Saturday, 31 May 2014

Hiking the W circuit in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

First Day: Puerto Natales to Campamento Torres

Puerto Natales being the closest city to Torres del Paine National Park, we decided a good trek was needed to get our land legs back! Because we didn't have a fixed schedule, we were able to wait for a good weather window. We took the bus from Puerto Natales bus station to La Porteria Laguna Amarga, one of the three entry points in the park.
On our way to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, we saw almost all the major animals living there: a group of guanacos, some rheas (ostriches looking bird) and a small type of deer. All from the comfort of our seats. We stopped in Cerro Castillo for a few minutes where we saw a grey fox rumaging through the garbage of the restaurant. From La Porteria Laguna Amarga we took the minibus to Hotel Las Torres after paying our entry fees. As soon as we arrived, we grabbed our bags and started to walk towards the Refugio y Campamento Chileno. We were just past Campamento Chileno, when it started to snow, quickly covering the ground.

When we arrived in snowy Campamento Torres, we had lunch and set up our rental tent. We had originally planned to wait for the morning to hike to the viewpoint, but as it was only 3 pm and we were already getting cold, we decided to make our way in the thick snow. We met many people on our way up and most of them didn't seem too experienced in walking on snow. It was very slippery but we were rewarded with amazing views from the top. The towers were surrounded by some clouds, adding to the eerie feeling of the place and making it even better. The lake at the bottom of the towers was quite grey, but it was beautiful. As the sun was quickly disappearing behind the mountains and we were, once again, getting cold, we made our way back down to the campsite. It was cold and quiet so we had a good night sleep.

Second Day: Campamento Torres to Campamento Los Cuernos

We woke up in the snow, and started our descent down the valley. It was on snow until halfway back to Campamento Chileno. We could see the back of the towers and the Lago Nordernskjold so we enjoyed the Patagonia scenery for a while. When we arrived in Los Cuernos, we picked a platform to put our tent on. We weren't sure which empty spot to choose, but when we realized we could have a camping spot with a view, it was easy! We set up our tent and cooked dinner while enjoying the sunset over the mountains.

When we went to bed, we had hung the food in the trees to avoid having mice feed on it. About one hour later, Seb had to get up to fix the food on a smaller string between trees as we already had mice running everywhere on our platform. The mice would have easily qualified for Cirque des Souris as they managed to walk on the piece of string, around the garbage bag that was now covering the food bags, and into said bags, where they managed to open almost every item we had brought. Needless to say, this was not a relaxing night!

Third Day: Campamento Los Cuernos to Campamento Italiano

In the morning, we made our way to Campamento Italiano, where we set up the tent and had lunch. After lunch, we started our ascent towards Britanico viewpoint. After the viewpoint, we continued on for a while but as the sun was setting, we turned around and came back to the campsite. Before going down, we took a break enjoying the views of Glaciar del Frances where we witnessed multiple avalanches.

Fourth Day: Campamento Italiano to Campamento Grey

When we woke up, we discovered that hanging the food bags between trees using a small rope was, once again, not mice proof. We had new holes in many bags and after two nights like this, there weren't that many food items left untouched. We headed down the Frances valley. It was an easy trek to reach Paine Grande with very nice views along the way. We stopped in the Refugio y Campamento Paine Grande to use their kitchen area. We were also able to recharge our camera battery. After our lunch break, we decided to head up in a different valley, towards the Glaciar Grey. It was fairly difficult with all the ups and downs but once again we were rewarded with amazing scenery. Once we finally made it to the Campamento Grey after four hours and 11km since our lunch break, we put up the tent and left for the kitchen area. There were only four tents up and no trees to hang our bags so we decided to leave our stuff on the picnic table. We cooked dinner and talked to a couple from Germany and a couple of Americans, all on their first trekking day. When we came back to the tent, after dark, we found our bags and tent surrounded by fat mice. We chased them around with our headlamps and went back to the main building to pay for our camping fees, and store our backpacks in the lodge for the night. It started raining as we finished setting up the tent. We heard mice running around all night but overall we had a good night sleep.

Fifth Day: Campamento Grey to Campamento Las Carretas

We started our day with the short 10 minutes walk to the Glacier Grey. It was very nice to see many small icebergs in the lake and to have a closer look at the glacier. Later on, we started our walk towards Campamento Paine Grande. We felt it was slightly easier, probably because we had just started our day! We stopped for our lunch break before heading towards our last campsite. It was a very long second half, most of it in the plains. We finally arrived in the mini Campamento Las Carretas after seriously considering sleeping on the beach.  We secured our bags to try once again to make them mice proof. As AA went to the river to get water, a big owl flew over her head. The sky was clear so we enjoyed the very bright stars before going to bed.

Last Day: Campamento Las Carretas to Administracion

After a pretty comfortable night, we went to the kitchen area where we discovered no mice had managed to go from the very tiny string to our bags! After packing our stuff and having breakfast, we started our short walk towards the Administracion and the bus. It took us about 1.5 hours to arrive so we had plenty of time to sit at the picnic table and have some coffee. During our bus ride back to Puerto Natales, we saw many rheas, guanacos and geese. We also saw some foxes, and in Cerro Castillo, the little grey fox was still around the coffee shop trying to steal some food scrap and posing for the tourists.

We spent a few more nights at "home" at the Patagonia Adventure Hostel booking flights for our next destination and enjoying the small town of Puerto Natales.

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