Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2011, 13th - 20th November: Puerto Natales, Chile - Torres del Paine

2011, 13th - 20th November
Puerto Natales, Chile

15th - 18th November: Walking the W Circuit in The Torres del Paine National Park

For a full complement of photos, follow this link to the set my Flickr account:

The Torres del Paine national park in Chile is famous for it´s numerous granite spire-like peaks and many beautiful valleys which are all surrounded by numerous lakes of wonderful rich blues. A popular way to see many of the key vistas is to complete "The W Circuit" - so called because the trails followed form a W shape. It is normally walked in 5 days, but I chose to do it in 4 as this was the duration of the forcasted dry weather, plus I like a tough physical challenge (nutter). All gear has to be carried if you want to do the cheaper camping option (rather than staying in the refuges) - I camped so that meant a heavy(ish) pack with the crazy amount of food I get through.

I completed the trek in mid-November which is before the peak season period from December to February. Despite this the routes were pretty busy with walkers - the trails must be overly busy during the peak months.

I walked the first day with Sergio (a Brazilian guy I met three days before on a bus to Calafate), but on the morning of Day 2 he had to head back to Puerto Natales so I made the rest of the trek alone.

Day 1: The Torres
The morning was occupied by getting into the park, so only a part day of walking. I walked up Valle Ascencio to set up camp in Campamento Torres. After that, a climb up to the mirador (viewing point) at Base de las Torres gave a wonderful view across a lagoon to the towering granite spires of Torre Central and Torre Norte.

The W Circuit Day 1: View from the Base de Torres

Day 2: Valle del Frances
This was the first of two long days. I returned down Valle Ascencio, then past Lago Nordenenskjold to the bottom of Valle del Frances. Most people then stop and camp at Campamento Italiano, but I continued and climbed up to the top of the valley as this would help to save a day - plus I could camp in the circular vista at the top of the valley at Campamento Britanico. This meant that the day ended at gone 9pm but I was able to enjoy an evening view of the 270 degree panorama from above the mirador at the top of Valle de Frances which was spectacular.

The W Circuit Day 2: Part of the Vista at the Top of Valle del Frances

The W Circuit Day 2: Tim Enjoying the Vista at the Top of Valle del Frances

Day 3: Glaciar Grey
The second of two long days. I returned down Valle del Frances, past Lago Skottsberg then climbed up the valley alongside Lago Grey - a sometimes frustrating day in the heat as every climb was matched with a descent, slowing progress somewhat. The closer I got to Glaciar Grey, the more icebergs were visible on Lago Grey. The whites of the icebergs were stratified by lines of electric blue. The person who named Glaciar Grey must have had bad luck with the light on the day they saw it, because I was lucky enough to enjoy its rich blue hues throughout my time there. After reaching Campamento los Guardas (which is in a fantastic location above the glacier), I set up camp then carried stove and dinner gear across to the rocks above the glacier to have a cup of tea and a hot dinner in a location with a wonderful view!

The W Circuit Day 3: The Rich Blue Glaciar Grey Meets Lago Grey

The W Circuit Day 3: A Great Spot for a Cup of Tea & a Hot Dinner!

The W Circuit Day 3: A More Civilised Version of "Brit-Abroad" - An Englishman and His Cup of Tea in a Great Location!

Day 4: The Return Leg
I returned back down the route alongside Glaciar Grey down to the shores of Lago Pehoe where I waited for a catamaran that took me across the lake to connect with a bus back to Puerto Natales.

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