Torres del Paine Journal
The Torres del Paine is a national park in Chile. It is world famous and immensely popular. I decided to hike a loop that usually takes people 7 days, called the circuito grande. Torres del Paine translates to the blue towers, which describe a huge massif of mountains. From warrior of the mountains to whimpering invalid, here is my tale.
Day 1-Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013: wake up at 6:45, breakfast, coffee, shower, 12,000 peso bus at 7:30 from hostel. Arrive at park at 11. Park fee of 18,000 pesos chilenos. 10 minute video about fire safety. Employees are well dressed and professional. Most other hikers are older, wealthy as judged by their brands of gear. And inexperienced hikers by the gear newness. Some day hikers in less serious gear, Nikes, jeans, etc. International crowd. Begin walking at 11:50 from Campamento Los Torres. At 1:00, stop and eat cheese, salami, and peanut butter in tortillas. First camp, Campamento Serón, at 3:00, 30 minute break. Eat a bag of nuts. Arrive at Refugio Dickson at 8:00pm. Set up tent in 10 minutes in light rain. Collapse inside. Switched off leading with a Spanish speaking guy since Campamento Serón. We took turns passing each other lying trail side but he beat me here. I offered him athletic tape at one stop because he switched his shoes. He declined. Sun and wind for most of walk. My feet are extremely tired, my hips are sore, my shoulders hurt a bit. The rain is coming harder. I might not leave my tent again. 28km (30km is 18 miles) in 8 hours, with food and breaks, mild elevation gain. 40 lb pack plus camera. Ate 2 tortillas with peanut butter, salami, and cheese. Water. Applied arnica to sore spots on body, everywhere my body contacted the ground or my pack. Immediate relief. Amazing. Girls in the tent next to me talking. One wants to have convo with the boyfriend. The other two think she should be really serious about it and think carefully. Boston accents. Putting in ear plugs. 9:12 pm.
Day 2-Refugio Dickson. Woke up 8am. Tea, oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast. Ate with Chilean named German from Santiago. Left at 10 west. Fly along trail. Arrive at Refugio Los Perros at 1pm. Eat sardine peanut butter cheese burritos, tea, almonds. Gave away or burned a couple pounds of lentils, rise, and oatmeal. Leaving at 3:30 for Campamento Paso. Forested alley, into barren rocks above tree line into areas of snow. Hardest part of trek. I see the pass marker from a kilometer away. Crossed pass at 6. Energy renewed. Magnificent view of major glacier and five smaller glaciers. Yell into the sky in triumph. Trail turned hardly down hill through beautiful forests. Followed cliff along edge of glacier. I slide down this trail, across steep wet rocks like a snake. Arrived at camp Paso just at 8:15. Ranger showed me last tent spot. I ate cold oatmeal and a salami cheese peanut butter burrito and debated whether going to the next camp, 10km away. Darkness arrives at 10 but the entire trail was forested, therefore dark. I have a headlamp, but the risk of needing rescue wasn't worth it and I pitched my tent. It's 9:50. 21km, 8 hours of walking. Total 49km, 16 hours of walking. (50km is 32 miles)
Day 3-woke up 8:30 with sore throat and the beginning of sinus infection, and pouring rain. Tea and oatmeal for breakfast. Inspected nasal spray: had not been administering properly. Took two squirts. Nasal swelling subsided. Left camp at 10:15 in light rain. Refugio Grey at 12:30. Lunch. Leaving for Paine Grande 1:00pm. Arrive Paine Grande at 4pm. Major camp, hotel, showers, etc. Balls of feet sensitive. Drop bag, buy mango juice and cookies, decide to stay, feeling exhausted/sinus infection. Make salami/cheese tortilla (no more peanut butter) and popcorn. Fiber. Camp set and in bed by 7pm. Exhausted/stuffed up/pouring rain. Feet feel a little swollen but sinuses primary cause for want of sleep. Current refugio is ferry terminal: considering thoughts of leaving park. Decision will be made tomorrow. Being sick, alone, in cold tent during rain storm is miserable. 21km, 5 hours. Total 71km, 21 hours.
Day 4-woke up 8:30, after light sleep. Uncomfortable. Feel miserable. Headache, sinus congestion. Tea and oatmeal for breakfast. Light rain and fog. Debate options. Press on, hope for good views of Massif. Or take ferry to bus stop and go to Puerto Natales. Hiking would be miserable, views today would be bad with this weather. How much torture to I want to afflict upon myself? I could do it, but it would not be enjoyable. Upset that my body is letting me down, but I accept it and decide to take the ferry across the lake. So ends my Torres del Paine adventure.
Ferry across lake. Two hour wait for collectivo van to Puerto Natales.
1) Don't be a spartan; bring a blowup sleeping pad
2) organize food more effectively, ie count days, etc
3) Bring medicine for sickness, Theraflu etc
4) Bring garbage bags for rain protection of gear
5) Arnica is a lifesaver
6) Trekking can be done in light shoes, but expect sore and wet feat
7) Eat more fiber