Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Walking Torres Del Paine: The W Trek, Day 2

Day 2: "The Long Day", Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos.

Today we walked roughly the middle up and down of the capital W.  8h45, approx 26km.

The route
We set off at first light as a group of seven - three of us doing the full W and staying in refugios, two likewise but camping and two of our group on an out and back walk before getting the boat back.  It was another cold, crisp morning with clear views across Lago Pehoe and up to the white towers of Paine Grande.  Despite the cold we were soon shedding layers as the undulating terrain helped to warm us up.

The first section to Campamento Italiano took two hours, even with many photo stops.  The reflection of the mountains in the still waters of Lago Nordenskjold alone was worth the entire trip.  We left behind two of the group and crossed a fun, wobbly footbridge into the campsite, which consisted of locked toilets, a wooden shelter, no tap and a few tents.  The campers pitched their tent and we left behind as much gear as possible to make the next stage, which was all uphill, easier.

 The walk up to Campamento Britanico was dominated by boulders and waterfalls, the path often consisting of both!  The view left to Glacier Frances kept getting better as we ascended.  There was an ever present rumbling and each time we looked up we saw snow falling from the mountainside.  We got lucky with the weather.  There was low cloud but it always appeared to be floating just above us.  Snowflakes were visible in the air and the ever present sound of waterfalls fading in and out as we walked was magical.

Crossing one of the many waterfalls
Further up, the path crossed many small ridges, deep enough to hide in and often with a small stream running through the bottom.  The constant undulation sapped our energy as we ascended.

After two hours of ascent we were at Campamento Britanico where the campers paused to rest.  Three of us continued for the last twenty minutes of ascent to the mirador where we were just in time to enjoy the view back down the mountainside of orange, yellow and red autumn colours.  The path continues further uphill from here but the cloud closed in quickly and snow was now falling heavily so we descended quickly back to Campamento Italiano, pausing only to fill the water bottle from an icy stream.

Autumn colours
Back at Campamento Italiano, the campers packed up their tent and with fully laden rucksacks again we set off for the final leg of the day, now walking in rain for two hours to Refugio Los Cuernos.  This section was muddy and wet, with a long, steep downhill to Lago Nordenskjold.  It was difficult to appreciate the scale of everything here.  The lake appeared so close at first but on closer inspection, we could see that it was over a hundred metres below us, before the descent to the shore.  This consisted of black and white granite pebbles and we walked along these towards the Refugio.

Along the way we were fortunate enough to see a Magellanic woodpecker just a couple of meeting from us, pecking at a tree.

A Magellanic woodpecker
Arriving cold and wet, we were told there was no record of out booking, but managed to get the last two beds in a small wooden cabin with no toilet, between three of us.  One of the campers also slept on the floor because it was such a cold night.  Expensive at 46,000 Chilean Pesos per person but it included three reasonable meals again and a thick duvet to cover our sleeping bags!  Compared to the previous night, this Refugio was overcrowded and dirtier.
Cabins at Refugio Los Cuernos

Day 1                                              Day 3

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