Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Torres del Paine Circuit - Days 7 to 9

Day 7 - 22 November -  Refugio Dickson to Camping Los Perros
11 km, 500 metres ascent, 3.5 hours including stops

We slept well in the Refugio on a silent night, rising just before 8 for a pretty comprehensive breakfast, courtesy of Lallo and Luigo (?).

After picking up a slab of surplus cheese from the Americans, and admiring Mark's accentuated limp, we set off on today's short section up to our final campground of the circuit. (We won't be camping again but most of those walking the 'Q' route are camping all the way.)

Dog Orchids were soon encountered, standing in regimented rows like mini wind turbines.

It was cooler again after yesterday's heatwave, hat and gloves being donned by me, although Sue braved it in a t-shirt.

We passed through dark Lenga (High Deciduous Beech) woodland full of massive trees on a day of high cloud and sunny periods. Several river crossings were achieved with the aid of wooden bridges, and as we ascended views opened out back to Lago Dickson (top picture) and ahead to Glacier Los Perros.

The path generally followed the Rio Los Perros up the valley.

There were a few insects around in the still spots, a few birds but no woodpeckers, and a number of flowers including the bright red Waterfall Plant and Rainberry.

A short pause for a mug of water and a hunk of cheese was the only real break we needed on this easy woodland stroll.

Towards the end of the walk a steep moraine was climbed which was exposed to the chilly wind. Below lay a green lake, with ice pushed to one end by the wind. At the other end the blue ice of Glacier Los Perros was intermittently crashing into the lake. The second picture was taken from the top of the moraine.

We reached the campsite, sited in sheltered woodland, soon after 1 pm, the first of today's visitors. It was back to earth on which to pitch the tent. The front zip failed. Perhaps the 11 year old Nallo is due for retirement. It has served us well.

There's a huge enclosed cooking shelter, with three long tables. We quickly brewed up and watched the  local fox wander through the campsite, leisurely inspecting his domain, gently swishing his bushy black-tipped tail.

The shelter provided a social hub for the afternoon, with Mark, Cali and Andrew, Stefan  (from Austria), Terry (from Ireland), Daniel (from Brisbane), Anthony (Australian - scared of pumas, he saw one eating a horse on the way to Campo Serón) and several others - notably Gabrielle from Santiago and a horde of friendly Chileans and their soothing mood music. Later, they practiced tight-rope walking.

Sunlight streamed through the plastic roof of the shelter whilst a Ranger (Danni) took everyone's details and advised an early start for tomorrow's crossing of the 1180 metre John Gardner Pass. The weather forecast? "Unpredictable". The stock answer. It is supposed to be rainy and windy most of the time.

Our last Tesco dinner was consumed - soup, flavoured pasta, tuna, lots of parmesan, and hot chocolate. Then we watched the sun fall below the mountain horizon from a clear blue sky before adjourning to our diaries and Kindles in the tent on a windless evening.

Day 8 - 23 November -  Camping Los Perros to Refugio Grey
20 km, 1000 metres ascent, 8.5 hours including stops

An early start was encouraged, as this can be a tough day. Apparently the weather is usually 'unpredictable', which normally means 'wet and windy, very windy'.

So we woke at 6 and breakfasted in the large shelter with most of the other campers. Setting off at 7, shortly after the Americans, we ambled up through muddy woodland, our gaiters coming in handy for the first time on this trip. There weren't enough people on the trail today to make it seem crowded, and we knew all of them anyway. The Chileans had set off first. We caught them at the pass. Terry and Anthony were enjoying the ascent at the same time as us and the Americans.

After a while in the forest we emerged to a scene of windswept snow and rock. But the wind wasn't 'sweeping' today. Sue is pictured, third down, in her t-shirt with the snowy pass in the distance.

Fleeces were soon donned as the little breeze there was, was pretty cool. Looking back, we noticed that the green lake we passed yesterday had turned white, thanks to a massive icefall during the night.

Several easy snowfields later, we reached the broad 1180 metre John Gardner Pass. Grey Glacier stretched before us. It's shown in the fourth picture at the head of this posting. There's also a thin panoramic shot that attempts to show more of the glacier, 6 km wide at this point.

It had taken a little over two hours to reach the pass, renowned as one of the windiest places you can find to visit anywhere. We basked in the sunshine on the perfectly calm col. Today the only thing that might chase us down would be bugs, and there weren't many of those.

After half an hour of admiring the views and watching Terry behave like a child in a chocolate factory, we mosied on down towards the glacier. It was steep and slippery in places. Anthony just slid down on his bum; those of us with less robust knees exercised a little more care.

11.45 saw us at Campamento Passo. Time for a brew up and some lunch - pitta bread and soft cheese in tubes that we've carried from the start. Stefan was there and Terry soon appeared. He's very quick despite having various items hanging down from his rucksack and bouncing into the backs of his legs. "Isn't that uncomfortable?" asked Sue. "Yes" offered Terry. He's Irish.

After a 45 minute break we embarked on the walk down to Refugio Grey. A three and a quarter hour journey over about 8 km of very rough and undulating going. It used to take longer but two new suspension bridges make it much easier. Unless you suffer from vertigo, in which case they are pretty scary.

En route the Waterfall Plants were as pretty as ever, and we got great views of the snout of the glacier as we passed alongside and high above its left bank, above which scar lines indicated that it had once been much bigger. At a short diversion to a Mirador we watched a carving of the ice, leaving new icebergs and a small tidal wave.

Refugio Grey was reached at 3.45 pm, just beyond the campsite. Despite being clad in grey, it's cosy inside, where we have bunks in a room for four.

After varying success with showers we brewed tea in the camping kitchen, chatting with Stefan and Anthony and agreeing that the last few days walking around the back of the massif has the edge over the 'W' route, partly because there are far fewer people around the back. (We are now back in the 'Muppet' zone.)

As we lounged in the Refugio, a Chimango Caracara (medium sized bird of prey) stood on a chair next to the window and looked in longingly. So did Mark, Andrew and Cali. They succumbed, came in and we enjoyed beer o'clock with them followed by the Refugio's set meal of asparagus soup, chicken with mash, and pineapple sponge. Mark's damaged knee looks very painful.

Outside it is cloudier and breezier than of late.

Day 9 - 24 November -  Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande
11 km, 400 metres ascent, 3 hours including stops

The two kayaking girls who shared our room were very quiet. They slept in whilst we got up and breakfasted, returning to the room to remove our possessions and pack our bags in a communal area.

After bidding farewell to the Americans and assorted other 'round the backers', we set off shortly after 8, from probably our favourite of the four refugios we stayed in. The penultimate picture shows Sue outside the refuge.

Today's best views were behind us to the snout of the Grey Glacier. Many stops were made to stroll across to miradors and take snaps like the final one in this posting.

We also had other pauses. We'd rejoined the Muppet zone - a single track highway of rude people (mainly guided) barging their way up to Refugio Grey for lunch.

Apart from that it was a beautiful walk in breezy weather with sunny periods, back to Refugio Paine Grande. We found the campers' vast cooking shelter and spent an hour there with Anthony before wending our way to the queue for the catamaran. We queued far too early and spent forty minutes in a rather breezy, sandy area. Our eyes are still smarting! There's plenty of room for everyone in the catamaran, and it's a case of 'last on, first off'.

The half hour ride took us to our Maria José bus, and the three hour ride back to Puerto Natales. The bus was extremely hot. Eagles soured and Guanaco watched.

The Singing Lamb welcomed us back and we enjoyed an excellent pizza at Mesita Grande restaurant. Sadly our guests, Sharon and Rich, Gary and Charlie, and Anthony all failed to put in an appearance, but we enjoyed the meal all the same, mainly in the fine company of Katie and Michael from near Sydney, with Sue later raving over her pannacotta.

Wifi - after a nine day break - might have put us in touch with the world, but after downloading a few message headings we were unable to get any service. Is it a provider problem or something else, I wonder.

I managed to make a comment using a hostel computer, but who knows whether anyone will look at that.

On then, after this most enjoyable nine day excursion, to the next phase of the trip. I hope you enjoy following our progress once a connection has been reestablished. (Which it must have been if you are reading this.)

5 comments:

wuxing said...

Indeed it has (which you'll know if you're reading this)...

:-)

Sir Hugh said...

Great photos. I hope others take the trouble to "click to enlarge".

AlanR said...

Stunning. Thats all that needs to be said.

Phreerunner said...

Hello everyone. The wifi here in Punta Arenas is the best we've had all trip. Everything seems to be working for the time being.

Thanks for all your comments. The speed at which comments and emails arrive makes you all seem like just around the corner.
It's a small world...

Eva Lutian said...

Lovely, glorious., stunning. (Cary & Penny)