Dial W for Walking
Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
43Trip End Jul 17, 2010
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We left El Calafate heading towards the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile, unsure of whether we would be doing the famous W Trek. The W Trek is famous amongst trekkers, so named because the 4 day route sees you making a W shape through the region. It promises spectacular views and varied trekking so we thought we'd sign up for it as a few of our truck members were already down for the challenge. You could do the W Trek by staying in the refugios along the way, paying for a bed and the meals which is not cheap, or you could hire all of your camping gear, cooking gear and carry all of your food along with you
Arrive at Camping Pehoe just after noon. Set up tents, stow away our bags and have lunch. Start the hike to check out Grey Glacier. Some stunning views of the glacier and plenty of pictures before we headed back to the campsite. Celebrated my birthday (this was the actual date of my birthday) with a few beers and much mutual admiration for what great trekkers we were.
A few beers and a couple of stories into the celebration one of our fellow trekkers came over and asked us for some help. One of their group had passed out and was on a stretcher and half way on a trail, the rest of the group were getting tired and they needed some reinforcements. Cue the A-Team music, we did what anyone else would have done. We sculled our beers and went in search for the invalid (it made sense, the beers would have been warm upon our return and that’s no way for heroes to be greeted, is it?)
Nic and I were sharing a 2 man tent. Two girls (Laura and Sarah) were sharing a two man tent. The boys (Theo, James and Ted) were sharing a 3 man tent. Early on, we discovered that the zipper to the boys’ tent flap was broken. Not that big a deal unless you’re camping in windy and freezing conditions like we were. Of course it had to happen on day 1. The girls had a visitor during the night. A mouse had chewed through their tent and through their bags to eat some chocolate bars that they had. Not satisfied with the chocolate, it proceeded to run across Laura’s face and Sarah’s arm before vanishing into the night. Needless to say there was much cursing that followed
Assessed the damage to our gear and morale, packed our tents in the rain and headed off for Campomiento Italiano. A word to the wise, before lugging some 16+ kilos of camping gear, clothes and food for 3 or so hours, make sure that your packs are fitted well. Our whole group paid dearly for this rookie error. Towards the end of this little trek, our backs were on fire and our morale was starting to flag. We built one tent and put our packs in there so that we could head to Mirador Frances unencumbered.
On our way there, Ted re-aggravated a knee injury and this particular trek never seemed to end. To see Ted do most of the trek with one leg was something else. Think two hobbits, trek to Mordor and a very long third book by Tolkien you get the mood. We still had a heap of walking to do with our packs to the next camp site so we, went to a viewpoint of the Mirador a little closer than we originally planned, then made our way back to Campomiento Italiano
We got back to the camp, everyone re-configured their backpacks and we made our way to Campoiento Las Cuemos. It was a long and silent trek, but for James at the back who kept our morale up by quoting (and trying to remember) lines from Braveheart and singing the theme song to the A-Team. We got there eventually but late as most of the good camping spots were taken. We had to settle for a mozzie infested section (I didn’t think the mozzies liked the cold but apparently they do) and got to setting up our tent. Tired, we all cooked our dinner and retired to bed, after tying our food to trees so that the mice couldn’t get to it. That seemed to be what everyone else was doing so we thought it prudent to follow suit.
We awake to find that the mice are more agile than we think and they have managed to find the Hershey’s chocolate that Nicole was saving for a special occasion (they had to go for the expensive stuff), cereal and some UHT milk that we brought with us
The sun was out, the mood of the group was good and we made good time as we trekked through some open plains. We still had daylight left so we kept going over to Campomiento Torres to set up camp, leaving us a much shorter trek in the morning. The walk was interesting as we started walking alongside a deep ravine with a long drop on one side (into the ravine) and rocks on the other side which looked ominously like what landsides are made of. We also had blustery winds coming down the ravine. With backpacks like parachutes, negotiating the wind on this walk was something else.
We got to the campsite unscathed and happy that we would only be left a 45 minute hike to the top to see Torres del Paine, the three granite towers that the park is known for
We wake up and get some breakfast in. We lock our tents and start the hike up to the top which we do in quick time. The three towers are stunning and we feel a real sense of accomplishment. I am so proud of our group because we stuck together from the beginning. Throughout the entire walk, we only ever saw groups of trekkers in the twos and threes, maybe the odd 4 but never 7 strong. We had a couple of injuries, some low moments but we got to the end. 4 days of hardcore trekking without a shower certainly galvanizes a group. Together, we covered 82kms in just under 4 days and I consider that a pretty good test of endurance.
You can see in the last picture, the map of the Torres del Paine National Park and the ground that we covered. The blue line is what we covered on day 1, the red line is what we covered on day 2, the black line on day 3 and the purple line on day 4. The circles are where we made camp for the night. Sorry if the lines are a little hard to see but its the best I could do with what I've got.
All that was left was a trek back down to our meeting point along the river (where the steep and windy ravine was) and we would be done. Our packs were lighter (because of the consumed food) and we were heading home (by home I mean the possibility of a warm shower and a tent that is roomier).
We arrived at our meet point which was the Hotel Las Torres and crashed out on their comfy lawn in the sunshine. Beers were consumed, trekking shoes were ditched and we even got some shut eye.
We got back to camp to find that our leaders had organised a full roast lamb, which had been cooking for hours and was timed to perfection. We ate lamb, had more lamb, then had a little more lamb before having a few beers and re-living a tough couple of days. A victory cigar later and we were off to bed.
Join us in our next blog as we turn the corner at the southernmost city in the world and start heading northwards into warmer climes.