Trekking the W Circuit at the Torres del Paine: Day 5

After the fun of day 4 with all the wind and beautiful views of the lakes and the Torres del Paine, the big day finally arrived:  no, not because it was the last day of hiking but because it was the day we were trekking up to the lagoon to see the peaks close and personal.  But it would all depend on the weather as there could be rain or cloud coverage over the iconic conical (alliteration!) peaks.  The morning light showed everything looked good – and majestic!

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Samsung Galaxy, photo, trekking, travel, Refugio Chileno

View of the top of the range

About an hour later, the light had changed and a rainbow appeared.

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Samsung Galaxy, photo, trekking, travel, rainbow

Rainbow nicely framing the massif

The Refugio Chileno

Trekking from the Refugio Chileno, where we had stayed overnight, back to our exit point at Hotel Las Torres would be about 9 kms.  But before starting on that, we would go up to the Mirador Las Torres, about 4 kms away and mostly going up about 380 m to reach the lagoon at around 875 m above sea level.  So, in total, this day would be 17 kms worth of distance covered.

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel, Refugio Chileno

The main lodge at the refugio (nearest to us, the dining room)

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel, Refugio Chileno

The refugio also offers space for camping, if that’s your thing!

I have not mentioned how the refugios work.  They usually have rooms with several bunk beds (stacks of 2 or 3), shared bathroom facilities (with private showers), and communal dining (usually scheduled as not everyone fits at once).  I am not saying they are super clean but they were generally better than expected.  The meals were acceptable if not good and wine and beer were always available.  I gained weight in this 5-day hike!

Getting to the Mirador Las Torres

Alright, back to the hike.  The route up was not always a nice path, there were a couple of spots with makeshift wooden bridges to cross small streams.  But that all added to the fun of the climb.

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Rickety bridge…

bridge, creek, Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel,

Another bridge

bridge, creek, Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel,

Enjoyed all these bridges!

Of course, going up was more fun due to the expectation of arriving to the top mirador (viewing point), of getting as close to the Torres as possible.  Returning to the Refugio Chileno, by comparison, was slightly less exciting but probably more tranquil.

hiking, Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel,

Peaceful trails

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Roaring waters

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A very unique tree

So, while the weather had been iffy in the morning, it improved as the climb up happened.  Sadly, we did have some cloud coverage at the top of the towers as you can see in the photos.  We heard that they cleared up later – just the nature of the weather down in Patagonia:  you never know!  Though mildly disappointed, it was still a great feeling to make it up there.

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For those who may need coordinates…

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The beautiful lagoon and cloud-covered peaks of the Torres del Paines

hiking, Mirador Las Torres, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel

My roommate Dave and I – ’til the next trek!

And then leaving the Torres del Paine National Park…

Once we returned to the refugio, we did the usual (pit stop, eat something, etc.) and then picked up our stuff and started to make our way out of the park and our phenomenal 5-day hike of the W circuit of the Torres del Paine.  The vistas continued to be breathtaking all the way until the end of the hike, pretty much.

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel, Refugio Chileno

Looking along the creek/gorge near the Refugio Chileno

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel, Refugio Chileno

Just beautiful!

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel

Leaving the gorge area

Torres del Paine, mountains, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel

One final bridge and it is over… 🙁

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile, sunlight, morning light, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel

Looking back before the final short stretch…

I was on the front group and I ran into the Hotel Las Torres, where the bus was picking us up, to make a pit stop when I spotted the bar.  And that’s when I remembered how, upon finishing descent from Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of my fellow trekkers, Len Stanmore, and I grabbed a beer (I wish I could have added “cold” as an adjective but it wasn’t…) to celebrate.  So I ordered a beer for me and fellow trekker Paula who was there with me and we celebrated completing the W circuit in proper form!

trekker, beer, hiking, Mirador Las Torres, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel

Done and cheers!

With this, I end the series of the hike in the Torres del Paine National Park.  It is as beautiful a landscape as there exists in this planet:  the Chilean Patagonia.  I have been blessed with seeing it once as more of a tourist (in 2010) and again, fulfilling a wish I had since 2010, of returning to trek the W circuit so I could see everything further up close than in 2010.  I am lucky guy indeed.

lagoon, hiking, Mirador Las Torres, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile, Olympus, photo, trekking, travel

A happy trekker

 

Go back to day 4 of this Patagonia trek!

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Trekking the W Circuit at the Torres del Paine: Day 4

A windy night at Refugio Los Cuernos

I woke up around 7 AM on day 4 after a night thinking the place we were staying at was going to blow away at any moment.  On top of that, something right outside our window kept hitting the window on and off throughout the night (we discovered in the morning that the window was perfectly shut and it was making the noise).  I am told the gusts we experienced overnight were between 80-100 km/hr!  I wanted to go outside to look at the lake as the wind was howling to perhaps take video or a photo – I did but ran back inside!  A little later, the skies cleared a little and we were rewarded with a view of the cuernos (towers) of the Torres del Paine graced by a rainbow!

rainbow, Refugio Chileno, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Rainbow over los cuernos

It was still very windy…

The wind along Lake Nordenskjold howled

But, it wasn’t just the refugio!  We started our hike and it was windy for a good bit of the first half of the hike along Lake Nordenskjold!  We could see white top waves on the surface of the lake.

Lake Nordenskjold,Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

The white tops of the lake’s waves

Lake Nordenskjold,Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

The wind created some beautiful sights

Lake Nordenskjold,Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

And with a rainbow to boot!

Until we turned a corner around a small peninsula.  Then that part of the lake was flat as it could be!

Lake Nordenskjold,Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

On the top and right of the lake in this photo, you see the wind’s effect. The rest is flat!

Lake Nordenskjold,Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

From then on, nice and flat!

The winds and gusts along the way were so strong that they would throw you off balance.  We learned to crouch quickly at the first hint of a gust (or after it hit others first!).  I believe one of our guys was lifted up an inch even with his backpack!  It was surreal.

Refugio Chileno, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Not even the wind can stop my friend Bridgit!

Maybe a tiny bit scary but, actually, more thrilling than scary (except when it threw me sideways once…).  Don’t believe me?

Check out this one minute video I took at the refugio and along the way!  (turn down the volume as it is noisy but don’t mute your speakers!)

Despite the winds (constant at around 40-50 km/hr with gusts exceeding that), hiking along the lake was quite a neat experience.  It was just beautiful! Lunch was shredded chicken sandwich on bread that was actually “stamped” with the name of the refugio we had left, “Los Cuernos“!

sandwich, bread, Los Cuernos, Torres del Paine, Chile, food, photo

An authentic “Los Cuernos” sandwich!

Past the wind and on to the Campamento Chileno!

The hike (about 15km / 9mi) took us about six hours counting our stops and towards the end got away from the lake and went through some private lands.

Refugio Chileno, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Two of my fellow Morocco/Camino trekkers: Always good to see friends!

Refugio Chileno, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

I guess we have to be careful, Mick Jagger may be around!

Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

The massif

Lake Nordenskjold,Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Plenty of photo opps along the way!

Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Cool bridge – right before our lunch stop!

The final stretch of the trail heading to the Campamento Chileno was gorgeous, along what I would call a sort of canyon or gorge (but maybe not as narrow as a gorge?) but it had some very steep hills toward the end!  I will end this post with photos after we left the shores of the lake and heading inland to our refugio for the night!

Refugio Chileno, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Leaving the lake behind

Refugio Chileno, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Neat landscape

Refugio Chileno, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

The canyon or gorge looking towards the Campamento

Refugio Chileno, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

The canyon or gorge looking towards the lake

Refugio Chileno, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

The canyon or gorge looking towards the lake

——————  More about this trek!  ——————

Back to day 3.

And on to the last day:  day 5!

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Trekking the W Circuit at the Torres del Paine: Day 3

Day 3 started with me looking out the window from my room at Refugio Paine Grande to the tents that some slept in.  It is incredibly hard to believe anyone could sleep in those with the high winds experienced.  But, some did!

Refugio Paine Grande, Torres del Paine, Chile, hiking, trekking, Patagonia nature, adventure, photo, travel, Olympus

The campsite at Refugio Paine Grande on a wet morning

It was a nice start to the day though it would not remain so for the entire hike that day.

Refugio Paine Grande, Torres del Paine, Chile, hiking, trekking, Patagonia nature, adventure, photo, travel, Olympus

Sun rising…

Refugio Paine Grande, Torres del Paine, Chile, hiking, trekking, Patagonia nature, adventure, photo, travel, Olympus

Looking towards the torres at Refugio Paine Grande

Refugio Paine Grande, Torres del Paine, Chile, hiking, trekking, Patagonia nature, adventure, photo, travel, Olympus

Looking at one wing of the refugio

Headed to the Campamento Italiano and the French Glacier

We left camp around 9:15 AM.  Our next meal would happen about 3 hours later…

Skottsberg Lake, Torres del Paine, Chile, hiking, trekking, Patagonia nature, adventure, photo, travel, Olympus

Walking along Skottsberg Lake headed to Campamento Italiano

The main attraction for the day would be to see the valley of the Glaciar Francés (French Glacier).  To get there, we would detour from the main route taking us from Refugio Paine Grande to our destination for the night:  Refugio Los Cuernos.  It would imply a very long day of hiking to the Campamento Británico (British Camp) and back out requiring a steep climb.  I was not sure I would have the energy for the very long day that would result from the hike (a total of 15 miles in about 10 hrs) but was not going to miss it if the group went (always a good motivator!).  But the weather made the decision for us.  Visibility was going to be too low for the trek to the valley to be worth it.  However, our leads suggested that we hit the “mirador” spot from which one could, at least, see the glacier.  After a lunch stop at the Campamento Italiano (Italian Camp), we left for the mirador, despite slight rain, and it was a nice compromise worth the trouble (about an hour roundtrip – not bad!).  We also saw the Paine Grande Glacier above the French Glacier.

Campamento Italiano, Torres del Paine, Chile, hiking, trekking, Patagonia nature, adventure, photo, travel, Olympus

Arriving at the Campamento Italiano

Campamento Italiano, Torres del Paine, Chile, hiking, trekking, Patagonia nature, adventure, photo, travel, Olympus

Upon arrival at the Campamento Italiano

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The view of the French glacier

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Beautiful smooth rocks

On to Refugio Los Cuernos

The remainder of the hike went smoothly though the weather was not spectacular.  It was very muddy at spots and there were a few places were boards had been placed to walk on since it got too muddy.  On one of those, I lost my balance as the planks were not quite horizontal and I fell off.  Luckily for me, I nailed the landing (2 ft down).  Wish there were a video of it!  Still we enjoyed the closer views of the torres as we headed to our resting place for the night (and a hot meal!).Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, OlympusTorres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, OlympusTorres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

And finally… at the Refugio Los Cuernos!

Towards the last part of the hike, we hit Lake Nordenskjold and by 4 PM, we made it to the refugio.

Refugio Los Cuernos, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Welcome to Refugio Los Cuernos!

We enjoyed white fish for dinner, wine and games.  I was out like a light before 10:30 PM!

Refugio Los Cuernos, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Typical room at the refugio

Refugio Los Cuernos, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Dinner was always a good time to chat!

Refugio Los Cuernos, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Outdoors at the refugio – it was very windy!

We were one happy bunch, and not forgetting why we were doing this:  for the kids!

nature, outdoors, travel, photo, Refugio Los Cuernos, lodging, Torres del Paine, national park, Chile, Patagonia, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy, Torres del Paine

Trekkers and the supporting crew

——–  Read more about the trek ———

Day 1 at Torres del Paine

Day 2 at Torres del Paine

On to day 4 at Torres del Paine!

Hiking around Fitz Roy in Argentina

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Trekking the W Circuit at the Torres del Paine: Day 2

After a successful day one in the Torres del Paine National Park, in southern Chile, we were ready to embark on day two.  Our group got split into two groups and I, sadly, got assigned to the group that was leaving earlier that morning…  The good news was that part one of our day was going to be a glacier hike!  Yes, we were going to go by small boat to the Grey glacier, climb to it from the moraine, and then walk all around it.  Well, not ALL around it but a portion of it.

Hiking at Grey glacier in the Torres del Paine National Park

I woke up 30 minutes earlier than I needed to, not on purpose.  Lights had not come on at the refugio and I had not expected this so had not let with headlamp out so I tumbled my way to the restroom down the hall…  Fun times!

The boat ride was uneventful, very short – around 20 minutes.  Getting off the boat was tricky as there was a big gap and we had to jump to a narrow ledge on the rocks.  No accidents in either group, glad to report!  From there, I began the hike along the moraine to get to the glacier proper.  It took about 2 hours under a constant drizzle.  It made me nervous that the rocks were wet with the soft rain so I probably went slower than my normal.  But it was slate which was surprisingly not slippery but the mistruster in me wouldn’t take risks 🙂  I did not get to appreciate how beautiful this part was until the return hike back to the boat when I was more awake, it was not raining, and I was riding high after the time on the glacier!

Grey glacier, Chile, Torres del Paine, W circuit, glacier hike, Olympus

Our group after making it to the edge of the icefield

In any case, we got to the glacier and we were excited to get to the spot where we would enter the ice field.  At that spot, the gear was waiting for us and a brief class on how to walk on ice and not die.  We put on the crampons (mine looked like Peary or Amundsen used them over 100 years ago…), learned to use the ice pick, and climbed onto the ice.

Grey glacier, Chile, Torres del Paine, W circuit, glacier hike, Olympus, crampons

My crampons – antiquess!

It had stopped raining shortly before getting to the ice which was nice as we had no rain throughout the rest of our glacier hike and the sun was out most of the time.  We greatly enjoyed looking down crevices and watching pools of water on the ice that look like mirrors.  We spent somewhere between an hour and hour-and-a-half doing that at it was really enjoyable and a great experience.

Grey glacier, Chile, Torres del Paine, W circuit, glacier hike, Olympus

My friends Mira and Kim – real explorers!

Grey glacier, Chile, Torres del Paine, W circuit, glacier hike, Olympus

Beautiful colors!

Grey glacier, Chile, Torres del Paine, W circuit, glacier hike, Olympus

Posing with all my gear on

Grey glacier, Chile, Torres del Paine, W circuit, glacier hike, Olympus

Trekking along the glacier

Grey glacier, Chile, Torres del Paine, W circuit, glacier hike, Olympus

Coming off the ice field onto the moraine under MUCH better weather!

I couldn’t help but compare it to my helicopter ride onto the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand.  On the one hand, flying the heli to the glacier saved time and we spent more time on the glacier.  On the other hand, climbing the moraine was a neat experience.  However, I have to say I’d prefer doing Franz Josef over this one as we got to crawl in ice caves and do things like that over there.  But I enjoyed this hike nevertheless because glaciers are amazing and I was with good friends!

glacier hike, blue ice, outdoors, adventure

Fun at the Franz Josef glacier

Making it from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

We made it back to the Refugio Grey to have some lunch prior to getting going on part two of our day:  hiking back to Refugio Paine Grande, where we had landed by boat the day before.  The lunch was a delicious plate of spaghetti and meatballs as you can appreciate from the picture below!

spaghetti, Refugio Grey, lunch, Chile, Torres del Paine, trekking

Delicious!

We started off at 3 PM.  It rained a good bit so I did not take many pictures that day (the good news was that the rain was hitting us from behind vs. the front).  It was not a big disappointment, though, because we were on the same trail we had walked the day before in the other direction.  It finally cleared up when we were getting to the end point (around 7 PM) which was nice.  I got a couple of pictures in…

Torres del Paine, Chile, trekking, hiking, South America, Olympus

Not ideal weather but it was not hard rain either…

Torres del Paine, Chile, trekking, hiking, South America, Olympus

The weather was beginning to clear up…

Torres del Paine, Chile, trekking, hiking, South America, Olympus

My hiking partner that afternoon was Mira. We were thrilled to see the refugio ahead and blue skies!

Day 2 was one for the books and, in spite of the rain, was pretty incredible!  And after a great meal (meat with mashed potatoes and red wine and a brownie!), time to rest!

Torres del Paine, Chile, trekking, hiking, South America, Olympus

My bed was the bottom one!

——–  Read more about the trek ———

Day 1 at Torres del Paine

Day 3 at Torres del Paine

Hiking around Fitz Roy in Argentina

Trekking the W Circuit at the Torres del Paine: Day 1

Finally, the long awaited day arrived:  the day we would start our hike in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.  I had visited the park in 2010 but did not hike that time (I wasn’t big on hiking then plus I had very limited time to explore the area).  We left Puerto Natales early to cover the 2hr+ route to get to the port where we would take a catamaran to cross Lake Pehoe, a 30-minute ride or so. Before getting on the boat, we got a teaser on the beauty we would be getting ourselves into during our hike.  The peaks or towers of the Torres del Paine stood before us in simple but great majesty.  Do you agree??

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, lago Patos,Olympus

The Paine Grande on the left and the towers/peaks on the right. Awesome view!

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, lake Pehoe,OlympusThis boat ride would take us to the Refugio Paine Grande, the starting point in our hike.  Right at the departure “port,” we saw evidence of the fires that ravaged the area a few years ago.  The trees were reminders of the fragility of the environment there (or anywhere, for that matter).Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, dead tree,OlympusThe map below shows where we took the catamaran (A), where we landed at near Refugio Paine Grande (B), and where we were going to hike that day, Refugio Grey (C).  The next day we would return to and stay at Refugio Paine Grande again.Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, map,OlympusThe ride was smooth and the views were awesome, especially because the day was so beautiful.  By the time we got to the refugio, it was about lunch time so we had lunch at the refugio.  The meal was simple but pretty tasty and, certainly, hefty enough to help us with the trek ahead.  However, by the time I was done eating the lentils and rice dish, I was longing for a nap, not a hike 🙂

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, refugio Paine Grande, lentils, food, Olympus

My first lunch on the trail!

We got on our way to Refugio Grey around 2 PM.  The landscape started a little on the bland side and then we moved through forest of burnt trees before stepping back into the beauty of life with purple, pink and yellow flowers as we bordered lakes.Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, refugio Paine Grande, OlympusChile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, dead tree, Samsung GalaxyChile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, wild berries,Samsung Galaxy Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, dead tree, flowers, flora,Samsung Galaxy Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, flora, flowers,OlympusApproaching a high point overlooking Laguna Los Patos, we got our first taste of strong winds – and our first long break.  The route is not overly signed but I did like the signs located along the way.  At this point, we had covered 1/3 of the total hike for the day as the sign at Laguna Los Patos shows.  We would encounter a couple more of these signs before reaching our destination.Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, OlympusSoon after we could see the end of the lake facing the Grey glacier.  In 2010 I had visited that edge of the lake and walked it, resigned to see the glacier from a distance.  This time, I would get to walk on it!!

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Grey glacier, Samsung Galaxy

Behind me, the grounds I walked on 2010!

One of our vantage points, the Mirador Lago Grey, was close to the highest point on this trail sitting at around 250m over sea level.  By virtue of its location and altitude, it offered phenomenal view of the glacier straight ahead.  And it was WINDY up there!!!

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Grey glacier, glaciar,Olympus

About to have the best views of the glacier at this point

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Grey glacier, glaciar,Olympus

Our first full frontal view of the Grey Glacier

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Grey glacier, glaciar,Samsung Galaxy

The next day, we would be hiking on the glacier (the left corner in this pic)!

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Grey glacier, glaciar,Samsung Galaxy

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Grey glacier, glaciar,Samsung Galaxy

Fellow trekkers Jose and Kat fighting the wind to take photos of the glacier

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Grey glacier, glaciar,Olympus

At some point, one must pose for a photo with the glacier!

Among the beautiful scenes I saw was this marsh or bog (not sure what it was, technically) which sat, across the lake, the Grey glacier.  Out of a movie!Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, marsh, bog peat,OlympusChile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, marsh, bog peat,Samsung GalaxyAnother neat spot was when we crossed the small but quite powerful Rio Olguin.  We were getting close to the destination!Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Rio Olguin, Olympus Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Rio Olguin, OlympusAnd finally, we arrived, 4 hours and 15 minutes later!  The Refugio Grey was very welcoming and a great place to rest and relax.  The outdoor seating area hosted us as we sipped some wine after showering.  Eventually we made it inside for a great meal (carne mechada and rice chased by chocolate mousse!) and camaraderie.  Soon thereafter, I crashed, ready to let my body recover before our fun-filled Day 2!

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Refugio Grey,Olympus

Welcome to Refugio Grey!

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, Refugio Grey,Samsung Galaxy

Outdoor porch – very nice!

 

——–  Read more about the trek ———

Day 2 at Torres del Paine

Day 3 at Torres del Paine

Hiking around Fitz Roy in Argentina

Fitz Roy and Glacier National Park: Nature at Its Best

My recent trek with Trekking for Kids in Patagonia, the southern part of the continental Americas, had two components:

  1. A day hike and a glacier visit in the Argentinian side of Patagonia, and
  2. A 5-day hike in the Chilean side of Patagonia, including a glacier hike.

Here, I will cover the day hike in Argentina.  A later post will cover the glacier visit to Perito Moreno glacier and further posts will cover the 5-hike along the W circuit in the Torres del Paine Park in Chile.

Hiking in Argentina:  Fitz Roy and its siblings

The day hike in Argentina took us to a beautiful setting north of the town of El Calafate in the large southern provide of Santa Cruz:  the National Glaciers Park and Reserve (Parque y Reserva Nacional Los Glaciares).  After landing in El Calafate from Buenos Aires (about 3 hour+ flight time), we headed to the small town of El Chaltén (established in 1985 mainly to serve as a border town and entry point to the area we were going to hike in).  From El Chaltén we would start our day hike anchored on the majestic Fitz Roy peak.  What makes this area magnificent is not just Fitz Roy (which used to be called El Chaltén) but the series of peaks that go with it along the glaciers that sit in the spaces in between.

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The peaks and the town of El Chaltén as we approached at the end of a day

Approaching Fitz Roy taking Senda El Pilar

We left our hotel, El Barranco, on a vehicle to take us to the entry point for our hike.  It was not the typical entry point as we had to cut through a small hotel (Hostería El Pilar) that sits right by one of the entrances to the park (we had permission to do so!).  We reached the trail we were looking for, Senda El Pilar, which we took and followed the Río Blanco facing first Torre Eléctrica and its glacier, then moving on to see the Marconi glacier.Fitz Roy, Chaltén, glacier national park, Senda el Pilar, Patagonia, Argentina, hiking, trekking, photo, travel, Olympus,

Fitz Roy, Chaltén, glacier national park, Patagonia, Argentina, hiking, trekking, photo, travel, Samsung Galaxy, Torre Electrica

Torre Eléctrica initially blocks full view of Fitz Roy upon starting the hike

There are quite a few spots to stop for great pictures but Fitz Roy and its siblings are ever-present.  In no time, we got to a point with a great view of Fitz Roy and the Piedras Blancas (“white rocks”) glacier:

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One of the great views from Senda El Pilar

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Gotta play with the camera’s features sometime…

Fitz Roy, Chaltén, glacier national park, parque nacional glaciares, Patagonia, Argentina, hiking, trekking, photo, travel, Samsung Galaxy, mountains, blue sky

Headed to Poincenot camp

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Enjoying a break and the view (Fitz Roy is the tallest and Poincenot peak second tallest)

Soon after that, at Poincenot camp, Senda El Pilar would end and we would then turn to take Senda Fitz Roy to return to El Chaltén.  Poincenot has camping grounds that have latrines if people prefer using those.  From Poincenot, trekkers can go up to Laguna de los Tres but we did not do that portion.

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Markers were strategically placed along the route

We proceed to take Senda Fitz Roy for the second and longer part of our hike.  On that trail, we hit the Capri Lake where some enjoyed cooling off their feet – or even a quick dip!

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Lake Capri and the peaks behind it

This was one of the last great vantage points for admiring the peaks and glaciers.  We entered different terrain as we proceeded to the last part of our hike.

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Along Senda Fitz Roy

Glacier National Park, Patagonia, Argentina, trekking, hiking, photo, travel, Olympus, El Chalten

Along Senda Fitz Roy

Glacier National Park, Patagonia, Argentina, trekking, hiking, photo, travel, Olympus, El Chalten

Along Senda Fitz Roy:  these rocks are much taller than they appear – we saw rock climbers on it

Once we finished the trail, we just walked right into town!

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Senda Fitz Roy leads us back to El Chaltén!

Our hike had been around 15 kms and it took us around 7 hours with a few nice stops along the way.  I highly recommend this hike – not strenuous but moderate and with the amazing views I have shown you here (and others I did not!).

On My Way Back to Trek in Patagonia

Soon, I will be headed on another travel adventure.  This one will be another trekking adventure with Trekking for Kids (TFK) with whom I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the Transylvanian Alps in Romania, and “pilgrimaged” on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  I am thrilled because I get to return to a part of the world that is remote, pristine, and with which I fell in love the first time I went in 2010:  Patagonia.  No, not the store but the southern part of the continent of South America.

The trip begins in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  OK, it really begins at the Atlanta airport but that’s just a technicality.  We will spend a few days in the Argentine capital working with a local orphanage that is benefiting from our trek.  If you would like to donate to the work TFK is sponsoring, please visit my fundraising page; all donations go STRAIGHT to the orphanage, not my costs and are 100% tax-deductible in the U.S.  In any case, I have gotten to visit Buenos Aires a couple of times and it is truly a great city!

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ilivetotravel in Buenos Aires MANY moons ago!

But I decided to take advantage of having some flexibility and will arrive a couple of days early to head over to a lesser-known jewel in neighboring Uruguay:  a colonial charming town appropriately and simply named “Colonia,” mentioned in the book 1,000 Places to See before You Die.  Not planning on dying anytime soon but better safe than sorry, no? 🙂

After the orphanage work, we will fly down to the town of El Calafate on the Argentine side of Patagonia.  From there we will hike around the iconic Fitz Roy peak and its siblings,  and visit the famous and imposing Perito Moreno glacier.

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Note the size of the glacier when compared to the boat in the red circle on the upper right

After visiting the glacier park, we will transfer the next day to Puerto Natales, the Chilean town that is the real gateway to the wildness and beauty of Patagonia (I like the Chilean side better!).

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At the waterfront in Puerto Natales, gateway to glacier boat tours

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Example of the local architecture in Puerto Natales

I stayed in Puerto Natales when I visited in 2010 and there is something about its remoteness, its simplicity that was charming to me.  From there, we will launch our trek to the impressive Torres del Paine, surrounded by lakes and glaciers.  Our route is the typical route to trek there – it is called the “W” route.  Take a look at the map (with the route in red) and you will see where the name comes from!

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The W circuit

I am thrilled at this upcoming adventure and have tons to do to prepare.  I also wonder if I am physically ready enough as I will be needing to carry about 30 lbs on my back – a first for me in any of my hikes.  Wish me luck and stay tuned for future write-ups on the experience!

 

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