Torres del Paine

Chile's flag
South America » Chile » Magallanes » Torres del Paine
April 7th 2016
Published: April 19th 2016
Edit Blog Post

Torres del Paine
We were now free and clear of any jobs and Spanish classes as we crossed back over the border into Chile for our grand finale in South America. The goal was to hike the "O" circuit in Torres del Paine national park in southern Patagonia. The trek would circumnavigate around the outside edges of the entire park, all the while setting up camp at specific areas called campementos or Refugio's. Some of these sites were nothing more than an open field to set up a tent while some of the others had huts and even a small general store to buy certain supplies, such as chocolate or beer. We planned on the trek taking us 8 days to complete, give or take a day. But first we needed to get to Puerto Natales, the closest town and jumping off point of all trekking or climbing done in TDP. To get there we needed to take a 6 hour bus ride back into Chile to Puerto Montt and then fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. After arriving in Punta Arenas we hopped on another bus for a 3 1/2 hour ride to Puerto Natales, which was still another 2 1/2 hours drive outside of the park. All of this travel seemed questionable on our first day but we would soon realize why people say it is worth traveling all the way to the bottom of South America.We gave ourselves the last two weeks in January for this trek, so when we arrived in Puerto Natales we had a couple days to gather supplies and rent some gear we weren't able to travel with, such as a tent, camp stove and some cooking pots and sleeping pad. We also bought a head lamp to replace the one we left in Peru and trekking poles. I still joke with Kristine because she thought the poles were an unnessecarry purchase. She didn't feel that way after the second day lugging all of our gear 20 kilometers to the next camp over rocky and unstable terrain. We planned out most of our meals for each day and went food shopping, trying to keep in mind that we needed to carry everything we bought, so cans and turkeys were left off the list. Breakfasts were oatmeal with Nutella and dried fruit. Lunches were either instant soups, rice or pastas or sometimes both. We bought a bunch of nuts and chocolate for snacks and that was about the extent of our food rations. It doesn't seem like much but the first couple of days we felt like we were carrying a toddler in our packs. Day 1 greeted us with bright sunshine and a refreshing cool breeze. After being dropped off at the ranger station and briefed on the rules of the park we took off for the trail head with our backpacks and big smiles. Neither one of us had done a self supported trek of this length so it was very exciting taking those first steps of an 8 day journey. The hiking was fairly easy and a good way to start out on our first day. We walked 15k to our first camp, campemento Seron. The beauty of hiking the "O" is that in the beginning its less crowded because your trekking the backside of the park and it's just a little more remote. Most people do what is called the "W". That trek takes 4 or five days and can get crowded during peak season. We would experience those crowds towards the end as we finished our trek. We strolled into camp after 5 hours hiking rolling hills and through beautiful open fields of wild flowers as far as we could see. Our elation from a good days hike was quickly deflated when I tried setting up the tent we rented only to find out that it was broken and had to be rigged to function somewhat properly. It would be fine so long as the weather stayed perfect and sunny. Any bad weather and that tent was as worthless as a cardboard box. But we made it work and enjoyed our first night camping under the stars in Patagonia. Day 2 started much like the first day, clear blue skies with not a cloud in sight and with another 15-20k of variable terrain. Not long after we packed up and left camp Kristine asked me what was so special about Torres deal Paine that we couldn't see somewhere, with less travel. I told her I wasn't sure yet, it was only day two but it had me wondering the same. While it was beautiful views all around it wasn't something completely different than what we had already seen in other places. Well, that all changed a few hours later as we descended down the side of the trail and turned a corner to see a sprawling, cotton white glacier seeping its way down the mountain across the valley. Kristine read my mind....that's why we came this far. We ended day 2 by descending down into what was one of our favorite camps, Refugio Dickinson. The glacier that we had been gawking at for much of our trek was now in plain site from our camp and it made eating another pasta dinner that much easier. We went to bed as the sun went down knowing we needed as much rest as possible to prepare for the hardest day out of the 8 days. We decided to skip over a camp and hike over John Gardner pass on day 3 as the weather was looking iffy later on in the week. This would cut our trek down to 7 days. Guide books and people who have done trekking in TDP said that if the weather is good and you have the energy go over the pass because it's the highest point during the trek and if the weather is bad it becomes impassable. So combining 2 days into one we
set out early on day 3 for a 10 hour and 21 kilometer day of hiking. Once again the weather was amazing and we began to think that either we getting extreemly lucky or people lied to us about seeing all four seasons in one day...our luck would eventually run out, but not on this day. The first half of the day was gentle on our knees as our packs started getting lighter from the diminishing food. We trekked through fields of vibrant yellow, pink, and white native flowers. We strolled into Los Perros campsite just a little after 12:30 and had a good pace going to make it over the pass and into the next camp before dark. After enjoying some tomato soup and raviolis for lunch we set off with full stomachs and rested legs to conquer the pass. 3 and 1/2 hours later of some steep trekking we were at the top, breathless just not from the climb but by the amazing view that lay before us. Glacier Grey is part of the Southern Patagonia icefield and is 6 km wide and 30 meters high and it showed us how spectacular Patagonia is. The billowing clouds above
cast shadows over the bright blue glacier pools sunken into the body of Glacier Grey. We spent almost an hour admiring its beauty and trying to imagine what it looked like before global warming. It's hard to imagine that this monster sized chunk of ice in front of eyes might be gone in a couple decades. As we started our trek down to campemento paso, we could see why Gardner pass would be tough to trek during harsh weather. There was just a little bit of wind and the gust would shift us the tiniest bit. Anything stronger than that and you'd have to hit the deck every time a gust came otherwise you'd be knocked off your feet as your backpack would act like a sail picking up the wind. Heading straight down the other side of the pass for 3 hours brought us to our next camp. With sore knees and rumbling stomachs we boiled some rice and soup and topped it off with a little chocolate and called it a night. The next 3 days were a little easier with just as much beautiful scenery. There were times where Kristne and I wouldn't speak for hours while
we lost our selves in the views of the surrounding Patagonia wilderness.Our luck would start to run out over the last couple of days. Towards the end of day 5 the clouds started rolling in and the wind picked up. This was the only night that we didn't sleep in our tent. Since the tent didn't have all the poles there wasn't a chance it could've withstood the gusts of wind and sheets of rain that overtook the night. Luckily, the camp we stayed at that night had dorm style housing fully equipped with a restaraunt and bar. We paid for the night, took our first hot shower in almost a week and enjoyed a couple beers while exchanging stories with our 4 new roommates, two sisters from Germany and an older couple from Holland. The next morning we ate a nice hot breakfast in the cafeteria and with a goodnights rest set out for our last camp of the trek. It looked like the storm had passed through the night and left us with blue skies once again but halfway through our 15 kilometer hike it changed as fast as someone flicking a switch. We went from shorts and t shirts to pants, rain jackets and beanies. This was what everyone was telling us about when they said you could see all 4 seasons in one day. Over the course of the next 4 hours we got soaked by rain and then dried by the sun and wind only for the rain to soak us again. When we finally arrived at campemento Chileno at 4:00 pm we had a decision to make. Hike another 3.5 hours return up to the towers while the weather was cooperating and the sun was out or wait until the morning and hike up to the towers for sunrise. Torres del Paine translates to the towers of pain and the main attraction are theses particular towers or granite peaks that jut straight up to the sky with amazing grandeur. It is a world class rock climbing destination and an easy photo op because of its staggering beauty but if the weather is bad the low clouds hide the towers you'll have to wait for the weather to clear. After an intense discussion we decided to take our chance and hike up the next morning and watch the sunrise over the towers....for Kristines birthday! It was going to be a gift no amount of money could've have purchased and an unforgettable way to celebrate a birthday. Well, Mother Nature doesn't care if it's your birthday and as we crawled from our tents at 4:30 am on Sunday January 24th the skies had opened and it felt like we were in the middle of a hurricane. Hoping that maybe after we ate a wonderful birthday breakfast of Nutella and oatmeal bars, the rain would subside and the clouds would part. We were disappointed once again and decided to cut our loses and hike out of the park to catch the last bus back into Puerto Natales. But before we headed back into civilization we had a proper breakfast of bacon, eggs, hash browns and anything else we could stuff our faces with at the hotel buffet for Kristines birthday. We arrived back into town that Sunday and weren't leaving until Thursday, so we had some time to kill. Kristine decided to head back into Argentina over the course of a few days to see one of the most beautiful glaciers in the world, Perito Moreno. While I decided to go back into the park and hike up to the towers while the weather was better. This was the first time we would do anything apart since leaving for our trip and we both agreed that it just wasn't the same without the other. Nature is best explored with the ones you happiest with.

Additional photos below
Photos: 54, Displayed: 30


Tot: 2.781s; Tpl: 0.027s; cc: 8; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0273s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb