Friday, May 1, 2009

Trekking Torres del Paine

In Puerto Natales, a town in Chilean Patagonia, we rested up while a two day storm of incredible wind and rain raged outside our hostel. We packed our tent, sleeping bags, a stove and plenty of food and woke the following day to clear skies as we headed to Torres del Paine National Park. We planned to do the majority of the "W" circuit (see map below) which traverses the best trails in the park. We would leave out the first leg which goes to a glacier, and start with the trail up Valle del Frances, followed by a hike around Lake Nordenskjold, then up the Valle de Ascencio, for a morning sunrise at the base of the Torres before descending to the bottom. We took a boat to the trailhead where, luckily, we were the only people starting towards Rio Frances. It was wonderful to walk in silence among Lenga trees with leaves in every shade of yellow, orange and red- it is now Autumn in Chile. After so much rain and ice melt from the glacial mountains, we constantly crossed streams, rivers and muddy bogs, challenging each other to stay dry while jumping from rock to rock. Our first night we were alone at Campamento Britanico and after a hot dish of Chilean style Ramen noodles, we were soon huddled in our tent. The next morning we awoke encircled by stark rock faces and a raging river shining under a beautiful sunrise. That day we would hike for 10 hours, always up or down the hills, with wet feet, but always smiling and reveling in the magnificent snow capped mountains, waterfalls, vegetation and multicolored skies of the park. It was definitely our hardest day, as most of the last section was a steep uphill climb. We arrived at Campamento Chileno and, exhausted but proud, we set up camp in the dark. The next day we woke up at 5:45 to hike two hours to the base of the Torres for sunset. With headlamps, we hiked in pitch black darkness, crossing bridges over raging rivers and feeling sure that the pumas were watching. We reached the top for a cloudy but nevertheless thrilling sunrise. The rest of the day would be mostly downhill and spent reflecting on the amazing ground we'd covered in three days. After over 20 miles and 23 hours of hiking, we felt we'd experienced Torres del Paine in all its glory. We are so thankful for the gorgeous weather, the trustworthy though not always obvious trail signs, the abundant and delicious drinking water, and the infinite blue skies and fresh air.




View Torres del Paine in a larger map

6 comments:

foster said...

great description! love the map!
delighted to hear you laugh

Addie said...

wow! That was a serious hike! That will beat West Fork anyday. Love your real time commentary!

Noelle Hallman said...

How does that fresh water compare to city of Atlanta water?????

Betsy Dalgliesh said...

LOVED walking alongside you in Torres del Paine. This has been high on my Life List forever! Thanks for keeping us in the adventure.
Love you both, Betsy

Ted M said...

Thank you for taking us to Torre del Paine. Mary and I got to relive our adventure there. What a treat!

CMase said...

I LOVE THESE PHOTOS!! I hope everything is going well!! Miss you!!