decided (incorrectly in retrospect) to continue up and across to meet the path instead of straight back down. TO be fair, the weather was great, and leaving at 7am gave us plenty of time to be fools.
What followed was lots of scrambling across very unstable terrain, once sending a baby-sized
Cirque du Valley Frances
This is kind of what you can see at the top of the valley. A futher (off the path) walk is up on the right, but we couldn't be bothered.
boulder sliding down to almost (but thankfully, not quite) wipe out Christine who managed to evade it. There was lots of navigating through forests (where we were often taller than the trees), resin all over, cobwebs in the face, and covered in little caterpillars. We also had the pleasure of scrambling into and out of many a gulley as we walked up the valley.
Eventually (after some stunning vistas), we found ourselves next to two people and somehow back on the track..?!?! Success! The mirador was not far away (in fact, if we had continued up the side of the valley, we could have missed the path altogether as it did not follow as we had imagined, and was impossible to see in the trees. Fortunate). The road past the mirador was closed and I think we had had enough climbing through uncharted territory for one day. So we decided not to continue up to the pass (where, apparently, it is possible to see the back of the Torres).
It was a 3 and a half hour trip up... And a two hour trip back to the campsite the way we were meant to walk. Slight waste of
time, and it wasn't even the end of the day. We had to continue another two hours to the next campsite, for a little respite from tomorrow's long, long day (7 hours?), this time with all of the equipment again. Nice.
The two hours were actually quite enjoyable - especially the two fun river crossings that didn't defeat me but may have soaked somebody elses boot completely. Hehehe. Unfortunately, the campsite at Los Cuernos has the cheek of charging an extortionate 6000 pesos, has terrible ground for camping, and doesn't even provide toilet roll in the loos?!?! The refugio is very busy with more small timers, for some reason only staying in the refugios because they can't hack carrying their own equipment for their measly 5 day hikes. What a contrast to the quiet campsites on the back part of the circuit.
We had the first glimpse of rain today - quite a heavy bout that forced shelter under the awning of the refugio, with thankfully enough space to cook a rather generous amount of pasta.
My blisters are fine, nothing annoying or affecting my walking significantly. The only problem is the left side of my right
A rather beautiful lake spoiled by the greed of the local campsite. Get some better plots or lower your prices.
big toe which is (as has been for quite some time), almost completely numb to feeling. I have no idea when this happened or what caused it, and in fact it barely bothers me at all were it not for the fact that the only sensation it is capable of is a constant throbbing dull ache at all times. My shoulders are incredibly stiff and sore. They are going to go mental when I've finished. Tomorrow is our last full day and a biggie. Day 7 - The Long Climb
The penultimate breakfast. It's a good one. We were the first to set off nice and early (7.30 - ever so slightly before the Asian girl who doesn't how to put up a tent). I love walking early - there are no other people to worry about spoiling your day, the weather's cool, and my back hasn't quite started hurting yet.
But 7 hours is a long day.
Upon reaching a shortcut that cuts out about an hour of the walk (and also provides an easier, more gradual climb), I begin to tire. It's basically a nonstop climb for the next few hours - hardly a
An Exhausted Me
At the end of the 7th day... Just one more..!
woefully steep ascent but enough to slowly sap your energy like a forgotten handbrake. Somehow the Asian girl catches up to us (we thought we were going really quickly!) then catches up to us again without us passing her. Mysterious.
It takes an extra long time to reach the first campsite, Campamento Chileno, and at some point we connect with the highway of people taking the 'long-cut' because they are coming from the refugio we avoided.
Campamento Chileno charges for the toilets. It's something about this area of private land within the national park (also containing Los Cuernos and Serón campsites, both considerably more expensive than they should be) that doesn't sit well. Entrance fees to the park should cover things like toilet fees and, in fact, do cover it in every other place on the map. If you don't want everybody walking past your refugio to use the toilet, you could always let somebody else build another refugio nearby, but of course, that would lose the opportunity to artificially inflate your prices.
The last slog on to Campamento Torres was definitely the hardest of the day, and one of the hardest of the trip. Quite uphill,
Los Torres del Paine
The towers themselves, lit by a post sunrise glow.
very undulating, and the uphill bits themselves were exceptionally steep. Plus, we had no idea if it was going to rain so had the stress of trying to make it to camp before the rain did.
Well, eventually we made it and were the first new campers of the day! The time? 1.10. Somehow it had taken nearly an hour and a half less than planned. Not bad.
The last supper was nice, but kind of sad. Lots of pasta again (poor measurements the other days?). And unfortunately no salami - only had 6 days worth of the stuff. It was missed. I'm not envious of the other people just starting today. Not at all.
Blisters are fine. My neck though is not. Some areas of the movement envelope are unfathomable and my sleeping arrangement doesn't help - although extra 'pillows' at key body parts are a help. Just one more day. I was really tired today, knowing the end is so near. Can't stop thinking about all the things I will do back in civilisation...
Tomorrow morning is a 3.45am start for sunrise at the Torres del Paine themselves. I will see you bright and
Oh, the Comfort
Tip - take up your sleeping bag, roll mat and stove to the towers. Well worth it. Warning - if it gets wet and it's your first day, that's your problem.
early tomorrow, world. Day 8 - King of Paine
Well, that was fun. Awoke not bright but early, gathered the necessary items, and headed up the hill for a 45 minute uphill battle in the light drizzle.
The light drizzle turned more to snow as I ascended, and at the top it was certainly snowing. Picked a (retrospectively substandard) spot to settle and pulled out my sleeping bag. Yes, sleeping bag. Although the first thing I thought when I climbed in was "Good lord, do I really have to share this thing with myself?" (no showers for some time, remember). The snow/hail was kind of settling and melting on my sleeping bag.
The towers were incredible - reaching 2000m above the lake surface, it was tough to fathom quite how big they were. A mug of hot milk sat very nicely in my stomach, even though it took forever to boil.
At some point, I looked over at the towers and noticed that a significant amount of white had appeared at the bottom and clouds were appearing on parts I could previously see all of. I snapped a couple more photos of them and the
Back in civilisation. 8 days later.
double rainbow that had appeared, before deciding the sunrise was not to show itself and I should get out of there before the snow reached me. Bundling everything back into my bag, I started walking just as the cold wet snow first hit my skin.
Despite my best efforts to run and jump down every part of the rock and slope, by time I made it back to the tent I was significantly soaked. I crawled back into my kind of wet sleeping bag and had a kind of wet but kind of necessary nap.
Thankfully, the one and only time it rained on us this trek was on the last morning, so I didn't care if I was following stupid rookie camper policy and allowing my dry things to get damp. The rain had also decided to stop by time I dragged myself out, making it slightly more pleasant to pack my soaking wet tent back into my bag. I then rewarded myself with HOT porridge for the first and last time.
We set off - the last day, a three hour walk back down the same valley to THE END. It was fantastic to experience the incredible Torres del Paine wind drying phenomenon - everything (including my drenched boots and the drenching of the sock through the numerous massive holes in the side of the boot) was dry within about 20 minutes. Made me wonder why I was so scared of rain for the whole week.
The weather stayed fantastic until we could retreat back onto the bus for the end of the journey. I slept like a baby for the whole trip.
Thank you for reading, I’m sorry about the horrendous length of it so congratulations for reaching this far. I would like to give a special shout out to Christine for walking every day at lightning speed and helping me get up at horrible hours of the morning. I’m pretty much done with walking for a long time. I shall be relaxing for the next few days, without a doubt.
Also, thanks to Torres del Paine for being gorgeous, Erratic Rock for putting on a great free talk every day, and the Patagonian weather for having a week of unfathomably dry, sunny days.