Sunday, April 1, 2012
"W" Stands for Wonderful
Wind and rain pelted my face and pools of water sloshed in my shoes as I hiked up the French Valley. The dirt trails turned into streams and the rivers became dangerous to cross. It was my third day into the "W" hike.
The "W" hike is one of the most popular hikes in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia Chile. It is a total of 75 km (46.5 miles).
The hike started with amazing weather. A group of us decided to start at Lago Grey and hike from West to East. After a two hour ride by bus from Puerto Natales we arrived at the catamaran that would take us across lake Pehoe to the trail. From the trail head we hiked 7 miles toward Glacier Grey. We camped above the glacier at Las Guardas camp. We watched the sun set over the massive glacier that seamed to extend infinitely.
The following day we headed toward the French Valley along Lago Grey and Lago Pehoe. The second day we hiked a total of 14 miles to arrive at Camp Italiano. Camp Italiano was busier which attracted hungry mice into the camp who were notorious for eating holes into tents. The camp is located by a beautiful rocky river which was convenient water source. Since Torres del Paine is so remote the water is drinkable right from the streams.
On the third day it began to rain. Not wanting to lose any time, I headed up the French Valley with my trekking partner Bea. It was a steep climb to the mirador (lookout). The trails turned into muddy streams which soaked our boots. As we approached the mirador the trees began to thin out and the wind began to pick up. At the top it was so windy that it was hard to stand up without holding onto something. The clouds were low in the valley, obscuring the views of the massive mountains that surrounded the valley. Soaking wet, we headed back to camp to set off to the next camping site.
The weather did not dampen our spirits as we walked another 3.4 miles to Refugio Cuernos. Here we set everything out in front of the fire to dry and joined everyone inside the refugio dinning room. Cuernos camp site was the windiest of all the camping locations. While eating dinner in the warm refugio we watched the tents fly through the air, hoping that we would not see ours fly past the window. The wind was so strong that it was hard to sleep it sounded like a train as it passed through the trees and bushes around us. We could hear the gusts as the neared our camp getting louder as the approached.
We woke the next day and set off on our next camp with all our gear completely dry. The rain had stopped but the wind was still strong. The wind was so strong when climbing the pass, everyone looked like they were drunk, scrambling on hands and knees and swaggering from side to side along the trail. The hike was uphill for 11km until we reached Campamiento Torres, only 45 mins from the base of the famous Torres mountains.
It was recommended to hike to the Torres at either sunset or sunrise to see the rock outcroppings change colors with the sun. We decided to hike both at sunset and sunrise. The Torres was absolutely beautiful. The three peaks surrounded a beautiful alpine lake. We scrambled up huge boulders to get a view of the sun setting behind the peaks. The clouds flowed wispy around the pointy rock mountains. The steep and windy hike up the cliff to the mirrador was worth it for the view.
The next morning the alarm woke us up at 6am so we could once again climb the steep mountain to the mirador. I just felt like staying in my warm sleeping bag, but Bea encouraged me to wake up. We strapped on our head lamps and headed up the mountain in the dark. We again enjoyed the views of the valley below and the looming torres above.
After enjoying the sunrise we packed and headed out to catch the bus at the entrance of the park. The last day was one of the easiest. All downhill and the wind at our backs we sailed back to the main lodge to meet up with the bus.
At the main lodge we indulged on cheesy fries, beer, and sandwiches. It tasted like one of the most amazing meals of my life, after powdered mashed potatoes, coup-o-noodle soup and plain pasta while trekking. We enjoyed the views from the lodge feeling accomplished and exhausted.
I decided that I did not want to waste a day in Patagonia so I set off the next day on a three hour horse riding expedition to get a areal view of Puerto Natalas and the surrounding mountains. I was paired with the largest of the horses who always wanted to be ahead of the other two in our group. It was nice to rest my legs and not have to hike up a mountain. It was great to gallop with my horse, he was very perceptive to my directions and always listened to my commands. Along the ride we were able to spot a handful of condors circling above us. The view was amazing at the top of the mountain. Soon after the horse riding tour I jumped on a plane back to northern Chile.
Holocene by boniver
at 8:14 PM