Patagonia (Chile & Argentina)
12.08.2010 14 °C
From Ushuaia, we headed towards Puerto Natales in Chile to climb Torres del Paine. The journey was once again chaotic, in particular crossing the border with Chile. We waited 4h00 at the straight of Magellans to catch a ferry. We eventually arrived at destination at around midnight. We stayed at hostal Cecilia and enjoyed the homemade bread at breakfast the next morning.
We did not know how to organise the hike to Torres del Paine. The idea was to do the” W” circuit, which is the most famous trail and takes about 5 days. We wondered whether we should book a tour, which is quite expensive but without the hassle of carrying all the equipment (tent, sleeping bags, food...) or be brave and do it ourselves. After a quick chat with Kelsey and David, our new friends from California, we decided to be adventurous. We rented the tent, sleeping bags, mats, a stove and some gaz. We then headed to Unimark, which is the local supermarket, and bought some food for 5 days: mainly dehydrated soups, cereal bars and chocolate. I managed to stick some fruits and yogurt in the bag without Franck noticing. We spent about 3h00 organising the backpacks to end up with two bags of at least 15kg each...and then we started to panic and question our fitness.
The next morning, we headed to the starting point of the “W” by a bright and sunny day. We walked the first day from about 1pm to 7pm to reach the camp Las Guardas, which was located above the glacier Grey. The trail was hilly but not difficult. It was windy as it usually is in Patagonia but the weather was overall pleasant. We walked along a lake with a blue milky colour, which is caused by the sediments of the glacier. The lake was surrounded by red and dark mountains. The wildlife was almost inexistent although it is said that deer and pumas can be found. We were lucky and saw a few condors, which were cruising and diving occasionally to catch a prey.
We were also amazed by the small icebergs that appeared as we got closer to the glacier Grey. The end of the hike became steeper and harder but it was worth it. We spend the night in a small camp with a view on the glacier. We watched the sunset, while hearing the ice cracking. Priceless.
On the second day, we explored the area around a bit more and went down. We completed the first part of the “W”. At dinner, we met a fascinating couple from Scotland in their sixties, who did the “W” from East to West and told us about the fantastic sceneries of the Valle Frances that we would see on the third day. He also told us how he recently met his wife on the internet. They spent their life not far from each other and remembered meeting on few occasions. She did not seem very comfortable and called bedtime. We woke up on the third day with wind and rain.
We walked in the morning to the camp Los Italianos and left our heavy bags before climbing to the mirador, where we were supposed to see a spectacular view of the valley. The weather started to clear up a bit and the view was magnificent. We saw the three peaks, i.e. Torres del Paine, for the first time. Then it became cloudy and rainy again and we could not see a thing from the top. We went down, took our bags and headed to the next camp, where we spent the third night. The equipment we rented was not appropriate for this type of weather. I woke up in the middle of the night quite confused as I am freezing cold despite adding up all the clothes I brought. We realised the next morning that water infiltrated the tent and we slept in a puddle.
We packed and headed to the Torres. On the way, we passed a group of elderly Koreans; the eldest being 75 year old. We arrived at the camp Chileno by mid day. We left our heavy bags and started the climb to the Torres. It took us about 3 hours to reach the highlight of the “W”. It was cloudy and snowy but we could still see the three peaks with the lake on the foreground. A fox was wandering around, which made the scenery even more magnificent.
The last day was dedicated to going back to Puerto Natales. The wind was really strong with sometimes peaks at 140km/h. Kelsey and I were struggling to keep our balance. We hanged up to Franck and David in order to avoid falling in the drop off. We thought about the elderly Koreans, who were half our size and left the same morning to climb the Torres. After few hours of physical pain, we eventually reached the bus that drove us back to civilisation...all dreaming of a hot shower and a good night sleep.
On the following day, we headed to El Calafate in Argentina to see the glacier Perito Moreno, which is one of the few glaciers that is expending. El Calafate is a small town, which reminds me a ski resort in the Alps, full of tourists. We booked a one day tour Alternative Tour. We left early in the morning and drove through Patagonia. The scenery was flat and sandy fields, bushes and lakes which were surrounded by snowy mountains. On the way, we saw a group of about twenty condors.
The glacier was bigger than the first one we saw but we were less impressed than in Torres del Paine as the path leading to it was a lot easier and dozens of tourist buses were passing by throughout the day at all time. We wandered around the site, waiting for a piece of ice to fall off the glacier, which produces a deafening noise. We then learnt than about 32 people died from ice projection...We also went on a boat closer to the glacier, which gave us a sense of how big it is.
On our way back to El Calafate, we stopped to see the flamingos and other birds in the city nature reserve. The wind was still blowing.
We took a bus the next morning to El Chalten, which is a national park and “the hiking capital of Argentine Patagonia”.
We stayed in hostel Patagonia, with was friendly and still with our two American friends. We walked in the afternoon to Lago Agostini through the valley. At arrival, we saw the lake with another glacier in the background. The main attraction was a pair of buzzards showing off really close to us. Franck took his best shot and showed it to everybody and random people who were passing by.
n the evening, Franck and David had a big piece of beef in preparation for the hike to Mount Fitz Roy.
We started our walk late in the morning. The weather was just perfect, sunny and not windy. We walked through green valleys and passed streams with really clear water.
We could see Mount Fitz Roy and wondered how long it would take us to get to the view point. It seemed really close but it took us about 4h00 to get there.
The last part was steep and rocky but the reward at the top was well worth the effort. The view was stunning. We could see Mount Fitz Roy with the lake, lago de los tres, at the bottom, which was still covered in snow.
We then decided to climb the rocky mountain on the right, where everybody was going. We followed wondering what next could be seen as we were already amazed by the scenery. We climbed and saw another lake with a turquoise colour right at the bottom of Mont Fitz Roy. This was the icing on the cake.
Tired of walking, we decided to run back to the hostel. We came back at around 7pm. David and Franck decided to treat themselves with another big piece of beef.