Trekking Torres del Paine (Towers of Pain)

11-14 April 2003.

We took a four day trek around Torres del Paine which is the Jewel in Chilie's trekking crown. For those familiar with the park we completed the 'W' route from West to East starting at Glacier Grey and finishing with the 'Towers'

This is us on a boat to Glacier Grey fully protected (!) with our matching 'his & hers' life jackets. It took us all day to get to the boat via different buses -we changed four times and at each stop we took off our rucksacks to be told to get back on the bus again as we still weren't in the right place.

We spent about an hour on the catamaran ( posh word for basic boat which looked half the size of the brochure). The word Catamaran seems to have evolved to now mean 'crappy boat' in South America. The 'catamaran' took us to our starting place for our 4 day trek next to the Grey Glacier.

The freezing cold boat trip took us past these huge icebergs which have fallen (calved) from the Glacier. Each time ice falls off, it makes the sound of a gun.  

The brighter the blue the more compact it is and the less exposure it has had to the air so this piece here is likely to be centuries old... but still makes a great G&T.

The iceberg in this photo is about 10 metres across.

Once we erected our tent next to the lake with the floating icebergs, we made our way to the Glacier which was about 10 mins walk away.  Here you can see explorer Jason trying to suss out the best way he can get to walk on the Glacier.

An hour later we were cooking steak and potatoes before a very cold night huddled in our sleeping bags. Here we became aware of Wolfgang our friendly German, who woke us up about 2am with the sound of his famous snore. His tent was a good 200 yards away from us and he still sounded like a poorly-tuned tractor.

We ended up in a campsite with lots of 'well spoken' (read posh) English kids who had the good sense to build a banned campfire where Claire defrosted her feet. At the campfire we met Wolfgang who's tent was close to ours again as we didn't know he was the snorer yet. ( We found out that night)

In the morning we walked 3 hours up the French Valley, with Wolfgang. We got to the top and Claire was worrying about the two hour walk back to the campsite and then the 3 hours to our next camp.  Jason decided that he wanted to go further up so Wolfgang and Claire sat and enjoyed their biscuits.

Here's the photo to be used on the cover of the 'Good Mountaineering Brochure'. Look closely and you will see the crampons, ice axe, and warm clothing.......

Jason made the mistake of mentioning he would be gone for 10 minutes before embarking on a 2 hour run, incorporating 1,000 metres of vertical climb in the snow and rock. He also shouted down shortly into his venture sounding similar to someone who may have fallen.

From 1,000 metres above the lookout you see the stunning view on the left.

While Jason was enjoying this view, Wolfgang & Claire were getting worried. They had heard the hollar and the route Jason had taken was vertical with heavy boulders and something he could easily fall down on. Convinced something was wrong Wolfgang and Claire set about finding Jason. Screaming his name for the next 30 mins didn't bring any sound from him. By now 3 people were looking for him.

Jason finally came bounding out of the bushes in his vest, with sweat all over him wondering what all the fuss was about.

This shows the states of the tracks, it was very wet and muddy, we had been walking for about four hours and Claire had slipped and fallen. We were a tiny bit tired.

Their was a signifcant risk of a foot-stamping tantrum at this stage but Claire battled on in the less than ideal conditions.

We had been lucky with the weather until the third day when it rained all day. It was our longest day of walking - 8 hours and alot of it was up hill.  It was also bitterly cold. This was our 11am porridge break. We passed an idyllic sheltered spot an hour earlier and Claire thought it wise to keep walking!

So the photo shows us cooking porridge in the wind and rain surrounded by mud and horse shit as we were now to hungry to continue!

This is the view of the three towers. We were really lucky to see this as we woke up at 6am to full cloud and mist in our campsite.  We walked an hour up through the cloud climbing over boulders and rocks to this viewpoint. You can see the rainbow that appeared just as we were about to leave which made us stay there longer.

Here are the three towers in almost full view.  On a clear day sunset and sunrise changes the colour from Slate Grey to a vivid pink . We were happy for the break in the weather that meant we could see them and to have our rainbow.

This is us on the bus back to our warm hotel with a shower. We were very tired but chuffed at having completed the four day trek.

Here is a map of the park if you are interested.

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