Torres del Paine - Mirador Francés


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South America » Chile » Magallanes » Torres del Paine
October 28th 2019
Published: October 28th 2019
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Líe in - yay! We don’t go down to breakfast until about 8.30 - absolute bliss. Surprisingly we have no aches or pains after yesterday’s exertions, so we’re ready for action. Delicious breakfast including proper mugs of tea and coffee, scrambled eggs and yummy cake. All perfect. Departure time is a leisurely 9.30.

We drive through more beautiful countryside to get the Paine - Pudeto catamaran to cross the Pehoe Lake for today’s hike to Mirador Francés. It’s allegedly a 16km return trip. There’s an option to do a 24km hike further up the mountain, but the timing of the ferry at this time of year (11am), doesn’t give us time to do that hike and get back in time for the last ferry of the day 😅. The catamaran trip is half an hour and we manage a short stint on the deck admiring the views before it’s too cold and windy so we retreat back to the cabin.

Today’s hike is going to be easier as the terrain is not as challenging as yesterday, but Andrea sets a cracking pace and off we go. It’s enjoyable as it’s not too tricky underfoot and we’re not really climbing as we’re skirting a lake. All the same, we’re not speaking, just concentrating (or Maia and David say they keep zoning out). A few kilometres in we come to a tree cemetery where all the leafless, lifeless trees are like smooth silver statues of there former selves. Andrea explains that there have been a number of destructive fires over recent years caused by human accidents: a cigarette, a cooking stove and someone burning theirs toilet paper. It will take years to regrow. There are glimpses of the glacier on the way up and a few ice drops that we see or hear as it calves. When it happens, there’s a momentary waterfall of ice followed by a powder cloud that finally disappears. It’s impressive to witness, but sadly this glacier is not stable like Perito Moreno, so when it’s gone it’s gone. A particularly good view point is from a rickety one man bridge, but as it’s so precarious and wobbly you don’t really want to spend much time admiring the view! We have the usual clothing stops as soon as we’ve warmed up, and a water stop, but mainly keep going until we get to a sheltered area after a couple of hours where we decide to have our lunch before making our way to the Mirador. It’s cold so we layer up again and there’s a bit of sleet in the air.

We know that we have to start our descent at 3.30 in order to make the ferry, and it’s now past 2pm. The sign at our stop off says it’s 1h30 to the Mirador Frances, so it looks like we may not make it, which is a shame. However, Andrea is convinced that we will, and leads us to our destination in under an hour 💪. I’m so glad we made it, but unlike yesterday, we’re not so well rewarded in terms of views. Undoubtedly it’s a beautiful spot, with a huge glacier, a backdrop of mountains on another side and views down to the lakes below, but the weather is not with us so there’s a lot of cloud, grey skies and poor-ish visibility. I give it only 5/10, but can see how fabulous it would be on a good day. After only 10 minutes or so we call it a day and start the march back down, setting off just after 3pm.

We have over 3 hours to get down and we made it up in under 3 hours (excluding the lunch stop) so we should be fine. Nonetheless, the pace is a real quick march in total silence. We stop very occasionally to admire a bird, take in a view or fill our water bottles from a stream. It’s actually quite meditative and we feel good powering along. Back across streams and bridges, through the tree cemetery and we’re back in next to no time. We see a number of cool birds including a condor again, near the top, a hawk called a Chimango Caracara near the bottom, and our favourite birds that are to be seen everywhere in Patagonia, the Upland Goose. Maia and I are constantly looking out for the happy couples since Andrea told us that they pair up for life. They’re beautiful birds with the males being white and the females brown. The sad bit is that if the male dies, the female will find a new partner, however if the female dies, the male doesn’t pair up against and spends the rest of his life alone 😭. We are so happy when we see a pair, but heartbroken for the males when we see them on their own.

We’ve clocked up just over 20km on our 16km hike 🤔 but we’re feeling great compared to yesterday. There’s a lively lodge (Paine Grande) next to the pier, and we’ve made it down at 5.30pm for our 6.30pm ferry, so we head to the bar upstairs for a beer. We randomly meet a couple of travellers from the US who we’ve so far chatted to at Patios de San Telmo in Buenos Aires, sat next to on the plane from BA to El Calafate, cycled past and waved to in El Calafate and passed on our way up (their way down) to El Mirador Francés. We drag our tables together and have a couple of beers exchanging stories of our travels. We’ll probably bump into them in Punta Arenas at this rate!

Uneventful trip back on the catamaran. Can’t be bothered to go outside this time as we’re happy to stay in the warm. The journey goes quickly, Rodolfo is waiting for us and we’re back to lovely Nash Lodge for hot showers and a delicious supper. Forty campers have arrived for the night so the kitchen is super busy with great disco music blaring as they churn out all the food. Unfortunately the campers are a bit annoying as they’re in and out of the dining room asking for the WiFi code and charging their phones. Never mind...they’re spending the night in the cold and rain while we’re tucked up in bed - unlucky!

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