Torres del Paine...pain being the word!

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
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Trip End Mar 19, 2007


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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Arrived in Puerto Natales and our first visit to Chile. It was a pretty miserable looking town and probably only thrives on the fact that its the jump off point for Torres del Paine national park.....one of the most famous mountains in the Andes.

We stayed in the Erratic rock hostel, run by two American guys, both of whom were pretty experienced climbers. Had to plan our whole trek that evening, which involved a practise run at putting up our tent...with plenty of help we finally got the hang of it!
Met this american guy Andy who was looking after the hostel in return for free board. He was an adventure racer basically crazy, he must have done every sport known to man from Kyaking to running. He was planning on running the circuit of Torres in 16 hours non stop.
We were given a little talk at the hostel of the whats and what nots. We were planning to do the shorter of the two most popular circuits, the 'W', the other one being 'the circuit'! The W generally takes 4 nights/5 days while the circuit is about 8 days. The weather gets pretty harsh there so we were warned to plan for all conditions. It had also rained there for 15 days solid so we were expecting the worst.

Had to pack everything that night, all our nutritous dried food...basicaly every variation of soup/noodles and Pasta we could get, our cooking gear, mini stove, pot bowls, cups, gas, tent mats, change of clothes, tent, sleeping bags....by the time we were done our bags weighed a healthy few kilos.

We got the bus to the park the following day (sunny Thank God), then the ferry to our starting point. The weather was beautful and we debated which direction to do the trek...ie. everyone else was starting with the famous Torres mountains since the weather was so nice (3 huge stone peaks, high in the mountains...mainly what everyone comes to see)..but we had been told by the guy in the hostel to do that on the last day, i.e. tougher climb, lighter bag and climax of the trek etc. We stuck with our plan adn took off to the Glacier grey campsite, where we were to spend our first night. The wind was so strong along the way that we nearly got blown over a couple of times, although it was a really hard trek and we werenŽt too high upmost of the time. Our first view of the Glacier wasnŽt that amazing since weŽd already seen the most impressive one in El Calafate. At this stage we were within 1 KM of the Glacier and had a pretty good view. Decided since it wasso windy, to double back and do the second days trek at that point. Motored to the next camp at a fierce speed to get there before dark to set up camp. About 26 km later we were nearly crawling to the camp! WeŽd completely over done it on the first day and were barely able to talk we were so tired. The only bonus was that weŽd cut a day and night off the trek in total. Our campsite was minimilist to say the least....a toilet, a stream and a ranger that we never saw come out of his hut and that was it. We were also warned by a very nice couple from New Zealand to hang up our food outside the tent away from the mice....Mice????!! Cooked our not very tasty dinner of tomato soup and pasta and fell into a coma by about 8pm!....not much else to do when its dark and you`re camping!

It was a pretty cold night and the cheap mats we had didnŽt do much to soften the ground but luckily we got no visits from teh mice. We were told however that they had visited a god few tents and even chewed a tube of tooth paste!

Took off on our next hike that morning. Tadgh was in bits with his knee...the oleŽcodger! The day before hadnŽt done him any favours. Day 2 took us up to Valley Francais,again the weather was amazing so the views were spectacular...valley below. snow covered mountains above.....it blew Kilarney National Prrk off the map! Luckily we didnŽt have our bags to carry cos we were going to be going back to the same camp again before we moved to the next camp. It was a fairly uphil climb most of the way but the views were definately rewarding. Met another couple who had been camping for about 12 days and had 18 days worth of food just in case....that, to me, is just self torture!
Got to our next camp just before dark again that night and just before the rain came bucketing down. It was a paid campsite this time so we had the luxury of cooking our chicken noodles inside the refugio (hostel) while we watched some people having a 3-course meal and sipping vino. Not us though, we are backpackers and canŽt afford such luxuries! We were so tired we could not even talk to each other. Stayed as long as we could in the heat before we went out to the misery of our cold and now very wet tent (it pays to check the zips before you rent!).

Luckily next day dawned beautiful again. ThereŽs no way weŽd have finished it if we got weather like most of the stories weŽd heard. Set off for our final campsite at the base of the Torres. ...over 1500m. Again the trek was mind blowing, Tadgh was snap happy with all the scenery we had. It took us up to the top of a valley with a sheer drop below and then down and up again to the base camp. It was a pretty grueling hike...another ful day walking and by now the aches and pains were almost getting the better of us. The campsite was freezing when we finally got there (seemed like weŽd walked for an eternity). It was starting to snow and it was another one of the free ones with no facilities. We were tucked up for an even more ridiculously early hour...about 7pm, having eaten the majority of the food...including about a kilo of chocolate that weŽd purchased at the cmapsite the night before( God bless chocolate is al I can say....when youŽre on a complete low it does the job). Boiled our water to make hot water bottles out of our dirnking bottles and Tadgh attempted to dry his socks in teh sleeping bag also ....after 3 days they were smelling pretty toxic so the fumes probably knocked us out before the tiredness! Had to get up again at about 2am when the water had gone cold and I was frozen , to boil another batch of water for the sleeping bags. I was almost glad to see 5.30 am when we could get up and head to the top for sunrise!

our last climb was short, only about an hour and we finaly reached the piece de resistance, the Torres at sunrise. Luckily for us it was pretty clear and we got a lovely view for abotu half an hour before it clouded over again. It had also snowed the entire night and was still snowing when we were climbing that morning.
Got a couple of good snaps and then made our way back down to camp. Now that we were on the homeward stretch we were happier.
We were so thankful for the good weather, and of course just as we headed out the gate of the park the skies opened up.
We were both absolutly knackered. When we got back to Puerto Natales we ended up staying with a family whcih was way cheaper. That evening we went for dinner with an american couple Doug and Jen and a Dutch couple. It was a local restaurent that served absolutly massive burgers. By right you should share one between 2 but we were like savages and demolished 2. After 4 days of eating shite we deserved it.
For the next couple of days we just lounged around, the 2 old women in the hostel were great, even gave me excercises for my knees.
Anyway it was good bye to Puerto Natales and onwards to Puerto Mont we thought....
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