Patagonia - Torres del Paine - Britanico.... / by Mark Boyd

With my Thermos locked and loaded I decided to hit the trail early in the hope I'd meet no one.  It was 6.15am and just getting light. 


The Britanico trail back tracks for 25 minutes from Campmento Frances and then slowly climbs through Valle de Frances.  Beauuuuuutiful.


The walk took me ever closer towards the areas where the avalanches had been continually tumbling the previous day.... It was amazing to see these mountain faces up so close.  No doubt there would be plenty more snowy cascades later this afternoon once the temperature had risen.

I was continually scouring the area for pumas, just as I had the previous day.... I was desperate to encounter one of these wonderful golden cats.... 


Every few minutes I would stop, turn around and look back over the landscape towards the distant aqua blue lake.... 


The air was still chilly, and and after almost 2 hours of trekking I reached an open area surrounded by rocky peaks.... An awesome sight!  I was hungry.  I grabbed my ziploc bag of goodies and quickly munched some nuts, fruit and chocolate.  Stopping wasn't a great idea, it was bloody freezing and my fingers were feeling the pinch.  I decided to plough onwards and upwards....


The trail eventually turned in to a hands on affair, involving an extremely steep rock clambering section.... I must be getting close.... There were more patches of snow and slippery icy sections to be aware of.

 Vertical panorama with the iPhone 6

Vertical panorama with the iPhone 6

I could now see the pinnacle of Britanico, surrounded by rocky peaks.... Another two minutes and I'd be there.


I sat down behind the huge rock, sheltering from the icy wind.  I cracked open my Thermos and chowed down my yummilicious warm breakfast in the silence.  


My trek had gone to plan.  I hadn't seen another soul in over 3 hours..... There wasn't a sound up here on the pinnacle of Britanico.... I sat and watched....  It was baltic here! 


Twenty minutes later a patch of illuminated ground appeared three metres to my left..... The sun!!!!  It had managed to poke over the peaks.... I jumped up and moved across in to what felt like incredible warmth.  I was so thankful for the immediate blast of sunshine providing a jump in temperature of around 8 degrees celcius.... My fingers quickly began to thaw.  It was 9.40am.... 


It was 45 minutes after I reached the view point before other humans appeared.  Two South American chaps wrapped up in warm winter coats, hats and gloves.  I heard them before I saw them.  The clickety-clackety of trekking poles provided me a few seconds of warning that soon my solitude would be no more.  I bid them 'buenos dias' and 'adios' as I lifted my small pack on to my back and began my return journey.


Over the next couple of hours I encountered a group of three, a couple and a single walker... That was it.  It wasn't until the lower section where the groups began to appear.  The majority of folks seem to walk to the first viewpoint and not bother with the full trek..... They don't know what they're missing.... It was a really wonderful walk.

I sat by the river listening to the water, staring up at the condors gliding on the thremals created by the now warm temperatures.  I walked on.  Then half an hour later found a huge rock to sit on right opposite the avalanche stretch.....


When I reached the valley floor between Campmento Italiano and Campmento Frances, where I'd stopped and watched the birds and avalanches yesterday, I did exactly the same thing again today.  It was mid afternoon, could my time be spent any better than sat in the warm sunshine listening to the Spring birdsong filling the air whilst watching the avalanches tumble down from the mountains?  No I didn't think so either.


I had knew neighbours at the campsite.  Young Derek from the US was a real treat.  Lovely fella, very keen on trekking and the outdoors.  He stormed Britanico up and down before dark hitting the trail as I returned.  


On my return I headed in to the rather awesome shower block at the campsite.  I have to say it was a bit of posh block for a camp.... It felt more Swedish than South America.... I knocked together some instant mash made with powdered milk and cheese and served it with a hunk of fresh broccoli.... Job done. 

My thumb and wrist were still painful, and everyday tasks were proving more awkward than normal, but I have to say I was pleased with the speedy healing.

Tomorrow morning I'd walk on towards the main camp.  The straight walk was an estimated 5 hours, but I intended to stop here, there and everywhere ensuring that every incredible view point filled my eyes, mind and belly!  I guess-timated 7 hours.