Torres del Paine and The W...Day 1-3
Mar 2, 2008
|Day One...Not a cloud in the sky
Mirador and Salto Grande 5km
Our day began as we headed into the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. From Puerto Natales the trip was about 2.5 hours, leaving just before sunrise. The bus was filled with trekkers from all over the world. We assumed the same excitement was felt that was coursing though our veins. However, a few hung over souls boarded the bus and passed out while most of the others dozed off as well. I couldn't stop looking out the window for that first glance of the peaks.
We decided to hike the 'W', named for its shape as the letter w, from left to right. The traditional route heads the opposite direction beginning with the towers on day one. We thought it was more appropriate to leave the towers for the end, a grand finale. Roads do not criss cross the park like most US parks, here trekking is your form of transportation (with the occasional ferry ride). Because we were going from left to right we needed to take a ferry across Lake Pehoè to our first refugio.
With the Germans in tow we headed to a Mirador (lookout) and Salta Grande (waterfall) before boarding the ferry. The Mirador gives you an excellent view of the Cuernos as well as other views other the Francis Valley and glaciers. During the rest of the hike we would be on the other side of the lake and thus not able to get a full view. The day was gorgeous, sunny and about 75 degrees. Before heading into the park we heard story after story about the weather and how you can see all four seasons in one day. Our packs were trash bag lined, we were prepared for the worst. As our layers quickly peeled off we got the feeling we may have over prepared.
After getting some killer pictures and relaxing by the lake we headed back to catch the ferry. We arrived at the picturesque Lago Pehoé refugio and settled in, tomorrow we were headed to Grey Glacier.
Day Two...Dont feed the Germans!
Day hike to Glacier Grey 22km
We woke early to find another great day to be on our horizon. We booked two nights at refugio Pehoé so the hike to Grey Glacier was just a day hike, ie no packs. We met the Germans early that morning and headed out. Almost all of the hikes were classified as moderate, little uphills here and there but nothing too massive, but still 11.5 km one way. The hike was beautiful and enhanced by our new friends. Darin and Bjoern joked the whole way like a couple of school kids, sometimes even getting a little behind. We spotted some Magellenic woodpeckers, very similar to the Pileated woodpecker in the states for you bird nerds out there. The trail meandered through little glacial valleys and passed pristine lakes along the way. The water is so clean there you can drink right from the streams!
We got to the glacier at lunch time and stopped at the lookout for a bite. The Germans were doing the camping and dehydrated food sitch. Their breakfast and lunch consisted of a mouthwatering power bar. While our refugio box lunch was made up of ham and cheese sandwich, trail mix, fruit, chocholate, cookies, juice box, and bottled water. How could we not share as they sat a few feet from us, longingly staring at our ample lunch. We divided up some of the contents and passed them over despite their protests. Darin had just got done retelling the Mendoza zoo story of the caged monkey and all the people feeding him. Now Bjoern began telling us that he had heard that if you follow the Americans in Torres you can pick up some extra food and maybe even a meal or two. ¨Dont feed the Germans!¨ Bjoern began to say and the joke continued through out the day. We wish we could have a recording of how Bjoern said it with his accent and choice of vocabulary, much more comical when you hear it from him.
When we returned to the refugio we shared beers with the Germans as a final goodbye. Tomorrow our paths would part as the Germans would be staying at a closer campsite. We were sad to lose our buddies, we had a great time trekking and laughing the whole way.
Day Three... Com'on Francis
Lago Pehoé to Refugio Cuernos 26km
Our next day looked to be the toughest of the trip. In route to the next refugio, the middle of the W climbed up Valle de Francis. The climb up and down the valley would take about 5 hours according to the map. It would take an additional 2 to get to the trail head up the valley and another 2 to the refugio on the other side. We figured a tough 10 hour day.
The weather forecast looked as though yet again clear skies and sunny days were ahead. However, things weren't looking as good for me. As we headed out with our packs on our backs each step was lovingly accompanied by a aching pain in my feet. After our Colca trip we had said we needed to buy me new insoles for my shoes, and of course now in the middle of the park we were just remembering and I was paying the price. As we made our way it was apparent that our 10 hour day would quickly turn to 12 if things continued the way they were. Darin kept having to patiently stop to wait for me.
I told Darin he should go on without me up the valley. I would make it as far as I could taking my time to care for my feet. We still had 2 more days of hiking left, I didn't want to miss out on Torres because I hadn't taken care of myself. We parted and Darin rocketed up the valley. I made it half way up to a view point that exposed the valley on one side and the calving glaciers on the other. Darin made it up to the top in record time, doing the valley loop in about 4 hours.
It was apparently amazing, as I had expected, viewing a different side of the Cuernos, other incredible shear granite rock walls, and hidden glaciers. He took lots of pictures so I wouldn't have to wonder. I am disappointed I didn't make it up, a tough choice that had to be made...next time I guess. I was glad to have the extra time and fully took advantage of all the breaks I could to take in the majestic scenery. I only arrive about hour before Darin.
Refugio Cuernos is smaller than Pehoé so quarters were close and more opportunities to talk with our fellow trekkers arose. And what were people mainly interested in talking with us about...Alaska. It was almost as if we were a little famous for it, 'There from ALASKA!' And yes i too said i was living there a small white lie, hopefully true this summer. The typical questions were asked...isn't it really cold? Don't you have really big bears? etc etc. It was fun to talk about it.