Torres del Paine - Trekking Story
first of all, thanks for all your crossed fingers! Due to them, we were very lucky to do some outstanding Trekking in the National Park "Torres del Paine" with more or less great weather (without taking into consideration some serious rainfalls, snowstorms and of course, wind) and we are now back in civilisation, healthy and only a bit tired. ;-) But of course, you want more details. By the way, you will find a map of the Park in the pictures section for your better understanding of the trails described below. Here we go:
Arrival in Puerto Natales (Chile) and preparation
As already indicated in our last journal entry, we made our way to Puerto Natales as it is the best place to organise the trip, get stuff and most imporatantly, valuable information. For this purpose, we went to the famous '3 o'clock talk' at the hostel ”Erratic Rock” to get some more information on the trail, equipment, food and...ironically, the weather Those are the rules: 1) The weather is not predictable. 2) Keep your stuff and especially one pair of clothes dry by putting everything into plastic bags and all those plastic bags into another huge plastic bag in your bagpack. 3) Trekking is not fun but exercise – fun comes at Camping so keep your GoreTex-Equipment for this purpose and get soaked to the skin while Trekking – it will make you faster anyway. ;-). At this talk, we were encouraged and we encouranged ourselves (together with 3 guys from the US and “snow man” from Australia; Sam and William, 2 of them, are on a world trip and have a great website that can be found in our guestbook) that it is possible to do the complete Circuit of Torres del Paine, our original plan that we rejected already at home because of the information that the crucial part (Paso John Garner) is still closed due to the amount of snow in the Park.
Packed with all this information, we went to the supermarket afterwards to stock up on high energy and instant food, preparing for the next day (departure) to come...
Day 1 (06.11.2008) – Administración Conaf to Campamento Pehoé
Having arrived at the National Park around noon, we started our Trekking at the Administración Conaf to do the “tail” of TdP, a trail which is a bit off the beaten track of 18km in total! The weather was very kind to us in the beginning, allowing us to have some great views on the surrounding mountains and even on the Torres. Unfortunately, it changed quite fast and we were able to experience the meaning of rain for the first time...the combination of wind and rain can be devastating and has a rather negative influence on one´s motivation...anyway, it helps you forget how heavy the luggage is and you just keep on running so that we arrived much earlier than expected (“Did you guys make any break??” the girl from the US asked...honestly, no!) and quite dry again at that time. Having set up our tent for the first time, we had a great dinner of nudles and tomato sauce and we were able to enjoy camping for the first time...unfortunately in rain again.
Day 2 (07.11.2008) – Camp. Pehoé to Camp. Los Cuernos (via Camp. Italiano and Mirador Francés)
After a rainy night, some ice on our tent in the morning and a glimpse on a guanaco and a fox directly at the Campside, we set up for our second day in TdP, heading for the first highlight of the Valle de Francés where you have a great view on the Claciers of the Paine Grande Massif (left side) and the Cuernos (right side). The walk alongside Lake Nordenskjol was quite nice and the weather was stable at that day. At Camp. Italiano we were so “clever” as to leave our luggage (I mention that because we talked to one guy later who didn´t think about this option and carried all the luggage up the Valle Franés...or maybe he just didn´t join the '3 o'clock talk'...;-)) Having finished this day trekking quite unspoilt and only a bit tired and having seen some of the huge Andean condors, we had some problems setting up the tent at Camp. Los Cuernos as all the spots were just too small for our huge tent. Though we were not able to foresee the consequences at that time. Later we had a nice evening in the cosy and friendly Refugio Grey where we met a nice couple from Bruchsal in Germany whom we had encountered already in the bus and were to meet again the next night. I remember that I was quite jealous at that time due to their staying in the Refugio and not camping outside in the cold, rain and wind...like us. Call me a wimp...But, by the way, there is one advantage of very strong wind, it blows away the last clouds and Torsten was able to take some great pics at Lage Nordenskjol.
Day 3 (08.11.2008) – Camp. Los Cuernos to Refugio Chileno
After a disturbed night with even more rain and more importantly wind, we got up quite late to set up in the direction to THE Torres, face and main attraction of the park. Our original intention was to spent the night at the free campside of Campamento Torres from where it is only 45 min. to the viewing point so that we would be able to get up very early to see the sun rising which leads to the Torres being red! Luckily we decided otherwise! The leg of the trail was the hardest for us both as it is ascending quite a bit and I (Kirsten), for my site, have to admit that it dampened my spirits to be sleeping into a comlete soaked tent in the snow the next night at Camp. Las Torres. Thus we decided to stay at Camp. Chileno for this night! Arranging the tent at that night, it became clear that last nights storm left its traces on the poor tent as one of the tent poles was broken. Luckily, we were able to get two beds at the Refugio Chileno which wasn´t such a bad exchange, to be honest! Lessons learned from the whole tent situation: 1) don´t bring a tunnel tent to Patagonia, it is much too exposed to the wind 2) bring a light tent, 4kg is just too havy to carry 3) Camping is a great experience in winter, but it helps you appreciating the value of a bed in a dorm. Speaking of winter, at that point the plan to do the complete Circuito was no longer an issue due to the broken tent though we had somehow abolished this plan with the increasing realisation that it is still winter in the Park and thus crossing the Paso John Garner with an alitutude of 1,200m wouldn´t be such a great idea and safe thing to do!
Day 4 (09.11.2008) – Ref. Chileno to Ref. Las Torres (via Mirador Las Torres)
After a rainy and snowy night we decided not to go up to the Torres for sunrise and we postponed it to after a hearty breakfast! The way up to first the Camp. Las Torres and than the viewing point was brilliant with the snow becoming deeper and deeper every meter we climbed. Unfortunately, we were not embraced by the sun on the Mirador Las Torres but either by a rather tough snowstorm...get an idea of it yourself at our pics! Luckily, we met a guy from Berlin up there who lifted our spirits with his good mood and a great piece of chocolate...my godness, it is so easy!
Down at the next Refugio, we were at least so lucky to have a look at the Torres as the weather suddenly changed and the sky cleared. Now this is amazing...! Luckily, the weather stayed like that the complete night so that we (to be honest, Torsten, I was sleeping quite well) were able to make a distant sunrise picture of the Torres.
Day 5 (10.11.2008) – Ref. Las Torres to Ref. Grey (via Catamaran Lago Grey)
In order to finish at least the “W” of the TdP, the classical hike, we decided to add another day to our Trekking that is hiking to the Refugio Grey to have a look at the enormous Glacier Grey. For that reason, we took the catamaran over Lago Pehoé the next morning and walked up to the Refugio Grey via Mirador Grey. This was actually the best day of our Trek with regard to the weather...the wind was blowing like hell but the view couldn´t have been better! So we had a great time on the trail and enjoyed ourselves immensely especially due to some fellow countryman who seemed to be preparing for a marathon or something similar. His wife didn´t even allow him to make a picture...”Hurry!;-).
In the evening, we met again very nice people, 1) a couple, he from Belgium, she from Thailand, who seemed to have travelled the whole world and were able to tell so many interesting stories. His favority story was his journey to the former DDR, where he had a nice encounter with the “VoPo” on the train which he seemed to have kept in “good” memory and 2) Tatsuro, a very nice fellow, who forgot to leave his luggage and carried it unnecessarily all the way up (see above)...he seemed a bit absentminded anyway but very hearty and with lots of interesting stories to tell!
Day 6 (11.11.2008) – Ref. Grey to Puerto Natales
Finally, we did it! There and back again!
We did the “W” of the TdP, enountered wind, snow and rain and we survived it all! What is to come...we think about coming back here one time in Summer (January/February), pack a lighter tent and then venture to do the Circuit! Yes, we can!!!