Torres del Paine Part I - furious winds

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
Trip End Dec 16, 2008

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Saturday, November 8, 2008

One of my big goals was to hike what is known as the "W" in Parque National Torres del Paine (pronounced Pan-ya).  

The W is a 48 mile(!) trek over five days through what is universally regarded as the most amazing scenry in South America.  Many claim it the most scenic in the world.  They call it "The W" since the trail resembles an upside down M.

13 new friends from the Navimag Ferry set off with everything on our backs for 5 days of strenuous hiking into the wilds of Patagonia.        

Torres del Paine was painfully beautiful - but there was a price - we slogged through mud, rain, snow, and wind strong enough to blow hikers into trees and send tents flying across the landscape like bright red tumbleweeds (with a couple backpackers running behind yelling expletives). 

Click below for some videos of the wind.  The second video is of one of the girls in our group getting blown into a tree.   

"Help me - don't take photos of me!!" she yelled. 

"I'm not taking photos - I'm getting a video!  Hold on...this is going to be good!" 

I never imagined there could be wind like this.  Torres del Paine borders the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is the third largest chunk of ice on the planet behind Antarctica and Greenland. If you look at the map above, the ice field is the big white streak the size of Vermont and New Hampshire.  

The ice creates it's own weather system that works a similar to a giant meterologic jet engine.  Humid air from the Pacific is forced up the Andes where it cools and dumps snow on the ice field.  The ice continues to cool and compress the air creating a high pressure system that just hangs out over the field.  When the sun warms the Argentine Patagonian steppes to the east, a massive pressure difference is created and all that compressed air races down at 100MPH to fill the void. 

The wind was so strong, it would whip 10 story walls of mist off the lake.  From a distance, it was amazing and beautiful since the walls looked like dozens of rainbows moving across a jade colored lake.  However, one of these rainbows would also flatten and drench any hikers unfortunate enough to be by the shore (like us). 

We saw wind gusts so strong, they reversed a waterfall!

Our first night, we camped at the base of Glacier Grey at the upper tip of the left side of the "W" and watched icebergs drift past as we cooked our dinner. 

In fact, if you zoom all the way in on the map above, you can see the icebergs in front of our camp - and a really cool shadow of the Torres (towers) and peaks on the lake. 

Next up... Torres del Paine part II, slogging through mud. 



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Where I stayed
Refugio Grey

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