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Published: January 17th 2008
The Torres Del Paine
In full glory with the afternoon sunshine
After 5 weeks in Argentina, mucho vino tinto, many fine steaks and some great places visited, i have finally crossed into Chile where i will be travelling the length of the country in the coming month (although i guess to travel the width of this country only actually takes a few hours and doesn't sound quite as impressive!). After a brief 1 day stopover on the way North in Punta Arenas, i arrived in Puerto Natales, a further 250km North, just over a week ago. Puerto Natales is a pretty small, port town with only 2 main streets, a lot of wind and many dodgy Chilean sailors. Not a lot going for it on its own (Or maybe it does if you like the salty sea dog type), but the reason why I stopped off here is the Torres Del Paine National Park, a couple of hours North of the town.
So, after spending an afternoon sorting out a tent, cooking stove, food, wine and other essentials for a week in the park, i headed in on a very early bus with an aim of completing a circuit of the park. The Torres Del Paine Park is essentially centered around
Torres with random hanger on
There is always some idiot who gets in the way of a great panorama picture!
a number of granite rock formations which have been eroded to form towers and huge horns of rock protruding up a couple of thousand feet above the surrounding area. These look incredibly impressive up close and most of the treks in the park are to viewing spots at the bases of some of these towers. Some of the other less vertical peaks have huge glaciers hanging off them. The trek I did was around the circumference of the main park, giving panaromic views of the park, with diversions up some of the valleys, allowing close up views of all the main parts of the park. This took in 130km over 7 full days of walking, all with kit for the entire period on my back.
It was with some trepidation that i arrived at the park entrance in the wind and rain, remembering my navigational skills not being totally up to scratch (Snowdon, like i will ever be allowed to forget Bish!) and my scouting skills now a distant memory. Still, undeterred by the weather i set off on the first part of the trek, to a location known as the base of the Towers. It was very quickly
Fancy a climb?
How difficult can they be to climb? (OK, maybe next time then!)
into this first part of the walk that i realised i may have slightly over packed, and underestimated the amount of uphill i was going to have to take in in the walk.
Still, luckily through the first day the weather cleared quite well, revealing the three Torres Del Paine themselves by the time i reached the viewing spot in mid afternoon. Despite all the effort and final hour scramble over huge boulders, the view at the top of the Towers and glacial fed lake below is totally spectacular. It was pretty lucky to be able to get these views too as there is often a fairly thick blanket of cloud covering the top of the towers......as i found out the next morning. After getting up at 4.15am, and scrambling up said boulders in the dark to try and see the towers at sunrise, i was rewarded with a misty, very cold (Even in my sleeping bag that i took up with me), uninspiring view. No glowing red towers as promised, more misty grey fog. Thankfully i had seen them in all their splendour the previous day.
The next few days of the trek were onto the Paine
On the extreme North of the circuit, Refugio Dickson in a very panoramic location on the edge of a glacial lake.
circuit proper which is just an absolutely wonderful trek. Every day the scenery and views change completely, from alpine meadows one day, to forests, to glaciers, to rocky mountain pass. This trek really does have it all, and a lot of wind thrown in. Have i mentioned by the way that this place is just so windy. It never seems to stop, especially at 2.30 in the morning!
For me, the highlight of the entire trek is just after passing the highest point on the trek, the Paso John Gardner. After climbing for a couple of hours in the rain and (you guessed it) wind, you eventually come over the pass. Behind is a vast ex-glacial valley, bare and rocky. Just then, coming over the pass, you are confronted by another valley ahead, around 1,500ft below. Except this one is filled by the vast expanse of the Grey Glacier. It is really an awesome sight and from that height, the huge expanse of the glacier choking the valley becomes much more apparent. It must be at least a mile wide across the valley, straight ahead of the pass and it extends back into the valley as far as the
Another Glacier spilling down to another glacial lake
You would think i would be bored of glaciers by now. Let me know if you have seen enough (Of the glaciers or of me....face for radio Conor?, i don´t know!)
eye can see. I recorded a video but i can´t manage to upload it to the blog at the moment. I´ll try again the next place i am. It gives a really good impression of the vastness of the glacier. A totally amazing sight.
The trek then continues down along the length of the glacier and the huge Lake Grey ahead of it, with many icebergs shed off the glacier. The final part of the trek was into the Valley Frances which again is totally different to the rest of the park. On one side is a vast mountain, Cumbre Principal, with glaciers hanging off it and many avelanches down the side of the mountain. On the other side of the valley are the Cuernos Del Paine, large horns of eroded granite high above the valley floor.
Overall, it was an awesome trek and worth the blisters, same pasta meal every night for 7 nights and all the wind and sleepless nights. Because the daytime views are simply amazing. I hope some of the photos manage to do the area justice. However, i have to say that after getting back yesterday evening, the huge hunk of patagonian lamb
Glacier Grey Front
From high on the Paso John Gardner. With Lake Grey ahead of the Glacier.
and decent wine was very welcome, as was a decent flat bed.
So i am currently in Puerto Natales again, waiting to board the ferry tonight which will take me for the next 4 days North through the Fjordes of Western Chile, the whole way to Puerto Montt and the Chilean Lake District.
I hope all is well with everyone at home. More soon.
Over and out,
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