Our trip there did not start too well. The bus leaves early and on the morning we were set to leave it was cold windy and raining. We slept in. In our defense though we were also waiting on some news of my gran who was very sick at that time. The next morning it was also cold and wet. We slept in again. Who needs an expensive bus, we’d just hitchhike a bit later in the day. So a bit later on with the sun out we set off to hitchhike there.

Soph was looking particularly cute in her scarf and adorable hand written sign, I was doing my best not to look too tall. Our technique was perfect, however, there were just not enough cars going to the park so we had to retreat back to the expensive bus station. So we finally arrived at the park in the late afternoon and, somewhat grumpy, set off on our eight days of adventure.

Torres Del Paine! The Towers of Pain! Would you believe the merchandising people have not capitalised on this at all!?
I’d be all over it with the funny teashirts. Its actually pronounced more like Pie-neh and has nothing to do with pain, being an old Indian word for the blue colour of one of the lakes. But the funny slogan potential is HUGE!

The park itself is a most spectacular area of rivers, forests, snow capped mountains, huge glaciers and the Torres themselves, massive spires of grante rising 3000m or so. The route we took is known as Circuito Grande del Paine, The Big Circuit of Paine! (Not on a single teashirt!) It is a trail that runs in a big circle around the monumental peaks in the centre of the park. In total we carried our packs 110km over a period of 8 days and it was the absolute limit of Sophie’s tolerance of time sleeping in a tent in the cold. It was also quite close to mine as well I think. But not only was there cold, but also a lot of rain and a LOT of wind. Some days were quite bad, but given the park’s notoriety for insane weather, comparatively the weather was apparently not too hard on us.

I won’t write up a blow by blow account, rather limit it to the highlights and you can look at the pictures.

Some of the highlights were:

  • Seeing the mountains dusted with fresh snow after a cold night.
  • Climbing up the John Gardner Pass and actually walking through some of the fresh snow.
  • Building a tiny snowman.
  • Crossing the pass, with the most spectacular view of the ice fields of Glaciar Grey, while trying desparately to persuade my fingers to operate my camera in 70knot wind at 1 degree celcius.
  • Walking along next to a huge glacier (Grey) for several kilometres.
  • Walking through the forest in the Valle Frances with a layer of soft white snow on the ground.
  • Having the sun pop out in an otherwise dreary day, just as we reached the Valle Frances viewpoint. The view from there was breathtaking.
  • Building an even bigger snowman.
  • An absolutely mind-blowing sunrise on our last morning. The sun managed, beyond any expectation, to find a way through the cloud filled sky to light up the mountains in the most intense glowing orange, before disappearing again for the rest of the day. Looking at the time-lapse that I managed to get, you can actually see a small avalanche happening, just as the sun hits the mountains.
  • Hungrily eating delicious meals after hours of walking. I think we have got our camping cuisine down to a fine art at this stage.

Some tough bits:

  • Walking most of the day every day. I think it would have been nicer to take more days, but I guess then we wouldn’t have seen as much.
  • Arriving at a Refugio Grey in the rain, cold and very wet. In this case though, luckily there was a warm room with a wood oven that we could recover in.
  • Being milked like a cow at every oppurtunity. Although its worth every cent, tourists pay through the nose for everything there. The buses there and back, entry fee, camping fees, and shop prices were all exhorbitant. It’s not even possible to camp cheaply, as camping is only allowed at designated sites, most of which charge the amounts we usually reserve for a bed, internet and breakfast. So out of spite (and also necessity on the first night) we made use of a couple of unofficial campsites a score or so metres off the beaten path.

So all in all an amazing experience. The weather could have been better, but it could have been so very much worse. We survived and we saw some unbelievable scenery along the way.

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
Reputed to be one of the best spots of hiking in the ENTIRE WORLD. However this is much dependent on the weather which can be ferocious. We had some good and some bad…