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Published: March 25th 2010
The towers as seen from the meddows
Walk from camp Seron to camp Dickson
We left Ushuaia heading towards Punta Arenas on a bus leaving at 6am and taking about 12 hours. The journey was fairly uneventful, but some of the tundra scenery was lovely to see. When we finally arrived in Punta Arenas we were unsure what to do, I think we were a little punch drunk from the trip, so we wandered around for half an hour not finding a place to stay, however we didn't really look that hard, and finally decided to move on to Puerto Natales, so booked a ticket and left about an hour or so later.
When we arrived in Puerto Natales it was late, gone eleven, but the bus was met by a hoard of Hostel owners touting for business, we chose Hostel Nancy, and were driven to the hostel where we were given a clean comfortable room at a decent price which included breakfast. Next morning we got talking to a couple from Australia who had travelled the same journey with us from Ushuaia, they were thinking of doing a trek in the Torres Del Paine...
From this chat, not sure how, but we ended up the four of us deciding to trek the
Ram, Liz, Byron and Marika
And a piece of ice of glacier Serrano
Torres together, camping out. So we had to organise food for the trip, a tent for myself and Ram, gas for the cooker etc. We then booked, with the help of the people running Hostel Nancy, a boat from Pte Natales to see the Glacier Serrano. It was a three hour boat ride which was lovely, during the trip we were lucky enough to see a Condor perched on a cliff. The Glacier was the first I had seen so for me an amazing sight, and to hear the rumbling as it moved, to witness the chunks of ice falling into the lake was something undescribable.
After the trip to the Glacier the four of us and another six or so people took a Zodiac up the river Serrano where we were taken to a lodge to have a lovely lunch. From there we were again taken up the Serrano for another couple of hours heading towards the national park. The day was cold but the sun was starting to peep through the clouds, we were all togged up in great big, long orange , fur lined coats to keep us warm and dry. We had wonderful views of
Orange Michelin Men
Before boarding the zodiac boat up stream Rio Serrano
the snow covered mountains, of the river birds, of a few brave kayakers passing, it was a trip well worth taking. We finally arrived at the drop off point which appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, we were met by mini buses to take us to our various drop off points, we however decided that we would camp nearby, and were taken to a camping area by a local. The camping site was basic, but it had a toilet and shower, and we had a camp fire, so after setting up camp we had our first camp meal of the trip, a glass of wine and chatted about the days to come.
Next morning Byron was up early to go fly fishing. Ram, myself and Marika woke a couple of hours later to the most amazing day, the sun was out, the skies were clear and we had an unforgettable view of the mountains that we were soon to set off to trek. This was of great cheer to us as we had all been expecting a lot of rain for our journey, so to wake up to sun was such a bonus. For a small fee,
Camp site Rio Serrano
We spent the first night here before actually beginning the hike
the owner of the camping site took us by mini bus to the registration centre where we paid the $15000 pesos for our entrance to the park, he then drove us to the Conaf Office where we were to start our trek.
We set off on what the 'Lonely Planet' calls the alternative finish to the trek, from Conaf to Paine Grande on Lago Pehoe, about 14km trek, it was exciting to be out there, although carrying everything we needed on our backs did make the going a lot tougher than a day pack. The weather was glorious, the sun was shining, the sky was clear and there was a general air of 'feel good' between us. This was where we all started to get to know each other. Byron and Marika turned out to be great company and fun interesting people, who were avid trekkers and had in the past done some incredible treks together. Both Ram and I counted ourselves lucky to be travelling with two such lovely people. The trek took us through great plains of land where I am sure if the day was wet and windy the going would not have been such fun.
Team ready to depart
The thrill upon hitting the road
For me the space, the air, the mountains were fabulous, and to be doing something physical gave me a buzz. The walking was not too taxing on this part of the journey untill the end after the 'Mirador' for the Lago Pehoe, then the trek took an upwards stretch, which as it was nearly the end of several hours on our feet and the first day, was quite tough, but as we crested the top we had a view down to the Refugio/Camping Paine Grande, here the site was nestled under hugh snow capped mountains and on the edge of the lake, it was a busy camping ground and after having the camp site to ourselves the night before a bit of a shock. There were only three showers for men and three for women, so it was a queue for a shower, which ended up for some of us being a cold shower, which is not such fun when you arrive hot and sweaty in a cold evening. We set up our tents, took turns in showering and cooked up another culinary delight on our little camping stove, by this time it was fairly dark, so after gazing at
the stars with awe, we huddled into our tents for the night, oh and what a cold night that was.
Next morning I realised why it was so cold, there was a good layer of frost on everything outside, and a towel I left out was solid with ice, the clear skies had brought with them the cold, but again to our amazement they also brought us yet another fine day to trek with, we couldn't believe our luck, we had been told how wet it gets on this trek and had spent time searching for waterproof trousers, gaiters and water proofing our walking boots.
The next leg of the trek was to take us from Paine Grande to Camp Italiano, which was the bottom of part of the 'W'. This was a trek of about 7.5kms and was fairly easy going and along side the Lago Skottsburg, as this like Paine Grande is part of the 'W' trek it was quite a busy route and could be a little frustrating when you got stuck behind a group of twenty or so walkers who walk slower than you, or when you had to stop to let another group
Walking into paradise
The alternative finish to Paine Grande camp site
pass going in the opposite direction, that said, I enjoyed the walk. We were all walking at our own pace and stopping at agreed points to meet up and check that we were all happy and alive. The Camp Italiano was one of the more basic camp sites, it was on the side of a river and you had to walk over a suspended bridge to the camp, which was under the trees, which made it a much warmer site to camp in. We all set up our tents and as it was still fairly early in the day we decided to do the up and down trek to Campo Britanico, this was a 3hr up and 3hr back hike, but as it got dark around nine we had daylight time. This was quite a steep ascent which was over big boulders and rocks at some point, and through woods, over little streams, at one point we missed the marker and went a little off track, but realised fairly soon and regained our way easily. The way back down was so much easier and quicker and we arrived in time to cook up another supper that Jamie Oliver would have
been proud of, before huddling into the tent for another night.
Early next morning we all set off on the next leg of the trek heading for our next camping ground Las Torres. Again we were blessed with great weather, the day was sunny and bright. We had a 16.5km trek ahead of us so we decided to meet at the first camp ground Los Cuernos for lunch together, and after to head on to Las Torres. Again this was a fairly busy route with many other trekkers on the path, however the routes on this trek are all fairly good and well marked. After Los Cuernos we followed alongside the Lago Nordenskjold, a beautiful lake, to our right and the Torres to our left, which at most times were very visible due to the fabulous weather, this was a long days hike but the views were really tremendous. We finally reached Las Torres and set up to camp, we even had tables here and were able to have a campfire. The camp ground was at the foot of the mountains and the sunset was incredible. We were going to stay here for two nights so that in the
morning we could set off on the hike up to the Torres. There was a small shop here so we were able to buy bread, eggs, coke and wine, thus we had another gourmet supper before bed. Next morning we woke to grey drizzly skies and all had a bit of slow start, breakfast and tea, it is funny how food tasted so different when you are able to sit at a table to eat it. Byron decided not to come up to the Torres as he wanted to have a rest day and catch up on some reading so Markia, Ram and I set off at mid morning on the long uphhill hike. We had to retrace our steps for a kilometer or so before we could get onto the path to the Torres, this path was quite steep and due to the change in weather fairly muddy and slippery in parts. We met trekkers coming back down the trail who had been brave enough to hike up the day before in the hope of seeing the sunrise over the Torres, I have to say seeing them made me really glad that we had decided to camp at the
Vision of peace
bottom of the trail and hike up with a small day pack instead of having to carry our tents and big bags up this tough path. We saw horse trains coming back down the trail with the empty gas cylinders, bottles, rubbish etc from the Refugio further up, how they were able to stay on some of the narrow paths is incredible, I found it intimidating in parts especially with the steep drop to one side and the winds buffetting from all sides. We stopped for a snack at Camp Chileno before the even tougher assent to Camp Torres. This was a nice walk despite the uphill as it was through woods, over streams and rivers crossed by little wooden bridges, however it was slippery and I was glad of my walking pole. Marika and I were worried about time as it seemed to be taking us longer than we thought and we nearly turned back but a few minutes later we came accross the sign for Camp Torres telling us that the sumit was only 45 minutes away. If we thought the ascent so far was tough, the next 45 mins were tourture, up, up, up, over rocks, loose
sandy shale, with a few ropes in places to help you up, this so far for me was the hardest part of the trek but Marika seemed to run up it like a mountain goat! When I finally reached the top it was to see a bit of lake surrounded by thick fog and it was so cold, I took a few pictures just to prove I had reached the top and decided to make my way back down with Marika, Ram decided he was going to wait a bit to see if the fog would lift and he could get a picture. Marika and I retraced our steps, this was so much quicker than going up and we arrived back at camp around 6.30ish, to be welcomed by a lovely big camp fire with the water already boiling for tea. After a hot shower we made some supper and waited for Ram to return, gave up and had supper, and sat by the camp fire drinking wine and chatting. Ram arrived back to camp at some time after 9.30 triumphant as he had sat for over two hours and been rewarded with a great view and picture of the
Let there be light
After 2.5hrs waiting in the fog clouds raised up and the towers appear
towers and lake.
Next morning we awoke to rain, everything was sodden, our tent had a leak and we had to pack up and get walking.....this was the point of no return, this was the last place with a road or boat running into or out of it untill our return from the circuit to Paine Grande, and I have to say I was sorely tempted to back out as the weather was foul and very cold. I am glad to say that I didn't give up, we continued and I am so glad we did. The trek from Las Torres to camp site Seron was about 9km and was fairly easy going, through wooded areas and gentle ascents followed by nice downward slopes, this day I decided to walk with Ram and at one point we walked alongside a wooded area which seemed to be alive with green and red parrots who appeared to follow us along the trail. The wet weather seemed to take a turn for the better and as we neared our camp site the sun appeared which was a blessing as we were able to dry out our sodden tent and belongings so we
didn't have wet bags to sleep in. This was a lovely small camping ground and we were able to buy freshly baked cheesy bread and salami to add to our foodstore. When we first arrived we were the only people there but as the evening progressed it seemed that people were coming from all directions. Again we had a cold night with a sharp groundfrost.
Another bright sunny morning greeted us and we were up and packed early and ready to do the next 19km leg of the trip to Camp Dickson, I started to walk with Ram, but he was forever stopping to take photo's so I walked on by myself. I really enjoyed the fact that I didn't see or hear another human being for over three hours. I was totally alone in nature walking the fairly steep inclines and descents alongside the Lago Paine, it was beautiful to see the reflections of the snow capped mountains in the lake. Part of the trek was through bog land and here I just felt I was going round and round in circles but after a while I found my way out and up through a wooded area and
a steep ascent, where, as I looked to my right I saw Camp Dickson sitting by the Lago Dickson, as I made my way down the steep descent to Dickson I was met by a gaucho with a few horses off to deliver or collect supplies. I liked this camp ground it was peaceful and the people running it were friendly. We found a nice spot surrounded by bushed to give us a windbreak and although there were a few mosquitos who seemed to make a beeline for Ram, it was a good place to stay and a good nights sleep was had.
From Dickson to Los Perros was about a 9km hike, and again we had a good day to do the journey. The terrain was not too difficult and I found the walk pleasant, passing through wild flower meadows and wooded areas, the final kilometer or so was a gradual uphill to a 'mirrador' over the Glacier Los Perros before a small downhill section into the camp, which was fairly basic and set under the trees, when I arrived it was very cold but luckily there is a small hut to cook and eat in, with a
tin barrel fire which we were able to get going to warm ourselves around. We were told that the bad weather was coming in so we were worried that we may have to stay in this camp ground for a second night, which we didn't want to do. We awoke next morning early and got packed up quickly so that we were able to make an early start on the trail, Los Perros over the pass to Camp Paso, this, we were told by all was the hardest part of the journey, and i had been quietly worrying that i would find it too hard, I was told it was four hours up and two plus hours down, and the thought of all the effort needed for this whilst carrying a heavy rucksack was not a happy one.
It was uphill, but not as steep to start with as i had thought, it was wetter and boggy, also the weather was taking a change and I could feel spots of rain falling, which I tried to ignore. The going did get tough and so did the weather, about an hour into the walk, i could hardly see a few
We did it
Waiting for the catamaran
yards in front of me due to the snow, which was blizzard like with the wind, and the wind was buffeting so strongly at times I thought I would be blown over. I kept on walking steadily uphill, the clouds and sky were amazing as I looked back behind me, black black clouds, with sunlight streaming through in places over the lake. In parts over the pass it was snow covered and at times difficult to see the marker points in front of me and every time I thought i was nearly at the top there seemed to be just a little further to go. After all the effort I was rewarded at the top, it was still bowing a gale and very cold, but in front of me was the wonderful sight of Glacier Grey with a rainbow bouncing off it, here again the skies and clouds were just wonderful to see. Glacier Grey was a stunning glacier to see and as i walked down towards it, it began to show itself in its full glory and size, it seemed I walked alongside it for hours before i came upon Camp Paso where we had thought to stay the
The first glacier we saw
night. I waited for Byron and Marika to arrive and we decided as it was still early in the day that we were going to walk on past this camp and camp Los Guardas in the hope of making it to Camp Refugio Grey in good time to set up camp. As this had not been the plan I waited for Ram to let him know the plan, and here I met Philip a lovely German guy who gave me coffee to warm me up. Ram arrived a bit later and after giving him hot tea and some food, we parted company agreeing to meet at Refugio Grey later. The walk was good fairly up and down with a couple of really scarey ladders to climb up and down. At times the wind off the Glacier blew so cold, but I kept walking, and walking and walking, surely I should be there by now?? I then came accross a mirrador where there were some people looking at the view and asked them where Refugio Grey was, about two hours back i was told..........god how stupid i had missed the sign and turn into the camp.....luckily I think I had only
been walking an hour past it, so I had to retrace my steps at speed to get back to Grey before the guys called in the rescue team. I think I made it back with minutes to spare before they called out the search squad. I was cold, tired and felt very stupid to have sailed on past in my own little world. Never mind, whilst i had a lovely hot shower, Ram and Marika got the tent up and Ram made yet another gourmet supper, this was to be our last night on the trail, and although I was dreaming of a soft bed to sleep in, it was still sad to think it was all nearly over.
The last morning we slowly packed up, we had plenty of time to do the last stretch of the hike in time to catch the last boat out. The last leg of the journey was still pretty tough for the first part up steep inclines that I had done the day before, both ways! At the Mirador we took photos then walked on the last five or so kilometers to Paine Grande. We were all fairly quiet, due to tiredness
Here I am
The cold glacier breeze refreshes the mind
and the thought that this was nearly over. We enjoyed the walk in a subdued state of mind, but when we finally made it back to Paine Grande there was a great feeling of achievement and pride in ourselves at having completed the long hike and the camping out night after night. We all celebrated over cake and hot chocolate whilst we waited for the boat to arrive and shared stories and experiences with others who had just completed the walk also. The boat took us accross Lago Pehoe to Guarderia Pudeto where buses were waiting to take us back to Pte Natalis and a soft bed at Hostel Nancy.
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