Torres del Paine National Park

I am doing the w – trek, a five day hike in the Torres del Paine National Park. Worst thing about it – no internet. 6 weeks ago I have pre-booked two nights in refugio dorm beds and two nights on campgrounds including full board. They also give you a tent, sleeping bad and a mat, so you don’t have to carry it all the way. I was panning on bringing food for the first two days but then decided to just buy dinner at the refugios…

Day 1: Refugio Grande Paine to Refugio Grey

I took a bus to the National Park and then a catamaran to the Refugio Grande Paine (where I am staying the second night, so I had to walk there and back… things I didn’t know when I booked all the stuff in New Zealand). I still brought a mat and sleeping bag because I am really scared of freezing during the nights – especially in the tent. Brought some snacks and fruits, 2L of water, clothes, toiletries, laptop and camera. Well and the wires. It’s a pain in the ass but I couldn’t lock it away anywhere safely and I didn’t just want to leave it in the hostel.

So I am carrying a total of, lets say 12 kg. Could be 10. Could be 14. However much it is – it is way too heavy for me. I just walked here 10km, steadily up and down with this huge annoying thing on my back. Not only is it heavy, it also makes you unstable, especially in crazy winds (which I experienced today – the strongest I had ever been in – almost flew away).

Here’s a list why heavy backpacks sucks during a hike:

  • they are heavy

  • you get blisters on your feet because they suddenly have to carry more weight

  • your knees hurt when you go downhill

  • your whole walking process is inflexible and out of balance

  • the hip belt rubs and I already have marks on my skin

  • my back has felt better

So I will be trying to eat a lot and for sure wont take 2 liters of water anymore…

Apart from the (big) backpack issue the hike was pleasant and the scenery was stunning. The trail is quite technical but pretty. I met a girl called Alex who I walked together with and had a really good time. The weather was fine, it only rained in the beginning and the strong winds eased off at some point. The pace was fast and we did the up and down-y trail in 3 hours – despite the heavy backpack. Alex is a Spanish teacher which comes in quite handy when – being really exhausted after carrying lots of things over lots of hills – we entered the mini market and I ask the guy: “Where do you close today?” and he didn’t get it and I repeated it three times until she finally says “she means at what time!!!”

When I arrived at the refugio they told me I can’t book any food because today it has already been booked out. Great. I really was looking forward to a hot meal. I tried to convince the guy to at least sell me some soup – no success. However, he did give me some hot chocolate for free and I can use hot water for my ramen noodles I’ll buy at the mini market.. That will be my dinner together with some heavily overprices pringles. Tomorrow is a new day and maybe I get to purchase some (really tasty sounding) three course dinner then. I will spend the evening reading, editing pictures and watching people eat their lovely meal. Already getting tiny panic attacks by the thought of not having any internet for another 4 days.

P.S. The waiter also brought me some free soup later on 🙂

Day 2: Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

So today I basically did yesterday backwards. I walked to Paine Grande, a total of 10 km. In the morning I went to see Glacier Grey again and then I set out. I had packed my bag a little, well, more reasonably (the day before I had just stuffed things in). And really, one liter of water, two apples and two bananas less, carrying the backpack wasn’t too bad anymore today. And of course, I had set my mind to it, maybe that also helped. I sill felt my knees a little when going down hill but so far I have no blisters or any foot pain at all. My hip bones are a little sore but it’s fine.

So, I had a quite pleasant hike back, took lots of pictures and enjoyed it. The weather isn’t too good, but also not too bad. It was cloudy all day and every now end then a group of droplets made its way down on my head. You could barely call it drizzle. So it stayed relatively dry and for me that’s most important.

I arrived at Paine Grande in the early afternoon, checked in and set out again with my day bag to Mirador Pehoé. That lookout gives you grand views over the lake Pehoé and the stunning mountain formations in the back, Cerro Grande Paine and Cuernos del Paine. The whole trail was pretty much awesome and I got really flashed by the bushes’ and the gras’ different shades of green in combination with the turqoise water, the white summits and the black and brown-ish dead trees that are all around (after a big fire in the park you are now not even allowed to smoke there). I really loved every step of my hike today, despite the grey skies and the occasional “drizzle”. Every penny I spent on this trip is already absolutely worth it. In total I probably hiked 16 km.

Right now I am all showered, waiting for dinner time (yeah, today I get to actually eat a real meal) and after some rain the sun decided to show up, giving us a pretty ending to a good day… Tomorrow I will have to get up early for a long day of hiking.

Day 3: Refugio Grande Paine to Refugio Los Cuernos

Well, today it happened… Rain. I hiked for around 6 hours. In the rain. Five of which with soaked feet. I had to skip the Mirador Britanicó, one of the park’s highlights. The paths were just mud pools most of the time and I was glad to finally arrive at the refugio. Despite the sun coming out every now and then in the afternoon and evening I can’t really be happy for two reasons:

  1. The weather forecast for the next days is bad again.

  2. I don’t like the refugio (no cosy areas with a fire stove where you can hang out) and also I have to sleep in the tent. If I had a bed that’s where I would be right now.

As much as I liked the past two days, in this weather it’s just not fun and I’d be happy to take the bus back at any time now.

Apart from the rain the hike itself was fine, took me through lots of foresty areas and past the Glacier Frances where I saw lots of waterfalls. I also passed by nice beach and walked on a moraine. In total I might have hiked 13 to 15 km today. In the evening I met a bunch of people (again – you basically bump into each other a lot) I hung out with, ate and organized the drying of my clothes, especially my shoes and socks that are quite drenched. Hopefully it will be all dry by tomorrow. If the weather is better I will hike up to the Torres del Paine…

Day 4: Refugio Los Cuernos to Refugio El Chileno

YAY, the sun is out. Today I got a brilliant sunny day and that makes me a happy bee again. Also I spend a really good night in the tent. The sleeping bag they gave me was ace. Everything is basically covered but my face and when I woke up and my nose was cold I just snug inside completely until I nearly suffocated. One point I got woken up by someone doing something with my tent – first I thought it was a person but then I heard scratches and figured it was an animal. Maybe a fox or even a puma?

I pleasantly hiked the 11 km to Refugio El Chileno today and since I set out quite early I barley met any other soul. The scenery was nice, I saw some awesome faulting of what it seems very ductile rock. The last two or three km I had to climb steadily and the paths merged with the one coming from the administration place, so now lots of day hikers joined me on my way.

After dropping off my bag I started the hike to La Lago del Torres – the famous view point. The map says it takes 2.5 hours – I did it in 1 hour 10 minutes. I really power hiked it up, over took everyone, the only thing stopping me from running were the heavy hiking boots. I don’t know, I sort of wanted to make it up there before everything would be potentially covered in clouds and I am proud of my body that it could actually do this after all those days a and hours of hiking with that heavy backpack.

Once I got there I really did get rewarded. It felt awesome to be there, I have seen it on pictures so much and now I finally made it there myself – the visibility was great and so was this day. I hung out there, took pictures, had some lunch, watched people (one couple actually brought their tiny baby and changed its diaper right at the lake…. ), and stared at the towers.

I met lots of people on the way today, who I had seen and hung out with in other refugios the day before – it’s cool to bump into all those faces again. Now I am in the refugio after chilling out in my tent (those ones are on really high platforms in the forest by a river, I really like it). Then I had a very, very hot and long shower and now I can’t wait until dinner gets served. I hope it will be lots!!!

Day 5: El Chileno to Hotel Las Torres

4:07 am. I am cosily wrapped into my awesome sleeping bag. But I can hear something. Music. What is it? Oh no… the alarm! Hello new day!

The plan is tao hike up to the Torres del Paine again, to watch the rock gloom red at sunrise. So far so good. The night is clear and starry, we set out. When we hike up the last bit of the mountain we can see the torches of the other people in the dark. We get to the top, it’s freezing cold in our sweaty clothes. Not far til the sun rises… We can already see the lower part turning red for a second until clouds move in front of the sun. It gets more and more cloudy and even starts to drizzle. No magic moment for us but a nice early morning workout I guess. In total I hiked 13 km.

We walk back down, dry up at the stove and make our way down to the Hotel Las Torres, where the buses wait. The sun peeks back out every now and then, it clears up a little. I am tired and exhausted and in desperate need of a shower. I finished the W-Trek and hiked up to the torres twice.

I am all showered and clean again now as I write those last lines. I am looking back at 5 amazing days (except for the rainy one) that I was able to spent outside in the mountains. Great hikes, great nature, great experiences. I walked through all weather conditions, I froze, I sweat and in the evenings I dropped into my bed/tent and recovered. For the first time in my life I carried lots of weight over rivers, rocks, through mud and meadows. I am glad I was able to do this. I am also glad to be back and I will treat myself with a big dinner tonight.

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