Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Torres Del Paine

My wife Ann arrived in El Calafate, Argentina, and we took the bus to El Chalten where we spent three days trekking .  But the main goal for us was to go trekking in the Torres Del Paine national park in Chile.  So we took a bus to Puerto Natales and the next day on February 16th we took another bus up to the park.  Our plan was to do the "W" trek, which follows a route shaped like its namesake.  The bottom of the "W" follows a trail that is between the mountains and some very large freshwater lakes.  The legs of the "W" follow trails that go up the valleys between the mountains where you get spectacular views of the granite towers.  There are privately run refugios along the route where you can sleep and buy meals.  Ann and I mostly stayed in the refugios.  But we also did some tent camping that enabled us to split the trek into shorter days and not be forced to walk the long distances between some of the refugios.

We took a shuttle van from where the bus let us off inside the Park to the Refugio Torre Central.  The next day we took a hike from the refugio up the valley that is the eastern leg of the "W".  The goal was to climb to the viewpoint "Las Torres" at a glacial lake below the Torres (Towers) del (of) Paine.  It was a long day that took nine hours round trip from the refugio, but we were treated to the view you see in the photo below.

Towers of Paine from Los Torres
On February 17th we walked from the Refugio Torre Central to the Refugio Los Cuernos.  The trail took us west along the base of the "W" across the mountain slopes above Lago (Lake) Nordenskjold.  The Patagonian winds kicked in that afternoon with gusts up to 50 or 60 mph that blew Ann off her feet a couple of times.  The refugio was full, but we were able to have our meals there and then sleep in our tent in the forest that was protected from the wind. 

Hiking to Los Cuernos

The next afternoon we walked a short distance to Campo (Campsite) Italiano and spent the night.  On the morning of February 19th we left our camping gear behind and climbed up the French Valley (the middle leg of the "W") with day packs.  At the head of the French Valley we had lunch and admired this spectacular cirque of granite towers. 

From the French Valley - Cerro Espada on the left

Cerro Catedral from the French Valley

After returning to Campo (Campsite) Italiano we picked up our camping gear we had cached there and headed for the Refugio Paine Grande.  The weather was changing with high winds and clouds pouring through the ice formations at the top of Paine Grande.

Summit of Paine Grande in high wind
There had been several fires in the park, all started by back country users, and we reached the burned out area shortly before arriving at the Refugio Paine Grande.

Burned out forest near Paine Grande
Like the Refugio Torre Central, the Refugio Paine Grande was a large facility serviced by boats coming from the road head on the other side of Lago Pehoe.  We stayed in the refugio and had showers and a nice meal and rested there the following day.

Refugio Paine Grande

Evening View from the Refugio Paine Grande

I took a day hike on our rest day south past Lago Pehoe to the Rio Grey.

Torres del Paine and Lago Pehoe
On February 21st we hiked north along Lago Grey from the refugio towards Grey Glacier, one of the major glaciers draining the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.

Grey Glacier and Lago Grey

We were very fortunate with the weather with good views throughout.  At the end of our trek as we caught the evening boat across Lago Pehoe the clouds descended and it began to rain.

Boat across Lago Pehoe


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  2. I love your passion for rock climbing.


  3. keep it up... Thank you very much for sharing this awesome post with us.
    Langtang to Gosaikunda Trekking