Hiking to Glacier Gray (Day 2 of Torres del Paine)
Our first full day of hiking was broken into two sections – 11km from campsite to Paine Grande, where the other hikers land by catamaran from across Pehoé Lake, and then 12km from Paine Grande up to Glacier Gray.
The route was amazing, passing through the fire-scorched landscapes charred by a 2010 forest fire that took out a third of the park. It was set by a tourist trying to burn toilet paper. Apparently they don’t get lightning in Patagonia (who knew!) so the park isn’t used to the natural fires that we get in Washington, and once lit it just took off. While the trees make for a visually fascinating and spooky landscape, we were mostly impressed by how far the devastation stretched. After a while I was just craving to see a normal green tree.
Nearing Paine Grande you come across Pehoé Lake which for the first time gives you a full view of the W route that you’re about to take. Two sections of mountains in front of you, and the W means you hike up the left side, back down and around to the right until you can hike up the middle pass, then back down around to the right again and then up the right side to the Towers/Torres.
From Paine Grande (both a refugio and campsite) it was about 11km more to Campamento Grey, our destination for night #2. This section was tough. Our packs were at the heaviest since we were just starting out and had full loads of food, and there was elevation gain for a lot of the hike. The first section wanders up through charred trees, bright red brush, and layered rock cliffs looming high above you on both sides.
The deep color of the red brush was hypnotizing me:
At the top you’re treated to an aqua lake with a couple icebergs floating, and a big dose of turbo jet winds that could blow you over.
Hiking along the lake and past it, you eventually come up to the crest of a hill. I think I actually gasped when I got to the top and saw the view in front of me. Glaciar Grey in the distance, across another lake and stretching back as far as my eyes could see. It ended on the lake with a big wall of ice and a massive iceberg floating just in front. Amazing! The wind here was insane too. We took a break for a couple photos and then moved on.
Really really windy (notice my awesome $4USD rain pants!):
By this point we were thinking we were close…but then met Park Ranger Ernesto on the trail who said “Yes you are almost there! Just another hour and a half!” with a big smile. Talk about wind from our sails! But we pushed on and finnnallly arrived. My feet were killing me. My 18kilo bag definitely took its toll!
Ruth and me taking a break:
Campamento Grey was great, it had an indoor cooking room with picnic tables and a sink, very cozy and fun with all the different travelers in there cooking dinner. Here are Stefan, Ruth and Georgia. Georgia was giving out massages… so she won the Best of the Famous Five Award for the day.
To lighten my pack I brought out my 1L box of wine I’d been lugging along… small luxuries are nice when camping. I thought I was being smart by BMOW but then another girl said “Oh you can buy a box of wine at the refugio here, for just $4USD.” Well I’m glad I sherpa’ed that thing all the way up here then! Ha. It was worth it though, wine has never tasted so deserved. This was the night that Ruth and I discovered that we made great wine buddies, she can attest to how good a glass tastes after 22k of backpack hiking!
Here’s me with red wine, dark chocolate and massage. I think Georgia hated me for making her be in this photo 🙂
From here it was time to crash out and rest up for Day 3: Refugio Gray to Campamento Italiano.
Here are some more photos from the day: