Torres del Paine – muchos hiking

9 Jun
View from Valley Frances, Torres del Paine NP

View from Valley Frances, Torres del Paine NP

Arrive in Puerto Natales from Punta Arenas by bus.  Try to stay at the Errattic Rock Hostel which, the book says, is the place for hikers in the area. Unfortunately they are full so pass us onto Austral Glacier, their rather shabby and cold sister hostel.  Get ready for the hike by attending a really helpful talk given at Errattic Rock.  Decide to do the “W” hike but in 4 days and 3 nights.  Sarah-Jane and Paul who we met in Austral Glacier have decided to do the hike with us so that makes five of us.  Rent a 4 man tent and some waterproofs for the trek. One of the guides at Errattic Rock lends me his puffer jacket.  Realise how poorly have packed for the trip.  Have 2 puffers at home but none in my rucksack and it is pretty darn cold hiking in Patagonia in their winter. Realise my mate Deb was right when she said that I am always cold and should never leave home without my puffer!!!

Buy some food including a tub of dulce de leche, a few packets of biscuits and several bars of chocolate which will turn out to be the mainstay of my diet over the next few days.

Next morning it is an early start with rucksacks all packed.  Get bus then catamaran to the start of the trek.  Walk up to Glacier Grey.  Meet Alison and Pablo on route.  Glacier Grey is pretty impressive though the wind is howling through the valley when we get there.  I have to refresh my memory of my winter skills’ course of dropping to one knee!!

Me before the W trek in Torres del Paine

Me before the W trek in Torres del Paine

Glacier Grey

Glacier Grey

Hike back down to the Lodge, collect our bags and then onto Campiamento Italiano.  I can say, without fear of contradiction, that this is one of the most miserable places I have ever stayed.  The camp site is in the middle of the woods. It is freezing and super damp and also infested with mice.  Paul pitches the 4 man tent for 5.  There is a small hut which is covered overhead but not enclosed.  Even standing within it for a few minutes makes the fingers so cold they feel as if they are falling off.  All the trees have bags hanging from them in a desperate attempt to avoid the mice though the mice here have allegedly learned to abseil to get food.  They even chew their way through rucksacks to get at food.  You can’t beat these little guys! Meet some cool people at the hut, in particular, Alan, an ozzie who is travelling for four years on a shoestring budget and selling his paintings  along the way.  Meet another lawyer from Austin Texas who does property work.  Also meet some guys who are doing the 9 day circuit right round the park which sounds pretty wild but amazing.

It is so cold here that as soon as you eat you need to go into the tent to save losing your fingers. Pass a very sleepness night in the tent wearing all my clothes, that is, tights, leggings, waterproofs, several layers on top including a puffer jacket and am still bloody freezing. It is quite difficult sleeping 5 people including 3 men in a 4 man tent.  We all have to sleep on our sides and cannot move during the night.  The sleeping bag I rented does not zip so the cold just permeates my entire body the entire night.  Try to remind myself that being at one with nature is fun, oh yes it is it is.  The night also holds the strange sounds of mice rustling and trying to eat anything they can get their hands on (including Pablo’s rucksack I find out the next day!!!)Reminds me of the pain of plastic bags in youth hostel rooms. Is there anything more noisy than a plastic bag being rustled when you are trying to get to sleep?

Best bit of night is when morning arrives and can get on the move again.

Next morning hike up Valley Frances with Alison and Pablo.  So so much snow overnight. The views are totally stunning.  The sounds of avalanches and glaciers creaking fill the air.  Wow..The sleepness night was worth it after all!!

Me and Alison in Valley Frances

Me and Alison in Valley Frances

Hike down to Refugio Cuernos.  The folk who run this place are super cool.  Although we are tenting outside (en carpa) they let us have a warm shower and sit inside to heat.  It is like a small piece of heaven on earth!  Killen (one of the ozzie guys doing the full circuit) has the ridiculously good idea of buying a bottle of vodka.  I am sure they got the price of it wrong as it is cheaper than the wine.  We each contribute 1000 pesos (don’t worry dad I am not throwing away my money this is only about one quid) for a few shots. I meet Lieke, a Dutch girl.

She will later remind me that my first words to her (after coming out of the shower in Cuernos) and asked whether I would like to contribute for vodka were “hard liquor, oh god yes”!  Sleep much better after 2 shots of vodka and the lend of a sleeping bag that actually zips.

Camping in the snow the next night seems almost normal now.  Helped by spending hours in the refugio chatting.  Hadn’t realised how chatty I was until  came away.  I just love love love talking.  Meet a really cool Polish guy who works half the year in Quebec, doing jobs for “rich people”and then the rest of the year travelling.  Alison and Pablo later recount to me a hilarious story he told them about flying. He just hates flying this guy on the basis that everything is small…the plane, the seats, the storage, the plates, the cutlery, the food.  He is a man with a story but it is just too cold to find it out that night!!  Next morning it is a super early start to hike up to the Mirador.  Meet Richard coming back down – this is at maybe 6 am.  Richard is an American who was in the military for many years.  He tells me he has “blazed the trail for us”.  Don’t really understand this as whole point of getting up early is to see the sunrise over the Torres.  This is the second time I met Richard.  On the first occasion he told me he was so sick that he would need to see a doctor and that he could not continue the hike.  Later find out from Bern (an Australian chef who will cook me for along the way) that Richard had spent a total fortune on equipment for the hike, buying only the best and only US made.Unfortunately this investment had not paid off. His rucksack had broken on an early outing and his bivouac which he intended to sleep in for the whole circuit had malfunctioned meaning he had to share a tent with Alan.  So much for US made.

Bizarre sign - why do you need a sign when the camp is only 1 minute away

funny sign

Highlight of the Mirador (translates as viewpoint in Spanish though balcony on google translate) is not the views. It is so damn cloudy can’t see a thing reminding me of the 100 munros I did in Scotland.  Think got a view on about 3 of them.  Still again this makes me feel as home.  No the highlight is getting in my sleeping bag and eating some porridge with some chocolate shavings and raisins provided kindly by Alison and Pablo, sent by god to be my saviours on this cold hill top.

Mirador Las Torres

Mirador Las Torres

In my sleeping bag at the Mirador Las Torres

In my sleeping bag at the Mirador Las Torres

Right it is officially time for a warm bed….


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