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

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

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…

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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.

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

For those who may need coordinates…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine, W circuit, hiking, trekking, travel, photo, marsh, bog peat,Olympus

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

On My Way Back to Trek in Patagonia

Perito Moreno, glacier, Argentina, Patagonia, nature, adventure, ice, blue, water, photo, travel

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!

tourist, Buenos Aires, monuments, travel, photo

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.

Perito Moreno, glacier, Argentina, Patagonia, nature, adventure, ice, blue, water, photo, travel

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!).

Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, water, sea, mountains

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

Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, architecture

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!

W circuit, Patagonia, Chile, Torres del Paine, hiking, trekking, glacier, lake, Pehoe, Grey, Nordenskjold, map

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!

 

Photos of the Week – Sights of Chile

Scenery from the Cueva del Milodón in the Chilean Patagonia

I loved Chile from a 3-month stint there 20 yrs ago before I went back in Dec 2009.  I have written about what I saw, did and felt in other entries in my blog so I won’t repeat myself, but I continue to long to go back even after spending all of 2010 in Chile…  Why?  Well, take a look below and read my other entries about Chile (http://ilivetotravel.me/tag/chile/)

Lagunas Altiplánicas in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile

Near the Lagunas Altiplánicas

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

Tourists REALLY enjoying the Torres del Paine scenery

Punta Arenas

In Punta Arenas

North of Puerto Natales in Chile's Patagonia

North of Puerto Natales in Chile’s Patagonia

Near the Salar de Atacama in Chile

Near the Salar de Atacama in the Atacama desert

Fonicular and stairs in Valparaiso, Chile

The hills of Valparaiso! Steps and foniculars!

Skiing in Valle Nevado outside of Santiago, Chile

Skiing in Valle Nevado right outside Santiago

Great summary of the juxtaposition of old and new in Santiago: the Cathedral and a building across the street

Great summary of the juxtaposition of old and new in Santiago: the Cathedral and a building across the street

Scenery from the Cueva del Milodón in the Chilean Patagonia

Scenery from the Cueva del Milodón in the Chilean Patagonia

Saving the best for last... What I really miss is seeing this just about every day I was in Santiago...

Saving the best for last… What I really miss is seeing this just about every day I was in Santiago…

Out and About to Check Out the Torres del Paine!

Cueva del Milodón near Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia

The Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, is the main “attraction” in the Chilean Patagonia.  Certainly, there is a lot more to explore in the region (Perito Moreno in Argentina, Puerto Natales, penguin colonies, etc.) but nothing seems as well known as this National Park and its centerpiece the mountains that carry the name “Paine”.  The picture below will not do them justice but it may ring a bell for some readers (read on… better pictures below!).

Seeing these mountains was the top goal for my trip down south.  (For more info about the park, check out http://www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/index.asp).   I wish I had had the time and “knee-health” to do the hike (the famous “W” hike) everyone else does but that was not to be.  So I signed up for a driven tour of the park which ended up being a really good way to see more in a limited time window.  (I used a Chilean travel agency named Comapa (http://www.comapa.com/en/) – there were about 14 of us in a mid-sized bus – it was very well-organized.)  While generally I prefer more “on my own” traveling, one good thing about this type of travel is meeting other folks and this particular day was not exception as I met friendly folks from Brazil and Chile.  Sometimes it is not only the sights but the people one meets along the way that make a trip worthwhile!

In any case, the day started by visiting the Cueva del Milodón, a cave carved by a glacier thousands and thousands of years ago and where the remains of a prehistoric type of beast that resembles a bear with a long tail were found.  Here is my picture of a milodón (or, I should say, a statue of one).Cueva del Milodón near Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia

Cueva del Milodón near Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia, north of Puerto Natales

The entrance to la Cueva del Milodón

The visit to the cave involved a nice short hike through one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen.  Ever.

Vista of Patagonia's majesty from la Cueva del Milodón

Wow. Just wow. No digital enhancement of colors. Wow again.

We proceeded to enter the main part of the park and visiting lake after lake, each beautiful in its own way and most with a view of the Torres themselves.  As the day started, there was a cloud-cover on the Torres but over the morning the cover mostly dissipated providing us visitors an almost clear view of the Torres.  Since it can be hit or miss, I was worried I may get to  see the Torres on the day when they would actually not be visible rending this a rather long distance to go and not see them…  But luck was on my side and I was glad for the almost perfect view of the Torres.

Map of the National Park

In any case, we visited Lake Sarmiento, Lake Nordenskjol (beautiful colored water), Lake Pehoé (where we had lunch at a local place sitting on the shore of the lake AND looking straight at the Torres!), Lake Grey and the glacier with the same name (which was way too far from the lake’s edge where we were to enjoy it much; but the short hike to get there was nice), and Lago del Toro.  The views were majestic and offered way too many photo opportunities.  But the Torres remained wrapped in fog.  I kept getting dis-heartened as there is no guarantee that on a given day, the fog clears…

Foggy view of the Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia with lake in front

Foggy view of the Torres del Paine

Foggy view of the Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia

Close up but a little foggy still…

Finally, the fog lifted enough for incredible views as we went further away from the Torres.  Incredible land!!!

Amazing photo of Torres del Paine on a beautiful day with Canon EOS Rebel

Glorious!

The visit to the park absolutely met my expectations of the landscape.  I only wish I had been able to stay right there at a place with a view of the Torres so I could see them at sunset and sunrise (assuming a clear view) – I can imagine how spectacular the setting must become at those times and with that type of light…  Maybe another visit?  But I still had more to discover about Patagonia in the next couple of days, including crossing the border to Argentina…

Torres del Paine in Chile's Patagonia with Canon EOS Rebel

Happy traveler!

The Key Places to See in Patagonia – On a Map!

As I sit to write about my trip, I thought a map of the Chilean Patagonia would be helpful to illustrate the different places I will  be writing about!

 

Source:  http://www.chiletravelplus.com

A Year On… A Final Trip to Chile

It will almost be a year to the day since I traveled to Chile for the first time in 18 yrs.  I was expecting an infrequent trip there in the year to follow due to work but a couple of months in, the game changed and I got to practically be based in Santiago for most of 2010.  The surprise was pleasant for the most part, except I had not planned to live far from home for so long, even if I did get to come home for long weekends at least twice every month.  Now, I have one more trip down to Chile of a few weeks before this chapter of my life closes…

It is important to note that I had wanted to stay in Chile back then in 1991.  I enjoyed life there SO much.  But without too much on my resume yet, being “too green”, and no easy way to figure things out (no Internet!), I just went back to the U.S. when the assignment ended.

Seeing Santiago after 18 years was a strange experience.  I was able to recognize places from my life those 3 months around 1990-91 (my apt building, work, Brannigan’s on Calle Suecia, the McDs by Parque Arauco where I used to go eat after playing racquetball, and the old parts of town among others).  But, of course, 18 yrs in a good economic climate bring about lots of change.  I recall back then a skyline littered with cranes of high rises being built.  Well, by now, I am happy to report they finished the buildings… and then some!  Sanhattan did not exist when I was there – not in its current form, at least.  The area around Parque Arauco and Parque Arauco itself have been developed beyond recognition.  I got to re-connect with friends from those days there and while their lives of course had changed, the friends were pretty much as I remembered them (physically and personality-wise).

I got to sample numerous excellent restaurants from a list built up by recommendations from a couple of choice people who clearly know food.  I have hit just about every recommendation except for some.  By now, with 3 weeks left in my assignment, I am more interested in eating at my favorite places than discovering new ones.  Tiramisu and Cuero Vaca (http://www.cuerovaca.cl/) rank up there in my book (good eats!).  I will be eating there again for sure!   [Check out this review of Tiramisu at the NYT:  http://tinyurl.com/2fcbum7]

Of course, I got to be in Chile on or around key events in its national history:  the earthquake of February 27, the national elections that made history, the trapped miners, the bicentennial (bicentenario), and the national soccer team making it to the 2nd round in the World Cup.  Wow, what timing, don’t you agree??

I got to sample the Atacama desert, hop over the Andes to Mendoza, and explore more of Valparaíso.  Hopefully, before I return, I will also get to see Patagonia and the key sights down there – Torres del Paine, the Magellan Straits by Punta Arenas, the Perito Moreno glacier, and a few other sights.  Places left to see or see again include Valdivia, Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and neighboring towns along the area, and the lakes crossing of the Andes to reach Bariloche.  Had work stretched into January, I would have been able to add them to my “itinerary”.  But with work wrapping up mid-December, I only had time for one destination before coming home for Christmas.  So I think I chose well with the trip to Tierra del Fuego.

Now, I need to focus on the hardest week of work in the whole year, then stabilize things before I move on.  I am thankful God granted me the opportunity to return to a land that I love and to have made it for a long stint so that I got to internalize it all.  Now, I am ready to leave Chile behind knowing I can always come “home” but ready to focus on my life in my real home…

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