Hiking the W in Torres del Paine park

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December 2nd 2000
Published: April 26th 2009
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Found an old triplog journal, slowly converting these to blogs.

Seno Ultimate Esperanza (Last Hope Sound), the name evokes the feeling of somewhere desolate yet exotic. Arriving around 9 pm, the sun was still shining throught he clouds and illuminating the mountains around the sleepy town of Puerto Natales. Now overrun with tourists, travel agencies and Internet access, this once-remote town is now easily accessible from Santiago i less than a day. The town still retains some of its character with brightly colored metal-clad houses.

dec 02 - Enroute to Puerto Natales
It's been an eventful 24 hours, all traveling and still have an hour to go. Arrived at the airport yesterday to find that the first leg of my 5 flights was delayed, not a good sign. We ended up leaving nearly an hour late, which wouldn't have left any time to make the connection to Atlanta. Sure enough, arrive in Houston and ran to AirTran only to find they had closed the flight (the plane was still there!) The American desk was right there and managed to get routed through Dallas. Made it on the Dallas flight, which was nearly full! Arrived in Santiago the next morning, lovely about 70 degrees. Next leg was to Punta Arenas, over a 4 hr flight stopping in Conception. The chatty Alaskan lady got off there. It started getting clouded over as we flew south, but the clouds cleared just as we flew over the Cuernos del Paine. Arrived in Punta Arenas, 54 degrees! Immediately caught a bus going to Puerto Natales (2500!). Another 3+ hr trip over the desolate pampas passing isolated but colorful estancias with their red roofs. Stas light forever so far south, days are ~18 hours. Arrived in Puerto Natalaes and went to go look for a place to stay with the Canadians, ended up at Casa Teresa from the LP, a bright purple place for 3500 a night. Went around to arrange the park trekking, 800 to the park and 500/day for the stove. Also bought groceries.

dec 03
Met Stephen and Joy at breakfast today, they were also going to the park. Bus arrived at 7:30 for the 2+ hr ride to the park, Xavier and the driver. The people on my bus were about as lively as a narcoleptic convention. Passed through huge ancient glacier valleys and moraines. Saw the Torres a long way off before actually getting to the park, the weather looked clear! Arrived at the park around 10:00 (6500) then took the shuttle bus (1500) to the Hosteria and started walking. 2 hrs to the first campsite, mostly uphill. Met a couple of girls, from Oz and the UK, started walking with them, taking lots of rests on the way up. Started around 11 but made it to the refugio in a little over an hour aand a half, could see it below in the valley a long time before reaching it. Stephen and Joy passed us as we were waiting so I caught up with them. The refugio was in the bottom of a glacial valley beside the raging stream, had to cross the bridge. Had a lunch then setup camp (2000) and set off for the Torres around 1:30. Only took us a little over an hour to the next camp, but the trail was more difficult. The last hour or so was very difficult, scrambling up the rock waterfall all the way up to the mirador of the Torres. Took forever but the view was incredible, the Torres weren't visible until I reached the top then they came into view. On the way up, passed a couple carrying a baby in a backpack, too many people are in shape! Spent another few hours back to camp Chileno.

dec 04
During the night, the wind had started blowing and sand had gotten into everything! Woke up at sunrise and caught a glimpse of the Torres all lit up red. The next camp was along way away, even taking the shortcut (and a few wrong turns!) we left at 9 and I didn't get to the refugio until nearly 4:00 (but that included a nap and lots of rests). The wind was blowing something fierce! At the refugio, several peoples tents had blown over or snapped, with them inside! Decided to go onto the next camp, Italiano as it was reportedly less windy there. Left around 5:30 but it looked like the weather ahead was getting worse in the valley. A good climb up into the glacial valley, but by that time I had popped my knee and it was starting to get dark. Still no sign of the fork in the path or the camp, so slept that night in a hollow in the ground to shelter from the wind. Rained alot during the night but cleared up in the morning.

dec 05
Set off the morning I had only been about 10 minutes away from the camp! By the time I arrived Stephen and Joy had already left for the Frances Valley. My knee was still bothering me, I went part way up into the valley before turning back, ended up resting/sleeping for the rest of the day until they returned. We next headed for Refugio Pehoe, about 2 hrs walk, by far the easiest part of the trail so far. Arrived around 6:30, just as the boat was crossing Lago Pehoe, just as amazing colored as Nordenskjold. Gorgeous evening with the glowing sun and the tents dotted around like mushrooms. Only cold showers!

dec 06
Weather turned worse last night, rained nearly all night and into the morning, worse luck - my boots had gotten wet inside! After sitting around we decided to go onto the glacier anyway, about a 4 hour walk. Trail was OK but it was getting colder and raining on and off the whole time. Saw Lago Gray below with all the icebergs stopped at one end. Finally came into view of the glacier, amazingly massive! The weather really started getting bad then, and my knee was hurting more so I turned back to the camp, arriving cold, wet, miserable, tired and hungry. Spent the rest of the day huddled in my bivy sack trying to keep warm.

dec 07
Weather cleared this morning, packed up camp and took the first boat across Lago Pehoe. Stephen's feet were really bad off and didn't want to walk another 5 hours to the administration. Caught the Maria Jose bus on the other side, two girls from England were there on a day trip. We ended up going to the base of Lago Grey, stopping to pick up a group of kids along the way. I looked like a monster after 5 days without shaving, and they were afraid of me I think!


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