Towers of Paine?

Trip Start Jun 14, 2005
Trip End May 12, 2006

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Where I stayed
Mama Chila's Hostel

Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

If you have never heard of Torres del Paine National Park it a UNESCO Bioreserve encompassing almost 5000 square miles of beautiful Andean landscape way down in Patagonian Chile. Ever since the idea of traveling through South America entered my mind I had my mind set on trekking through Torres del Paine as it undoubtably offers one of the best areas for trekking in the world.
I had been planning on hiking the "W", a 5-day, highly popular route that follows the southern edge of this mountain range because solohiking the 8 day entire circuit (a complete circumnavigation of the range) is not permitted. However, ever since El Chalten I had randomly run into this other American about 5 or 6 times at camping sites, on buses and other strange places finally bumping into him once again on the bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales. He and other America he had just met were doing the circuit and after hiking by myself for the last couple months I was so happy to finally find some good guys to hike with. Needless to say it didn't take long for me to jump on the bandwagon as well. I must say we made quite a team, Yoni Lewit (a premed student from Appalachian State University, North Carolina, outdoor paramedic and excellent cook), Brian Carrier (a mechanical engineer from Boston with the will of Lance Armstrong) and of yours truly.
After buying all of our supplies for the hike we found ourselves once again on a bus together... this time to Torres del Paine. Although cloudy, we knew we were in for a treat within the first half an hour after passing a lake with beautiful reflections of the cloudy, yet still impressive, mountains looming to the west. Although I could probably write a small novel on the experience I'm not really up for it so here are the highlights...
The third day we set out early to climb the most difficult part of the route... the John Garner pass. At 1241 meters (4095 feet) the highest point on the route was a challenge with our 40 pound backpacks but after reaching the top, three hours later, we were rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view of the massive Glacier Grey extending for miles and miles back into the valley. From there we hiked along the glacier for another day and half getting some incredible views of this massive chunk of ice.
Another highlight was on day five hiking from Campamento Pehoe to Italiano and on up the Valle de Frances. This hike gave us from fine perspectives of the Cerro Paine Grande and Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine) across lakes as well as from the valley in-between the two. Although it was raining when we reached the mirador (look-out spot) in the valley we turned our cameras into black and white mode and got some good pictures of us in this incredible valley.
Although a different sort of highlight I must say that our trip wouldn't have been the same if we hadn't met the one and only Norm. After starting the hike with us days earlier Norm ran into some equipment failure problems and after sleeping in a tent along with at least two gallons of water we invited him to finish out the rest of the trip with us. The trip wouldn't have been as interesting without him as he added his pre-Harvard instincts and unlimited supply of Parmesan cheese to the team.
Finally experiencing the 3 sheer-granite towers, The Towers of Paine for which the park is named) after hiking up to there mirador was another experience inolvidable (unforgettable) and we got the pictures to prove it.
7 days and 135.5 km (85 miles) later we arrived from the exact point we had started from with a lot less energy but a lot more photos. We made it back to Puerto Natales that afternoon, dropped off our stuff at Mama Chila's hostel and went out for that traditional victory dinner. Although easy of the wallet the place we went to wasn't quite what we had been imagining for the past 7 days so the next lunch we decided to take matters into our own hands and with a little help from Mama Chila we cooked up a killer meal of fish, stir-fry and salad! Hmmmm! Later that afternoon I made the short journey to the bus station accompanied by Yoni and Brian one last time as I broke the Circuit Fellowship and hopped on a bus for the End of The World! See you there if I don't fall off...
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