In true Patagonico and Magallanico style, our trek in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine was marked by a presence of all four seasons: the crisp air of Spring’s blooming flowers, the bright warm sunshine of Summer, powerful gusting Fall winds through a deciduous forest, and to top off our day- charming snowflakes and the night time chill of winter.
By Thomas Graham
Photos by Karen Farfán and Thomas Graham
2013-10-19 Dia 1- “The Season Begins!” – Puerto Natales > Hotel Torres > Refugio Chileno
Our trip started in Puerto Natales, the launching point to the two-hour bus ride to the park. The bus ride was tranquil and spent gazing out the window at the stunning open fields, farms and mountains of the region. However, all of our excitement was quite visible, and our park arrival was met with sunny weather, herds of guanaco, and a nice Patagonian wind. It was a fabulous morning to make the upward hike alongside the imposing Mount Almirante Nieto, offering great views of the shining blue lakes and open valleys of the park. After an hour and a half of challenging uphill hiking we rounded the corner of the mountain, where our passenger got to experience her first taste of true Patagonian wind, at approximately 100km/h!
We battled through the imposing wind and arrived at Refugio Chileno in time to relax and take a well-deserved warm coffee and snack break. We hiked to the base of mirador las Torres as the ground became blanketed in a pure winter snow, further beautifying an already beautiful land. Native birds like chingolo, the austral thrush and austral blackbird were abound.
2013-10-20 Dia 2- “Soaring Condors and Yellow Budding Calafate” – Refugio Chileno > Refugio Cuernos
On our second day we were privileged to see numerous pairs of Andean Condors soaring high above our heads. We were even able to distinguish male condors from the females, as at times the condors flew low above our heads (Males have white collars around their necks flesh crest on his head, while the female has bright red eyes). Additionally, we saw many Calafate bushes blossoming their bright yellow flowers, and we even enjoyed a Calafate sour cocktail at the end of our hike in Refugio Cuernos.
2013-10-20 Dia 3-“The French Valley & Blue of Pehoé – Refugio Cuernos > French Valley > Paine Grande
Though the morning and afternoon of day three was cloudy, the rain held to a slight drizzle and we were able to enjoy a great view of the imposing Glaciar del Francés. We sat and watched rain and snow clouds pass high over the chilling glacier, looking at the highest peak in the park, the Cumbre Principal, at 3,050m. The Cerro Espada, Cerro Hoja and Cerro Máscara, to our right, completed our amazing view from the French Valley, and we left in awe of this inspiring place of granite peaks and massive sheets of ice and snow. From the Valley we trekked back to Campamento Italiano and on to Paine Grande, where we saw Lago Pehoé, the brightest blue glacial lake in the park.
2013-10-20 Dia 4- “Glaciar Grey, as far as the eye can see” – Paine Grande > Refugio Grey
It is impossible to fully express in words the emotions that wash over a person when they see Glaciar Grey, a part of the Hielo de Campo Sur- the Southern Patagonian Ice Sheet. It is magical and truthfully breathtaking. Glaciar Grey is immense in size, powerful in scope and brillant in color. We first saw Grey at a mirador an hour and a half after leaving Paine Grande, before walking through scrublands and forests of lenga and coihue trees. The view and grandeur of Grey only increased as we walked to Refugio Grey. Upon arrival to the Refugio we met with friends and enjoyed a coffee and snack, while watching a Tiuque (Falcon) perch outside the cafeteria window and Carpintero Negro (Megallanic Woodpecker) play his tune on a near by lenga tree. It was a magical end to the “W” hike.
2013-10-20 Dia 5- “All great things must end” – Refugio Grey > Paine Grande > Catamaran to Pudeto
We left Refugio Grey extremely well-fed and headed back to Paine Grande early to catch the 12:30 Cataraman to Pudeto, and our bus to Puerto Natales. The Cataraman offered an always-incredible view and photo opportunity of the Paine Massive and the famous Cuernos of Torres del Paine, with the piercing blue Lago Pehoé in the foreground. This opportunity was not lost on us, as we went atop the cataraman deck to take some final pictures of the Cuernos before the end of our trekking experience.
It was a wonderful “W” trip to kick-off the 2013/14 season, and we all left refreshed and excited for our next adventure.