Torres Del Paine (Towers of Pain)!!!

Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End Jun 03, 2008

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

We made it back to civilisation (well Peurto Natales) alive and well after 4 days and 55kms trekked. Lola didn't strangle me in the night for making her carry a 20kg pack and sleep in a tent, so there must be something very special about the scenery! We completed our own, slightly truncated, version of the "W" but still felt a real sense of achievement.

Rather than go through our every plodding step we are going to give a brief resume of each of the days, including some geeky trekking related statistics that I took great pleasure in gathering:

Day 1 10/02/08

Route: Torres Campsite - Base of the Torres - Torres Campsite
Distance Walked: 11 kms
Walking Duration: 8.5 hours
Maximum Altitude: 900 m
Minimum Altitude: 140 m
Ratio Full Backpack (carrying tent, sleeping bags, etc) to Daypack (carrying food, drink & waterproof only): 2/98

After leaving our hostel at 7.30am we finally started walking at 1.30pm, mainly due protracted bus routing and slow base camp establishing. It meant that we were really up against it with time because the sun went down at 9.10pm. So we dashed to the top like creatures possessed, stopping only briefly to lunch, toilet, cry or photograph. The terrain was so varied it was impossible to know what was coming next- from rolling hills that would not be out of place in the Cotswolds, through steep woodland paths and finally through 2 ridiculous morrain fields full of rocks sized anywhere between a minibus and a medicine ball.

Daily High Point [s]: Seeing the Torres up close. Truly awe-inspiring. The sky at night is also something to behold down here, literally thousands of stars and a very prominent Milky Way.

Daily Low Point: Lola crying because she was in pain and nearing exhaustion. A real Henry V style pep-talk nearly wasn't enough to get her moving again!

Day 2 11/02/08

Route: Torres Campsite - Los Cuernos Campsite
Distance Walked: 11 kms
Walking Duration: 8 hours
Maximum Altitude: 250 m
Minimum Altitude: 100 m
Ratio Full Backpack to Daypack: 100/0

The toughest day of them all as we had to carry full kit for 11kms. The scenery was good, but not as inspiring as on day 1, so it felt like a bit of a slog. It was also really hot and windy so we were caked in factor 45 suncream too [essential as there is very little ozone left this far down in the Southern Hemisphere].

Daily High Point: Having set up our tent on a gorgeous spot next to Lake Nordenskjold the wind really picked up. I was lying down and the tent was pushed down onto my face. A snap decision was made to try to get a place in the nearby refuge rather than risk being blown into the lake, tent and all. Unfortunately there was no room at the inn, but they did have a spare cabin up on the hill. We had to raid the emergency kitty to pay for it, but it was worth every penny. We slept like a pair of logs!

Daily Low Point: Crossing an unbridged river barefooted with full packs on. I picked up a nasty cut on my big toe and fell on my arse twice [luckily close to the river bank on both occasions]. We later learnt that the river was closed on the previous 2 days due to the perilously strong currents. They still felt pretty strong to us. We also heard that a girl who was crossing in full pack lost her balance and was swept downriver underwater. Luckily somebody was on hand to pluck her from the water, but it must have been a very frightening and very cold [some of the tributaries are glacial melt water] experience for her. The safety conscious National Trust this place is not.

Day 3 12/02/08

Route: Los Cuernos Campsite - Camp Britanico -Italiano Campsite
Distance Walked: 15 kms
Walking Duration: 7.5 hours
Maximum Altitude: 90 m
Minimum Altitude: 800 m
Ratio Full Backpack to Daypack: 35/65

I was really excited about getting to see Camp Britanico today and Lola humoured me for most of the day. We trekked up the Valles Del Frances, having set up camp at Camp Italiano. It was tough going through steep rocky and wooded terrain, but today we were rewarded with fantastic views of the Glacier Frances and the adjacent valley. Camp Italiano was very basic [ the only facilities were 1 male and 1 female WC for about 50 tents] and I was pleased to see the back of the place. We never felt clean again after sleeping there!

Daily High Point: Waking up in the cosy cabin with the rain and wind howling outside and thanking our lucky stars that we did not stick with the camping the previous night.

Daily Low Point: Upon reaching Camp Britanico and punching the air in delight, PR realised that there were literally no facilities there. In fact, it made the grotty Camp Italiano look like Butlins. The only [semi] permenant structure was the a tarp pulled over 3 log walls. I was not expecting the Rovers Return ["Pint of the usual Paul" "OH AYE"] but I did have visions of a mountain top beer. Gutted.

Day 4 13/02/08

Italiano Campsite - Pehoe Campsite - Grey Glacier viewing point - Pehoe Campsite
Distance Walked: 18 kms
Walking (and some jogging) Duration: 5.5 hours
Maximum Altitude: 350 m
Minimum Altitude: 90 m
Ratio Full Backpack to Daypack: 40/60

Having trekked the entire distance from Camp Italiano to Camp Pehoe in the rain we were having very little fun and the prospect of setting up our tent in the rain was distinctly unappealing. Upon arrival in Camp Pehoe we discovered that a ferry that could get us home that night was departing in 3 hours time. It was decided that Lola would stay behind and look after the bags whilst PR set out in a 50/50 run walk pattern into the hills in pursuit of the Grey Glacier and to complete the final leg of the W. Well I got most of the way before it became a clear choice between missing the ferry and getting to the base of  the glacer, so after taking a speculative photo of what appeared to be Grey Glacier I spun on my heels and set back for the ferry terminal. I am pleased to report that we made the last ferry and that consequently our relationship is still intact!

Daily High Point: Completing the "W" and being home in time for milanesa pobre con papas fritas [basically ham, egg and chips].

Daily Low Point:: Taking 6 hours to get home on what is a 120km drive, but we were too tired to complain or care by then.

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