Torres del Paine
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    Page 2

Trekking the Torres del Paine Circuit in the Patagonian Andes - Page 2

Lago Dickson to Los Perros (9.5 kms)

This is where the Doris Day movie definitely ends. It seemed like a short day. The map said so; itís supposed to be 3.5 hours. Another group came to call the approximate hours on the map, "Map Hours" and then added a couple hours.

We woke up to torrential rains. We figured we had a short dayís hike, so we stayed cocooned in our sleeping bags until after 10:00 am and finally gave up waiting out the rain, ate more crappy oatmeal and packed up. Decked out in full rain gear, we climbed for well over an hour to the top of a mountain ridge and then began to walk in a windy, mossy forest of tall birch.

 
 
     
Here and there we had a little patch of sunlight; enough to eat a snack for lunch and take some photos of the tumbling waterfall. But the forest continued and continued and continued. I stood and stared. Below me was a stone-ridden gully with an icy blue torrent about 50 feet down. Ahead of me was a swing bridge. Cables snapped and frayed, planks missing and the screaming wind that we had heard in the forest was in full force, bobbing and swinging the bridge merrily. To the left was Glaciar Los Perros stretching up the mountainside.
 

With few options but to move forward, I crawled under a steel cable (the entrance is reinforced with a cable right across it) and wriggled my backpack under with me. I stood with the leaping structure under me feeling the cold, wet metal through my fleece gloves. Judging the distance and the lack of planks, I chose my route. This is where a little yogic breathing came in handy as I picked my way over the leaping structure. I was one happy girl when I reached the other side.

 

Pina, who had been unhappy about so many little things, wasnít that perturbed by the bridge. Still, I was happy when she was on the other side. Happy for a few minutes at least.
     

 
  We climbed up the stoney scree towards the glacier in a spectacular wind with stinging hail. We fought our way up the slope and I belly-flopped to crawl up to see Los Perros. It was beautiful with chunks of floating ice in its lake. But its fury was too much and we moved on through the scree. The wind and hail increased so we took cover hoping it would pass.It didnít, so we kept fighting our way through with Pina being blown over at one point.
 
It seemed like an interminable time before we finally wound our way down to Campamento Los Perros. It seemed like the place didnít even exist for a while, but finally we rounded a corner and a tiny patch of forest was tucked between the glacier winds and mountain winds. What a relief to get there.
     
We set up the tent in the snow and hail and strung out the many windproof ties then headed into the pass hut to see what was what. Now hereís one of my favourite things in the whole wide world, a pass hut. I love them. The excitement, the discussions, the stories, the warmth from, in this case, a fire in an old oil barrel, everyone cooking on their camp stoves in the cozy shed, the line of boots drying around the fire, the clotheslines above the fire, the dirt floor and crazy hats. It has an air of merriment that beats any party Iíve ever been to. One of the guys weíd met on the trail had a travel guitar and strummed a little tune. Outside the wind howled from all directions. Inside the main topic is whether or not the weather will clear for the pass tomorrow. That day, everyone had to stay in camp. Some groups had tried to make the pass but had returned wet and muddy. The storm we had come into had winds ranging from 80-100 kms an hour and nobody had made the pass that day. We were in the hut until nearly 11:30 pm before we returned through the cold mud to settle in for the night.  
     

Campmento Los Perros to Campo Paso (7 kms)

But a tough 7 kms. Give me 20 kilometres of winding valley over quagmires any day!

     

 
 

All night the winds howled and when the alarm went off at 6:00 am (passes are usually best attempted early in the day) I blearily hopped out of bed to check out the weather. Blue skies. Hallelujah. I looked at a guide and asked whether he also thought it was a good day and he said it was.

I went back to the tent to rouse Pina, who then said she hadnít slept a wink due to the noise of the winds.

Good weather doesnít come often, so we had to make a break for it. It sucked that she hadnít slept, though. Not good on a pass day.

The night before in the pass hut we had the good fortune to meet Xavier (he had guided a photographer up until Lago Dickson and decided to continue the route on his own for the sixth time), a gentle mountain guide who was more than happy to form a group to attempt the pass. Four other Chileans joined us as well. So we began heading for the pass. .

     

 
  But first we had to get through the pantano: a quagmire of twisted trees and knee-deep frigid mud. Fun. I was definitely pleased to have my gaiters on. After splashing through the glacier river, I headed up onto the scree to wait for Pina and Xavier. The Chileans were well ahead of us by then. As I waited, I took in the racing clouds, panoramic peaks, glaciers and blue sky. point. The chances of having clear weather for the pass is very small and every 15 minutes or so I thanked whoever it is that needed to be thanked for answering the little requests Iíd been sending out to the world. How incredibly lucky.
 
And the weather held, too. As we scrambled up the scree, over the ice, onto the glacier, over the rocks, against the wind towards the pass, the weather held.
     

 
  The little orange flag that marks the top was a triumphant moment for me and I did a little football-type dance. It isnít a huge pass but the weather can make it horrible. But the weather was beautiful and as I hit the top the massive wrinkled expanse of Glacier Grey stretched before me with the mountains as a backdrop. I sat my butt in a drift of snow and dug for my photo gear and chatted excitedly to Xavier. Then up came Pina, rather emotionally making the pass.
 

Off we went down the scree on a number of switchbacks to eventually come into an incredibly steep forest with plenty of mud. That was quite the navigation feat and to be quite honest, Iím not sure when my knees will recover from the constant jarring. We went down for a couple hours in this and Pina is quite bruised. My North Face boots once again proved remarkable and I only wiped out twice. Mind you, I was also sitting in the mud and sliding down on my bum at a number of points too. Eventually we cleared this area and made it to Campamento Paso.

We went up to the cooking shed and drew water from the small waterfall beside it. Less than a kilometer away, a massive wall of ice marked the beginning of Glacier Gray. Xavier knew a spot that was a great lookout and we sat above the thousands of kilometres of wrinkled, cragged blue ice and he produced some vermouth and we had a drink.

 
 
 

Page 1 - Back to the beginning

Page 3 - Campamento Paso to Refugio Gray

 
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