Torres Del Paine National Park in Southern Chile was the destination we were looking forward to most. The W trek is a 5 day trek through Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile and it is "the hike" you do when you come to Patagonia. Before we left the US, I had read so many amazing things about this place, I thought there was no way it could live up to my expectations. Welp, IT DID.
Before we got started on the trail we spent a few days prepping in the port city of Puerto Natales. The town serves as a launching point for hikers from around the world, making their way to the park. You can't walk a block in this little town without seeing the words "Camping supplies", "Dried Nuts" or "Completos". The last one doesn't have anything to do with hiking, in Chile they call hot dogs "completos" and probably eat more of them than we do in the U.S.
We spent a day and a half going from shop to shop in town putting together our provisions for the journey. I think for this having been our first extended trek, we did pretty good sticking to the essentials and not loading ourselves down with a lot of frivolous items we didn't really need. So we got dried fruits and nuts, the ever delicious oatmeal, peanut butter, pasta... oh and 15 snickers bars, 5 bags of skittles and a bottle of scotch (all typical items you would see on any long expedition). Our supplies:
We we loaded our bags up they must have weighed 50 to 4,000 pounds each, but since we couldn't think of anything we didn't absolutely need (certainly not the snickers, certainly not the scotch), we shouldered our sacks of rocks, set out on an early bus to the park (with about a hundred other hikers) and started our trek.
I won't go on in detail about the hike, but will say that it was incredible. The shear size and expanse of the natural beauty here was like nothing we'd seen before (and we've be camping a lot this year). There were times on a trail that I was stopped in my tracks by the total awe of a shimmering lake, the Grey Glacier stretching of to the horizon, or a group of condors circling over head (most likely waiting for me to drop dead and provide a meal). Then a 50 mile an hour wind would gust, knocking me on my ass.
Only slightly less awe inspiring than the scenery was how quickly the weather could change. We hiked through horizontal rain, whipping wind, drizzle and even snow, then in a minute or two the sun would peak out, the skies would clear, revealing snow capped peaks and a nice summer day. Then immediately back to rain. We saw a few senior hikers almost blown off cliff sides by wind.
Right before it really started raining...that's me!
LUNCH! As one of the hikers we met on the trail says...guilt free carbs!!!
Chris wishing there were Disney Birds to carry his pack.
Contemplating the meaning of life (AKA resting my butt after a long first day on the trail...this is Grey Glacier)
Contemplating the meaning of life (AKA about to soak blistered feet in amazing lake)
After five days on the trail, we were ready for our last hike (for Trischa anyway) and to reach the namesake peaks of the park, the Torres themselves. We had spent the previous night in a very cold and wet camp site half way up the trail to the peaks. The day we had planned to finish was completely cloudy and discouraged hikers coming down told us they had reached the top only to see nothing at all. We spent the day in the communal kitchen trying to dry our things over the stove and debating what to do next. At three in the afternoon we finally decided to stay one more night, only to be told that the camp ground was closing due to bad weather, and we had to get the hell out.
Back at the bottom of the hill we were pretty discouraged and would likely have packed it in, but fortunately we met two great guys from California and Austria, Derek and Raphael. We all spent the next day and half drinking boxed wine and playing cards until finally the clouds lifted one morning and we finally hiked up to the peaks! It was a good lesson in taking things as they come. We waited two extra days in the rain, and saw so many people leave discouraged, having not seen anything. It seems dumb to say, considering we're travelling with no jobs or time-line and little responsibility, but sometimes we forget how free we are and we let set backs get to us. (Wah, wah, wah). Anyway, we stuck it out, and it was really worth how absolutely terrible we both smelled at this point.
When we got there it was really cloudy and we took this group shot when we thought we had the best view we were gooing to get
But then it just got better and better!
Trischa left the trail at this point, heading on to other adventures, and a shower, and a healthy dose of reality tv, while Derek, Raphael and I continued on to the back part of the park and 3 more days of hiking on what's called the circuit. Trischa here! The only thing I will add about TDP that Chris didn't mention is the sense of comradery on the trail. After a long day hiking, it was great to come into the communal kitchen and meet up with everyone to celebrate the good weather, gripe about the bad weather, compare how many inches of water you got in your tent the previous night, etc. In addition to Derek and Raphael, we met so many great people on the trail-it was a bonus I hadn't expected!
Most hikers who come to Torres Del Paine do the W (because on a map it looks the letter F), but much fewer hike the rest of the trail (called the circuit or the Q), and I'm really glad we did. We saw horses, foxes, amazing valleys and just a hand full of people. Those we met we're cool, and our group got a little bigger. We hiked over a mountain pass in three feet of snow and on the other side came out above a massive glacier. I took photos with my phone, so they don't do it justice, but here they are. Photo cred to Sr. D. Oliver on some of these.