Torres del Paine Part II

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

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Monday, November 10, 2008

By the second day we were referring to Torres del Paine as "Towers of Pain".

The trail itself isn't terribly difficult on it's own, but we typically hiked 12 miles a day with heavy packs through every conceivable type of weather: rain, sleet, snow, wind, and sun.  Sometimes it would cycle through every flavor in an hour.

We spent a lot of time doing the goretex shuffle. The sun would come out and in 10 minutes we'd be roasting hot so we'd stop to take off our jackets.  10 minutes later it would start pouring rain - so we'd stop again, take off our backpacks and put jackets back on just in time for the rain to turn to sleet.  An hour later, it was hot again.

Most of the time, the trail was wonderful and almost felt like walking through a garden.  Other times, we were slogging through mud or snow.  Occasionally we'd have to cross a boulder field with no idea where the "path" was supposed to be. 

For the most part, the trail was well defined, or marked by orange spots painted on trees or rocks.  If it became unclear which way to go, you just had to find next orange spot.

Crossing rivers was often a challenge.  Occasionally they'd build bridges, or even suspension bridges to cross the rivers.  Other times, there was only a log as a balance beam, or we'd just have to jump from rock to rock which is especially challenging with heavy packs and the random acts of violent wind trying to sweep backpackers into freezing glacial runoff. 

The suspension bridges sounded like a good idea, but they would swing impressively in the wind.  I actually preferred the logs.

However, my pack wasn't nearly as cumbersome as some in our group.  I pride myself on packing an absolute minimum and sacrifice personal comfort in order to keep my pack nimble.  The problem is that I then end up carrying everyone else's stuff.

"Could you carry some of this fuel?  My pack is so much heavier than yours."

"Why did you bring 4 canisters?  We're only camping 4 nights and a canister should last 2 or 3 days." I said.

 "Well, I didn't want to run out." 

"Let's throw 2 tanks away and carry 2 for the rest of the trip".

"No way - those were expensive."

I ended up carrying the tanks.  Later that night, I saw the same person wrapped in a beach towel after a hot shower while I used my t-shirt to dry off.  I know why their pack was so heavy... I should have offered to let them unload their towel on me...

I also had 18lbs of oatmeal in my pack.  

"This is way too much oatmeal - we only need to feed 3 people for 3 breakfasts." I said. "Let's only take half of that."

"We'll totally eat that much - we're going to be working hard.  Besides, I really like oatmeal." Justin, my New Zealand friend said. 

"OK - you carry it, then."

 "No way - your pack is way lighter than mine." Justin said.

"That's because you're taking three pair of shoes." I exasperated.

"I don't have three pair of shoes - I have boots, shoes, and sandals.  I don't want to wear wet hiking boots around camp, and the sandals are for the gross camp showers."

I ended up carrying the oats... and although I never said "I told you so", I did make it Justin's job to try and give away the 25 extra bowels of oatmeal we had every morning. 

We actually ate pretty well.  For example, the second night, I made a smoked salmon pasta with procino mushroom and rosemary sauce,  finished with Romano cheese and cracked pepper.  

"You used way too much sea salt in this - I can't get a good sense for the rosemary." Justin complained.

"Give me a %&$@ing break" another backpacker quipped over his mug of instant soup.   "I'll eat it."

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Where I stayed
Refugio Los Cuernos

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