Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

November 9 - 12

We arrived in Chile on November 7th at 9 am, checked into the Hilton Garden Inn, and immediately fell asleep (extreme jet lag).  We slept for the entire day, woke up at 9 pm for some dinner at the hotel restaurant, then went right back to sleep.  The following morning, we headed back to the airport for our flight to Punta Arenas.  Punta Arenas is one of the southern most cities in Chile.  It was snowing when we arrived.  From Punta Arenas, we jumped on a bus to Puerto Natales which is the closest town to the Torres Del Paine park.  After a fun night exploring Puerto Natales (and renting our tent, cooking gear, etc), we checked out of our hostel (The Singing Lamb which is awesome!) and got on the bus to Torres Del Paine to begin our 4-day hike, the famous "W" trail.  

Our weather was fantastic for the first 2 days, and luckily we planned to hike from east to west meaning our first day was heading up to Las Torres (the famous tower peaks).  

Beautiful views of Chilean Patagonia during our bus ride into the park.

Alpaca grazing in the fields.  
It's been years since we've seen these animals.  We loved seeing them in Peru in 2008.

We finally begin our hike at around 11 am and we get our first glimpses of Las Torres.

Bridge crossing to the "W" trail

Hiking up the right leg of the "W"

We arrived at our campsite, Camp Torres, set up our tent, had a quick lunch, then continued hiking up to the Mirador of Las Torres.  Here's our magnificent view of the towers from the Mirador.  Still a little bit of blue sky in the background (the weather changes rapidly in this area!).

We stayed the night at Camp Torres, and it was definitely the coldest night I've ever spent sleeping in a tent.  I had on almost all of the clothes on that I brought: 3 long sleeve shirts, 2 fleeces, 2 pairs of pants, so I managed to make it through the night without freezing to death.  Gene was warm in his 20 degree sleeping bag.  The next day it was snowing / sleeting when we woke up, so it was painful to get out of the warm tent and start moving.  We managed to force ourselves up and get some warm breakfast in our stomachs before continuing on with our trek.  This was another beautiful day with breath-taking stunning views of Patagonia.

We passed a group of horseback riders along the trail.  The horses were pretty hungry.

The wind was relentless during our hike.  You can see a massive gust of wind over the water in this picture.  It was so bad, we had to duck behind bushes frequently to avoid getting knocked down.

We finally arrive at Los Cuernos where we planned to spend our 2nd night camping in the campground near the Refugio.  Our hike on this day was a total of 22 km (~ 10 miles).

The back of Los Cuernos

We saw many of these hawks around the campgrounds in Los Cuernos and our next campsite, Italiano.

Our third day of hiking was pretty easy, about 6 km to the Italiano campsite.  When we arrived at Italiano, the wind and weather had gotten worse.  There were flurres in the air and with the wind chill, it felt like 25 degrees.  After setting up camp, I hiked to the top of the French Valley (mainly to stay warm since there wasn't much to see due to the snowy weather).

A really pretty pebble beach we passed on the way to Italiano.

Hiking up the French Valley 

View of the glacier from the French Vally (through the snow)

After a very cold night (another record breaking cold night for me), we woke up early, had some breakfast, and hit the trail in order to make it to Paine Grande Refugio quickly.  This was our last day of hiking.  We took the ferry / boat back to the bus stop area and headed back to Puerto Natales that evening.

This is one happy camper with his morning brewski.  He hiked it in from Los Cuernos campsite.

And we finally reach the end of our "W" hiking experience in Torres Del Paine.  This is the Paine Grande lodge where we sat inside the warm restaurant and drank a couple of cold beers.

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