Trekking in Torres del Paine

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Wake up to howling wind and driving rain outside and I am pretty sure I am not going to go trekking! Still not 100% better and would rather not be frozen and wet for a few days. Still decide to get the bus into the park as have already bought the tickets and donīt want to waste more money as have already pre-booked our refugio accommodation also (had to as lot of it booked up already) for the park which is expensive too.

Bus is about 2 hours north to Torres del Paine national park. I sleep most of the way there and when I wake up it is clear skies and sunny. Looks like I am going to go walking after all. Have to admit was half looking forward to reading in bed! Pay our entrance fee to get in (pricey 15 quid each) and get dropped off at Laguna Amarga a huge glacial lake with fantastic mountains surrounding us. We then get another bus to the Hosteria Las Torres which has a view of the Torres (towers) gigantic needle like granite skyscrapers literally towering over everything else. At least thats what its like in postcards anyway. We sort of saw them through a bit of cloud every now and again and they still looked impressive.

We got ourselves kitted up (well Dave and Tony were carrying a backpack each while I got off lightly) and started our walk in the sun. Loads of suntan lotion on to avoid sunburn again as no ozone here. Started walking up the valley to our first refugio called Chileno. This is about a 2 hour walk up the valley not very steep but pretty continous climb along a crystal clear river until we drop down to the refugio. We take it slow and I am pleased to make it in one piece. Cliff views and flora and birds are nice particularly with spring flowers starting to bloom and bushes bursting with red flowers. We stop for our pre made pack lunch at the refugio and bagsy our bunk beds in one of the dorm rooms. Are relieved to have made it early esp as it starts snowing very hard and blizzard like. It really looks like a Christmas card outside with all the snow on the pine trees.

While I sleep the boys head further up the valley towards the Torres viewpoint in a short break when it stops snowing but it starts again so they had back down again disappointed.

Spend the rest of the day playing cards and having our nice dinner and another celebratory bottle of wine before we hit the bunks. Fortunately the refugio isnīt full so arenīt sharing with a lot of people. Dave uses Tonyīs trekking walking stick to poke him in the night if he snores too loud!

Next morning a lot of people get up early to head further up the valley but weather is still not clear to see the Torres so we all stay in bed a bit longer and set off after breakfast (have booked full board at refugios inc a pack lunch is expensive about $60 each a day but is easier than tents and loads of equipment). Left aligned photo tag:

We start on our walk to our next stop, Las Cuernos. This is a longer walk today but is flatter and should take about 5 hours. We head down the valley and the weather clears up again as we follow the lake around. Circumavigate a couple of lakes of different shades of blue as we spot the Cuernos or horns. These again are huge granite obelisks which are odd as half of it is black rock and the other is white with a distinct straight line separating them.

We enjoy our picnic while admiring the views and the weather before we carry on a few more hours, still a bit slower than normal but make good time to our refugio. This has great views of Los Cuernos. The cliffs nearby have condors circuling them which are still huge despite being a couple of miles away.

We relax and play cards and read before dinner where we chat with fellow German and French trekkers doing different routes. Have a nice hot shower which is needed. Feels like luxury trekking compared to Peru!

Today weather is still great (are very lucky) and we head out feeling good for our final 4 hour walk. We have a couple of hours first to Carpimento Italiano (Italian Camp) at the bottom of the Valle Frances near one of several glaciers. Donīt see an avalanche but definately hear one. Walk is not too difficult and we are up to full speed now beating the estimated time. Lots of little rivers and rocks on the way make it a less easy path but we arrive at the camp with a big river and debate heading up the valley to another viewpoint. It is cloudy up the valley so decide to press on. Is another flattish 2 hour walk to the end along another lake with more fantastic views in the sunshine. Stop for lunch on the way and then spot the end of the lake with a big refugio (Paine Grande) and campsite, the end of our trek. Tony and I are certainly relieved its nearly over.

Spend the afternoon in the kitchen hut there relaxing (am sure Dave will upload an unflattering pic of Tony and I sleeping).
We wait there, escaping the harsh wind and admiring the views of Bariloche mountain covered in snow and the Cuernos until 18.30 when we get the last catamaran over Lake Pehoe. Have a last look at the views of the horns and lakes before we get on a bus back to the entrance, hoping we might see the Torres on our way out. No such luck, cloudy over there but are pleased we saw a bit of it on the first day and had great weather the rest of the time. Minibus back to Puerto Natales is a long and bumpy drive along a dirt road and we arrive in Puerto Natales again at about 22.00. Then have to pack and unpack as Tony is leaving tomorrow. Think he is dismayed by the weight of his backpack with all the newly acquired stuff which we try to convince him is from the stuff he has bought (donīt think he is convinced though).
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