The night before we started the trek I woke to every weather change, I heard roaring wind, pouring rain and calm skies. And I remembered we have a three season tent - thank you Rob Gorman! I hope it works!
Great breakfast at hostal yemel, but unfortunately they don't have a room on the 15th when we should get back to town. We catch the bus and are nervous but excited. Nice views from the bus, just very cloudy and a bit ominous.
Get to the admin gate and pay entrance fee and watch video. Had some confusion with which bus to get on but we get on one and we're off to the catamaran. We saw guacos on both buses and some cool birds.
Boat ride is ok, chat with some nice people, 2 gals from the UK Kath and Imo. At Grande Paine many of us rush off ditch our bags and head off to glacier gray. Great views, we see some icebergs and the wind gusts are crazy, 80km or more. We go past the camping area a bit and have amazing views of the glacier.
We have some tea and a break at the camping lodge and head back to Paine Grande. Brian is going a bit slow and I'm panicking a little and constantly pushing him. The gusts are getting big and it rains on and off.
We get back to camp and it is very windy, 80km gusts. We set up the tent and then go make dinner - quinoa, onions and tomatoes, works out ok, chat with Kath & Imo. We boil more water for making hot water bottles and go to bed.
We barely sleep bc of the wind and rain.
We get up around 7and Brian makes instant noodles for breakfast and I pack up. Hot breakfast is great. We leave around 9 and it's drizzling heavily but Brian doesnt want to walk too fast and I was getting cold. Arguments ensued. Eventually I give him my walking stick and with 2 he's faster due to sore knees and hip flexor. The hike is OK with some great views, by the rain makes it a bit long. We finally get to campamento Italiano and I'm freezing. We drop our bags, I put on rain pants and do some jumping jacks and then we head off to the mirador to see the Frances valley glaciers. We get lucky and the clouds start to clear as we go. At the mirador the glacier is spectacular and the mountains opposite are stunning. We have our nut mix and enjoy the view. On the way down we see two avalanches, one really big.
At camp Italiano we get our bags and carry on to camping Frances. We set up our tent on a platform like everyone else, it's nice in that you're off the wet ground, but we found out later that it's very cold to sleep bc the air below is constantly cooling the underside of the tent.
After we set up the tent I go for a hot shower - very nice washrooms with wonderfully hot water!! Brian goes well and I make tea. Brian comes back with a 1L box of wine and we set up our chairs and have a drink.
We make our way down the hill and make pasta dinner and chat with fellow hikes, including Kath and Imo and a couple of gals from Scotland. Around 8 we go to the lodge and it's super warm! We chat until 9:45/10 and then head to bed.
Up at 6:30, I go down the hill to the lovely washrooms and then run up the hill to warm up. I start packing and Brian starts cooking. The noodles and broth are delicious!
We leave around 7:45? For our long day, 10 hr to get to the next camp. Once again Brian is slow and wants to take lots of breaks and arguments ensued. I eventually realize Brian is really slow first thing whereas I'm faster first thing, just took 3 data to figure this out.
The hike is great as the rain holds off, and there clouds clear and the views become more and more awesome. We have a lovely break in the sun at the top of a hill.
The hills are big but the vistas are gorgeous as we continue nature our way to camp Torres. By 2? We make it to Refugio Chileno. The sun is great but the wind is picking up and we have a coffee and snack inside. Then it starts snowing, it didn't stick, but still. By 3:30 the snow had slowed and we make our way to camp about 1-1.5 hours later. The snow is still falling and the tree tops are lovely but we know we will be testing Rob's tent! We get to camp and it's very simple, plots for tents and a simple hut for cooking. We set up as gusts blow in more snow. We make the last of the quinoa, tomatoes and onions and hot water bottles and head to bed early to get up at 4:35 to hike up for Torres at sun rise!
I can't thank Mark enough for his tips and ultra light hiking guide (came in handy for Brian who forgot his gloves and I remembered the book saying that socks make great mittens!) And we are so very very grateful to Rob for the tent!
4:35 we're up and cold but keen. We discovered that a great way to sleep when it's snowing and windy is to become a turtle in your sleeping bag - scrunch down and fold the hood over you. We were mostly cozy.
The snow continued all night, luckily the camp site was in a small forested area and the tent just had a bit of snow on it. Rob, your tent did very well for only being a 3 season tent!
We pack Brian's small sleeping bag into my pack with the chairs and off we go! We climb just before dawn to try to see the Torres at sunrise. The hike was strenuous as it was up hill all the way, but beautiful and pristine with ambient light reflecting from the fresh snow fall. It was a Christmas winter wonderland... But in November which is like May for us in the northern hemisphere... There are a few birds chirping and brooks running, and the sound of crunching marching footsteps.
We make it to the Torres! And it's completely socked in with clouds of course. We get out our chairs anyway and sit for a bit. The clouds clear enough for us to see across the lake but not completely.
But there was a scene to enjoy - a couple got engaged! Great place to propose!
Shortly after I leave because I'm beginning to shiver.
Back at camp I start packing up and Brian comes 15 minutes later. He makes ramen, they are really delicious on a cold morning. After breakfast we start our hike downhill. We pause at Chileno again and then head downhill. As we walked away from the Torres it was like walking out of winter and into spring.
At the bottom, we and many others that finished the W that day met up at the lodge for drinks and a snack before catching the bus back to Puerto Natales.
Back in town, Brian went to Erratic Rock to drop off our rental gear and I went back to hostal Yemel to get our other bag. Then to find a place to stay for the night!
This was quickly resolved, we found a place 3 small blocks away and the inn keeper was super friendly. We knocked and said we had a reservation that we made 5 minutes ago. We ended up cancelling via the booking company so that she wouldn't have to pay the booking company ;-)
We freshen up, go find the lovely Creperie place again for a week deserved latte and crêpes, then to Erratic Rock for drinks with everyone we had just met!