Kayaking Upsala Lake during a mini ‘tsunami’ and living to tell the tale. Even better, exaggerating the story amongst ourselves over dinner that night.
We began the next morning of our hike through Torres del Paine with a beautiful breakfast of eggs, toast, and fire glazed granite towers made possible by a glowing sunrise. We may not have had the picture perfect view of the Torres de Paine when we hiked to the viewpoint the day before, but we had an incredible view from further below on this morning. We patiently awaited the arrival of our guide and porter who would be accompanying us through the rest of the trip.
It was a quick takeoff with an over abundance of food that filled our packs after the introduction. This was an easy day of hiking on generally flat trails towards our campsite for the night. It was a little cloudy but mostly mild weather that day. We arrived in the campsite around 3 and had plenty of time to take a nap which is exactly what I did before dinner. Dinner that night was stuffed peppers with a sunny side egg layered on top.
During dinner we met a very kind South Korean artist who was mildly famous in her home country. She showed us some of her work which was incredible. We were blown away and she was here in Torres del Paine to work on some more pastel paintings. It was a cozy dinner in a tranquil valley on the more quiet side of the park. The road less traveled.
It rained that night. I hurried to the bathrooms to brush my teeth before the drops really started falling. The next morning I noticed some leaks in my tent. Thankfully, none of my stuff got wet even with a pool of water that had collected on the roof. Breakfast was equally delicious as dinner the night before. It was a mix of rainy and cloudy weather all day. We had a mild climb and descent that day and spent plenty of time snapping pictures of the sloping valleys and climbing mountains that surrounded.
The campsite that night was one of the more beautiful ones of the entire park. It included blue lakes curling around the flat land on one side of the valley with a pristine sun glistened glacier in the distance just beyond the lake. We would have our last night in a Refugio that night.
During dinner we met others including a brother sister duo from China and San Francisco as well as a couple from Australia. We enjoyed warm conversation by a glowing fireplace in the cozy wood house. It was a friendly place and constantly reminded me of the reasons why I love traveling and more specifically hiking. The comraderie that develops between people who share difficult hikes is unmatched.
Unfortunately, that night I forgot my pants outside where they had been drying along with my boots so they were a bit wet after some light rain. I dried my things as best I could as our little group prepped for another day of hiking, a very muddy one. The entire day was a mixture of slips and slides as messy as the dirt and water that mixed to create our precipitous hike. Rain continued to fall all day long as we took a few tumbles but we all fought through the hike bravely.
Lunch was quick as we only stopped for enough time to stuff a tuna sandwich down our throats and continue the last few miles to our campsite after passing a glorious glacier falling down a staggering cliff into another cloudy blue lake. The views just never seemed to cease.
The campsite was a gloomy place with cold rain and puddles surrounding us, but we were warmed by the hearts of the people with whom we shared the hike by nestling under a covered cooking area. It was filled with laundry lines and hanging clothes that made it look like a hazy maze with the steam of rice and pasta floating among us. I loved it!
As everyone else was scrapping through every inch of their cooking pots, our little group was served gnocchi and fresh veggies with tomato sauce on a steaming plate. It made us immediate friends with some people we met that night as we shared in our elaborate meal. It was a great night with insightful conversations and a strengthening bond as we quickly neared the most difficult day of the entire trek. We went to bed with rain continuing all through the night just feeling lucky to have a pair of dry clothes to sleep in.
We woke the next morning at 6am to a unique sight of bodies crammed into that same covered cooking area, this time prepping breakfast and packing our things to ready for the long day. It would be between 10-12 hours and over 12 miles of hiking over a pass that had over 1000m of incline and decline.
And so we began. It was slow moving at first with some fierce mud occupying the trail including more than one occasion of stepping ankle deep into the chocolate sludge. After finishing that first piece, our second serving was climbing over rocky terrain glazed with sugary snowflakes dusting the trail more and more as we ascended to the top of the pass.
Reaching the top was a great feeling, but it wasn’t the difficult part. That was what immediately followed as a sharp descent tested our balance and dexterity with each step…or slide. At one point, I chose a poor step and slid down a part of the trail but thankfully swung around a fallen tree limb to catch myself before colliding with our guide.
It took some time and patience but we made our way through the toughest descent without much more than some muddy boots and more greatly determined minds. We were roughly halfway through as we crossed paths on the trail with some of our friends from the campsite the night before and found a spot for lunch. It had an incredible view of glacier grey which had mostly evaded our sight with the clouds atop the pass that morning. It was massive. Spreading for multiple miles across and countless kilometers below the southern Patagonia ice field. The jagged and toothy cuts of ice being compressed atop the glacier still carve a beautiful image in my mind.
It was around this point that I started pushing ahead quicker ahead of our group to go at my own pace with plenty of photo ops along the way. A challenge of crossing a hanging bridge that swung several hundred feet above a narrow gorge was among the more exhilarating experiences. Though I did flinch a few times as I held a GoPro in one hand and my pounding heart in another.
Crossing through several of these bridges and a bridgeless river crossing and flooded trail areas amounted to some tired legs and exhausted shoulders. The sight of a sign marking the campsite area just a few hundred feet away felt like a cup of warm soup on a winter day. We had made it.
It’s one of the more difficult days I’ve ever had but no doubt one of the best. After showering and getting a change of clothes, we awaited dinner in the warm and dry cafeteria. Just as we thought about where our doctor friends were as 7 o’clock arrived, they did too. Crazed looks of hunger preceded the story of a wrong turn down a trail in the opposite direction and trails turning to rivers. Apparently the rangers had even closed certain trails and had to pull some people across bridges that were becoming flooded. And we thought we had it bad…
We shared a well deserved dinner that night as we shared ghost stories after the hellacious day. We also spoke with some tour guides for ice trekking and glacier kayaking that we each had planned for the next day. It was a perfectly challenging day, the kind of day that makes for a ceaseless and peaceful night of sleep. And that is exactly what I had that final night of the trek.
Okay, I’ve been dragging this along quite far enough so I’ll save the enjoyable conclusion for one final post on Torres del Paine. Keep posted!