Torres Del Paine--Day 3: Refugio Paine Grande

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Jan 01, 2010

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Monday, December 21, 2009

The longest day of the year here. We are trying to decide if it is the summer equinox or the summer solstice.

It was a rocky, 2-hour walk from R.Cuernos to Campamento Italiano, where we headed up the middle of the "W" into the French Valley. To our left is a high hanging glacier situated in a bowl on the back side of Paine Grande. The face of it is very blue. As the sun heats up the ice, avalanches occur. We hear them as loud explosions, similar to a sonic boom echoing through the valley. This is what the valley is famous for. After hearing a number of avalanches very far away, and hiking an hour, we ran into rain and wind and turned back because we could see more of the same coming down the valley. It was a good decision, because the rest of the day was wet and cold. We later met a couple who had continued and they told us they hadnīt been able to see the other glacier when they arrived at the head of the valley due to a wet snow storm. It seems you do not have to gain much elevation before moisture turns to snow.  

Refugio Paine Grande is the most modern and also the biggest. Itīs situated where day hikers arrive from across the lake by catamaran, and dinner is served cafeteria-style instead of at table. We shared a room with a young man from Brazil and spoke with a mother and daughter  from Wisconsin who hike a lot in Colorado.
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