Torres del Paine – Days 8-11

After a full day and night of heavy rains, we were fortunate to be greeted by the sun peeking through the clouds on the morning of our 8th day in Torres del Paine.  We got thoroughly soaked on our trek the day before, so we spent the morning hours drying out our various belongings and fueling up on some dehydrated Mountain House for the day ahead.

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We creatively hung our bags and supplies out to dry.  Luckily we had heeded some good advice and brought along some heavy duty trash bags which served as a great storage place for our backpacks on the wet nights.

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The next stop on our trek was Los Perros, the last campsite before the infamous mountain pass to get over to the final leg of our journey.  The winds on this pass were known to be so forceful that you had to take cover and the slopes were slippery and rocky, especially in poor weather.  We were told the night before that, due to the heavy rains, the pass was closed because it was too dangerous.  If we couldn’t cross at the pass we would have to backtrack the entire backside of the circuit (a lot of walking!) and would have to miss a spectacular sight on the trek, Glacier Grey.  But the weather would decide the fate our our journey, so we set off and hoped that the sunshine would remain.

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The walk to Los Perros was a nice reprieve from the day before.  The weather held and we had some beautiful sights.

A Magellanic Woodpecker nearly the size of an eagle was tapping the trees, his bright red head shining in the sunlight…

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Budding lichen and delicate ferns growing on the most logs of the forest reminded us of the redwoods…

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Gushing glacial rivers with narrow bridges crossings…

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Peaked metamorphic mountains jutting above us…

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Right before reaching the campsite, we came to Lago Los Perros and saw one of our favorite sights of the whole trek.  The Los Perros glacier cascaded dramatically into a lake below, bordered by a glacial moraine created years ago when the glacier began receding.  Alongside the lake was a pristine pond, so clear that we could see the soft silt on the floor and the perfect reflection of the glacier atop the water.

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We took our time in getting to Los Perros campsite and once there, relaxed and hoped that the good weather would remain for the next day when we had to face the dreaded mountain pass.  (If you can’t tell, Bonnie is writing this…I think it’s apparent that the fear I speak of in all these instances is mine, and not Lewis’s).

The weather did hold, and this is what the day of hiking had in store for us…up, up, up, up and then down, down, down, down…

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Although the weather was good, the ground was not dry from the prior heavy rains, so we put on all of our gear to defend against the mud.  At some points we were in mud up over our ankles…

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We had some amazing views along the way including glacially carved valleys…

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granite peaks peeking through the clouds…

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and glaciers descending into the valley below…

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After about 3 hours of up we finally reached the pinnacle of the pass and the view was entirely worth it.  From the pass we had a panoramic view of Glacier Grey and the Southern Ice Field from which it emanated…

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And despite the numerous warnings of gale force winds, the weather was fully on our side and we could barely feel a breeze as we crossed the pass.  We were actually able to rest and enjoy a snack while admiring the immense sea of ice.  As we continued downhill, we were greeted with numerous beautiful views of Glacier Grey and Lago Grey with masses of floating icebergs…

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The night after the pass we stayed at Refugio Grey, which was more like a ski lodge than a camping hut.  We enjoyed a celebratory beer and some chocolate on a comfortable couch before retiring to our tent for the night.

After 9 days of hiking, we were excited to be on our way out of the mountains.  We were nearly finished with the circuit and ready for a real bed and a real meal.  On the final two days we were faced with some precarious looking bridges which looked more like obstacles from the Tough Mudder than they did crossings on a trail.

We climbed two ladders into and out of ravines, both held upright by a questionable setup of ropes and wires….

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We crossed a large yet sturdily constructed suspension bridge.  This appeared to be the newest construction of the entire network of trails…

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And a questionably built broken bridge with a ramp to connect the fallen sides…

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Yet despite the perils, the sights were still gorgeous.  A calm lake that reminded us of Doris Lake up by Shaver…

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Clouds resting on the glaciers and surrounding peaks…

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And the one form of wildlife that we had yet to see, some Patagonian Upland Geese… (No, we didn’t see a puma, although Lewis claimed to see puma tracks.  I refused to look at them.)

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And finally, we made it back to Paine Grande, our circuit was complete!  Here is the campsite and refugio where we took our first respite from the weather back on day two, but it was an entirely different place.  The last time we were here it was bustling with people hiding from the wind and rain, and today it was peaceful and afforded magnificent views, so we took some time to rest and enjoy our recently accomplished feat…

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But we were sad to say, we were not done walking.  Although the circuit was complete, we still had to walk out to catch the bus, so we headed on another 11 kilometers to end where we started.  Despite our exhaustion and readiness to be done hiking, the views were even more stunning than when we entered.  We didn’t have the dramatic clouds over the peaks, but we could see the entire range of the Torres del Paine and the pristine turquoise waters of Lake Pehoe below.  It was a perfect way to end a tremendous trek…

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