A.K.A. How to get a great butt in 5 days
After leaving Valparaiso I had a couple days of transportation, flying to Punta Arenas, staying the night, then bus to Puerto Natales to get myself organized for the big hike to come... 5 days in Torres del Paine National Park, hiking the "W". I was lucky enough to meet two awesome and fun American girls, Sydney and Stephanie, at the same hostel the night before we started. We were going the same direction (many people hike it the opposite) and ended up spending the 5 days together!
- Warning.. Long post with tons of mountain pictures ahead
Day 1- We started things off with the easiest day, only a few short hours to our first refugio, El Chileno. The views were beautiful from the moment we started.
On this beautiful ridge we had our first exposure to the howling winds of Patagonia!
We arrived at our first refugio, El Chileno amongst mountain and river views.
Our first afternoon was a quiet one, hanging out with people at the refugio, playing cards, drinking wine, enjoying supper, not bad, not bad at all!
We needed to rest up for our next day.. 3:00am wake up & 3:45am start to hike to the Torres (the main mountain peaks the park is named after) for sunrise.
Day 2- It was an adventurous early morning hike in the dark. After a 'puma scare' (which we will just mention and leave at that) and a rocky climb up, we were almost there as the sun started to peek out. And it was immediately worth it as the colours emerged..
As the sun rose, I sat there (freezing) in awe of the Torres..
And we had a beautiful 5 minutes when the sun shone brilliant red colours on the top of the towers..
It was quiiiiiiiite cold up there, and ridiculously windy.. Hence how hard I was laughing at the wind blowing my tiny GoPro around while I tried to take a selfie..
It made for a cool effect though..
We took a few more photos up there..
And then..though the winds hadn't abated at all, we all bucked up for the morning's highlight.. Shotgunned a beer at the base of the Torres at 6am..
After that no one could feel their fingers so it was definitely time for the descent. We had breakfast at the refugio before grabbing our packs and heading off for the 5 hour walk to refugio #2, Los Cuernos. There were very few other people on the path, it was beautiful weather, and a beautiful path!!
We found the greatest place to stop for lunch overlooking the brilliant colours of Lago Nordernskjöld..
And a few more great sights before the end of the 18km day..
We enjoyed some delicious Pisco sours once we reached the refugio as well as another great supper! (Everything about the refugios was 1000% worth it!)
Day 3- Thankfully not quite as early to start, but fairly long so we still got going ASAP after breakfast. We were rewarded with a rocky beach view right along the lake shortly after starting!
We continued to the camp (Italiano) at the base of our climb for the day.. The French Valley up to Mirador Britanico. After leaving our bags behind, this climb didn't seem difficult at all, much less than people had made it out to be!
The views in the valley are immediately beautiful, snowy white mountains..
Where we were treated to views of avalanches!
Apparently the valley was closed the next day due to increased wind and avalanches so I'm now feeling even luckier about what we saw and the wonderful day!
Shortly past the valley there was a rocky clearing..
This hike really blew us away because it felt like there was something amazing to look at every 20 minutes. I'm sure the ease of the hike can be largely attributed to the distraction of these views!!
The view from the mirador/lookout point was nothing short of spectacular..
As a little hint of how variable Patagonian weather is, these pictures were taken 10 minutes apart..
So we were lucky again, got up there in time for a good view before the white out!!
The walk down also gives you beautiful things to look at!
The unfortunate part of the day was having to grab our bags for another 7.5km to finish the 24km day at Paine Grande Refugio. Thankfully this was mostly flat so we could make good time. We also wished people 'Happy Halloween' along the way as it was October 31! This was our spookiest view of the day in a clearing with trees damaged from the forest fire a few years ago...
Though I do absolutely love candy and dressing up and Halloween, I'd still take hiking in Torres del Paine any day!!
Day 4- The trek from Paine Grande to Refugio Grey. So I don't have much exciting to report about the start of this one. It was just windy as all get out. Not fun with big backpacks on. But once we got up to views of the lake, Lago Grey, moods improved!
We finally embraced the wind once we reached the first lookout point to Glacier Grey. Leaning in to the 80-100km/h winds was actually the coolest feeling!!..
After reaching the refugio, eating lunch and chilling, we went closer to the glacier lookout.
This is where the story continues with a bit of a stressful situation. We'd spent most of the previous days planning how we could take a longer catamaran ride that goes right up to the glacier on Lago Grey, then a different shuttle for our bus back to town. Just when we found out from the refugio that our plan would work, they dashed our hopes and dreams with news that predicted 100km/h winds on the water the next morning might make the captain cancel the trip. We had to make the tough decision to wait at the refugio until 8am for the call from the captain-- which meant if it was a 'no' we would have to hustle back to Paine Grande for the alternate catamaran at 11:30am. Giving us exactly 3.5hrs for a 3.5hr trip!
Day 5- we decided to make another early morning trip to the glacier, just in case we didn't get to see it again from the boat. It looked neat in the early morning blue light.
Then back to the refugio for a very stressful half an hour sitting around waiting to hear from the captain. The lady at the front desk radioed down at exactly 8:00am! She turned to us with the news... And it was a shake of the head "no". A few curse words were muttered before the three of us basically said, alright, let's just get going. Grabbed our bags and hit the trail running. After 4 days of blisters, sore muscles, joints, and heavy bags, we had looked forward to a nice long boat ride and the provided Pisco sour with glacier ice. But it was not to be. So we just proceeded to crush our last hike together! Made it in under 3 hours! (2hrs 50 minutes to be exact). Our bags started to feel so heavy by the end, I was cursing all the extra stuff I brought but our motto of the day was: I'm a strong, independent woman, I can carry my own bag (even if I definitely overpacked, I wanted it, I carried it!!). The silver lining of the hike was looking back at the glacier one last time to see a beautiful rainbow..
After finishing that last hike, we had a nice lunch outside in front of dock, then made the most of that shorter catamaran ride, enjoying the blue waters and final mountain views.. We completed the "W"!..
It was such a busy, beautiful 5 days, and I wouldn't change a thing! 72kms and 5 days later.. I'm proud of how awesome we did, how positive we stayed, and so happy that I met the greatest trail partners! Can't wait for our reunion hikes!