8 days around the Torres del Paine Circuit (Day 475)

I have just got back to civilization after trekking about 138km in the Torres Del Paine National Park, one of the most popular in South America.  I can see why.  This Circuit Trek is a classic around the Torres Del Paine massif.  I loved it.  I carried all my gear and food for 8 days — the weight of the pack quickly reminded of my age :)  This trek is popular and quite social — I met lots of great people.  Often I would see the same trekkers at each subsequent camp, night after night.  Fun.  The weather was sunny, cloudy, rainy, windy, sleet, often all in the same day.  Crazy.  If you want to be an “international trekker”, you must visit Torres Del Paine at some point in your life.

A couple interesting moments/observations on this trek:

1.  There is one mountain pass to climb over on this trek, the John Gardiner.  The trail starts by climbing up through the trees.  I was warm so I was wearing shorts, no hat, and just a thin rain jacket.  When I climbed above the tree line, up the snow-covered slope towards the pass, I got slammed by awful weather:  fierce winds, freezing rain, sleet, downright nasty.  I was taken off-guard.  When I realized what I was in for, I tried to get my pants, gloves, hat, and warmer jacket — but it was too late.  My fingers were already numb and I could not warm them.  So, my numb fingers couldn’t open the buckle of the waist strap of my backpack.  I couldn’t get the stupid thing off to get my warm gear!  Uh oh.  I had no choice but to hustle over the pass in my shorts, passing people in full winter/snow clothing.  The plot thickened when I had an incredible urge to pee, but there was no way my numb fingers could undue my pants.  I climbed faster :)  Eventually I made it up over the other side, below the tree line, and feeling came back to my frozen body parts.

2.  The winds in this part of the planet are incredible.  I saw the wind blow water back UP a stream.  I saw it pick up huge clouds of water off a lake, forming a huge wall of wetness, and carry it hundreds of metres inland.  Ridiculous.  When I was trekking high above the lake, I got a kick out of this and took a picture:

If you look closely, you can see the white walls of water travelling across the lake.  They are moving fast!  This was all fun and games until I was walking down by lake and started to get nailed with these freaks of weather.  In an effort to get you all closer to the action, I went down to the beach to attempt to video the wind for you.  I got hit by a gust just after started to roll film and it sent me flying — only some fast footwork saved me from being tossed into the rocks.  Check it out.  (Btw, please excuse all the cursing in this video, not sure what got into me, the wind was causing me problems at this point…)

Getting that video was borderline dangerous.  The things I do for you guys… :)

I asked one of the park workers how strong the wind was that day.  He shrugged and flippantly replied, “Hmm, probably about 100 km/h.”  Oh, is that all, I thought it was serious…

Here are few other pics from this latest adventure:

Mountains and horses at the Lake Dickson Camp

The massive and beautiful Grey Glacier

The postcard-perfect Valle de Frances

If you wake up at sunrise, you can see the three famous towers of Torres del Paine turn pink…

… and then yellow

After 8 days of eating only pasta, bread, and granola bars, I came back to town craving meat like crazy.  I almost ate a whole lamb (btw, Patagonian lamb is exceptional).  I respect and admire vegetarians, but I don´t know how they do it.  They are better people than me.

In the last month, I think I have spent more nights in my tent than not.  This makes me happy.  It means I´m doing what I came to do in this part of the world.

From here, I continue travelling south.   Astute readers will notice I’m running out of land.  Wait until you see how I handle this one…

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