Patagonia - Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine..... / by Mark Boyd

Yannic sat down beside me.  He was on a semester in Santiago, but had a few days break to walk the 'W Circuit' at Torres Del Paine.  We chatted for the best part of two hours as the bus rolled in to Puerto Natales.  We arranged to meet for food and beer later,  The next hour would be spent sorting out my gear for the 8 day 'O' circuit.... I'd leave anything I didn't need at the hostel, and collect it on my return to Puerto Natales (PN).  This preparation included purchasing supplies at the local supermarket.

I met Yannic at his hostel.  We'd both heard that the 'O Circuit' was yet to open for the season, which thus restricted my plans to the 'W'.  My plan hadn't originally been to leave for Torres Del Paine until the day after tomorrow, but as Yannic and I got chatting, I thought it may be nice to have some company for a day or two.  I agreed to join him on the early bus the next morning.

During the night I could hear the rain hammering down.... It sounded awful.... At 6am it was still hammering down.  Poncho donned and bags covered I wandered to Yannic's hostel, then onward to the bus station where I purchased my return ticket for twenty GBP. It was a miserable day.  The bus journey took a couple of hours to reach the National Park office.  Here we paid our entry fee of twenty seven GBP and completed the registration forms along with the rest of the park visitors.  It was still raining outside.  Half began their trek from here, the other half including myself and Yannic, headed to the next stop, where we took the ten GBP ferry across to Grande Paine Camp..... The ferry was jammed... and the backpacks were piled up at the front.  Everyone cosied up.  We sat and chatted with an American couple.  It seemed most folks were renting camping gear, or camping in pre-erected tents at the camp grounds.

Everyone was talking about their camp ground reservations.... and that it was imperative to have them due to camp grounds being full to capacity..... This was not the case.... I had no reservations and experienced no such thing..... I suppose chancing it on this occasion paid off.  We set our tents up underneath the wooden porch area of the camp office.  It was grim...  Yannic was on a strict schedule.  He needed to hit 'Glacier Grey' this afternoon.... this was the first part of the 'W' trek from this end.... It was hammering and I was thinking of putting it off until tomorrow.  It was a 7 hour trek up and back.  I bit the bullet, sensing that Yannic would like the company.

My Outdoor Research jacket and waterproof trousers, combined with my Salomon boots should go some way to keeping me dry..... I hoped.  I had two boiled eggs from breakfast time in my pockets.  Not a huge supply of calories, but they would have to suffice.

We walked to the ranger's office to say we were heading to Grey.  He said when it gets to 3pm you must turn around and walk back..... The walk towards the Glacier Grey was plain sailing.... Up, down and rough.... Then flat for the most part.... The rain eased off and stopped for and hour or so, then returned with even more force than the past 10 hours.... 

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A large area of water appeared in the valley... Icebergs floated serenely, no doubt having calved a few weeks before from the main glacier.....

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The little stream crossings offered the potential of a good foot soaking, but we picked our way carefully across, maintaining dry feet for now.... Though if the rain continued the way it was currently falling, wet feet would be unavoidable.

As we tackled the final section of the trail which lead towards 'Grey' we were totally alone.... Which was great.  We would have the view point to ourselves and anyone else who was already there ahead of us.  We'd already passed the 3pm mark, but we weren't turning around until we'd reached Glacier Grey.... 

At 4pm we were there!

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Wow!

It really was worth it....  A large iceberg sat in the middle of the bay, with the glacier itself set back in the distance, almost totally masked by the miserable mist filled horizon.  Even so the view remained spectacular in the moodiest of senses.  I hadn't brought my camera, just the iphone 6.  It wasn't worth risking water damage.... Even grabbing pictures with the iPhone proved challenging with the heavy rain and low light levels.  In the end I was just grabbing a couple of shots to share what I could see with you guys at home..... 

We had at least a 3.5 hours walk back.... 

The little trickles of water had now turned in to flowing streams.... The tiny streams had turned in to small rivers.... and finding the trail at times became a real challenge.... There was water every where.  My body, my feet... Everything was soaked.  The Gore-tex had eventually given up the ghost.  We squelched on.... It was almost 7.30pm when we arrived back, and the ranger was on his way up to find some folks who'd managed to get lost (they were found later safe and well, they'd just managed to lose the trail).  

Back at the camp I stood around shivering.... Yannic had gone to take a hot shower.... I was feeling totally shattered.  The fast paced 7 hour trek had took it's toll.... I hand't had enough to eat and my body knew it.... I stood shivering under the wooden shelter.... I didn't want to shower.... I just wanted to sleep.  I knew that the only way I would warm my body core up was to get in a hot shower.... I just didn't fancy stripping off in the freezing cold.  My base layers were soaked and stuck to my skin.... brrrrrrrrrr.  I grabbed a block of cheese and chunk of salami from my backpack and took a bit from each.... then another.... I eventually pulled myself together, headed to the shower block and stood waiting patiently in a daze waiting for one of the three showers to come free.  The wet steamy air was warm.  Five minutes later I was in.  Teh hot water warmed me from the outside all the way to my core.  It was well worth it. 

Everyone at the camp could be found hanging clothes in the camp kitchen and dining area.  It was the most humid room ever.  There would be no drying in here.  I'd return tomorrow morning.  I ate a little more food then tucked myself in to my tent for the night.... At least the night time temperatures wouldn't be as cold as Tierra del Fuego.... I fell to sleep.....

 

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