From Valle Francés to Heavenly Cuernos (Day 4 of Torres del Paine)

We had a dry night at Campamento Italiano. The nice thing about this stage of the trek is that you can leave your pack at the campsite and hike up into Valle Francés with just a daypack (or nothing) since you need to return past the campsite anyway. Visibility was foggy up top but pretty decent, we could see everything in the valley and it was fun hike without the weight of the packs. You can see multiple levels of snow and ice in this photo:

Valle Frances

If there were any doubts as to the amount of water this park holds, just check out the river – oops I mean trail – that we were walking up:

riverpath

Some interesting rock formations surrounding the valley. I liked the black line of rock swooping down the rock face:

Striped rock

Loved the patterns of the ice:

Glacier in Valle Frances

Glacier patterns

Glacier and rock

Georgia and I turned around a bit earlier than the rest of the crew, the hike is such that hiking up further doesn’t actually get you much benefit, you’re looking at the same thing the whole time (this was confirmed by the rest of our group who did hike up higher).

I should mention that our group grew by two at Gray – Rene and Katarina from Germany! They started at Administracion with us, and we had dinner together at Grey so decided to join forces when leaving on the morning of Day 3. I just have to say “RELIABLE” in Rene’s voice and guaranteed our crew will start laughing… some good inside jokes when you’re together 24/7 for a few days, I’ll leave it at that!

Georgia and I took off from Italiano to Cuernos earlier than the others, since we hadn’t hiked up so far into the valley. Cuernos was just two hours away and we were looking forward to having a day where we got to a campsite early and could just relax!

Along the way we came across an amazing black and white stone beach on the lake. Nice spot to take a breather:

blackwhitebeach

beachmyfeet

We busted through the hike in record time, leaping over muddy bogs and swampy sections. The views along this hike are beautiful of the lake’s aqua waters and these rolling green hills across the way. The hills are hazy and have these swooping lines in the rock, almost making them look in motion.

I can honestly say that every view along every section of the Torres del Paine W is gorgeous. In that regard, it’s the most gratifying hike I’ve ever done.

We arrived in Cuernos in the sun and at this point renamed the place “heaven”. Platform campsites (i.e. DRY and WARM), the peaks of the mountains towering above us, the refugio with warm showers and pisco sours. This was my favorite spot!

I took a shower, got into some clean clothes and settled inside the refugio area with a pisco sour in one hand and my Kindle in the other. I didn’t even read though, I was took busy soaking up the warm sun and staring at the mountain views through the floor to ceiling windows. I was as happy as a cat in the sun… I might have even purred.

The refugio looked up at these mountains which were towering over our tents:

Camping under the mountains at Cuernas

The rest of the crew arrived and we all settled in for a fun dinner complete with chocolate bars and boxes of wine. There was a general mood of celebration for the nice day! Here’s a pic of our chaotic dinner tables:

Chaotic camping dinner

I should mention what we learned about camping cooking:

1) small pastas (shells or cabellitos / short angel hairs) cook faster than regular pasta

2) powdered soup packets are gold. They take up no room and add flavor to anything. Use them just for soup, sure, especially if you need warming up. But even better is to cook pasta in the soup. Asparagus and Corn soups were my favorite!

3) chop up some vegetables in a small tupperware to bring along, you will crave the natural crunch of vegetables along with all these starches. People said not to do it but Georgia brought some and man were they good!

4) drop a piece of chocolate into your coffee for a mocha. mm mmmm.

5) dried fruit dried fruit dried fruit

6) cook double pasta at night, and save half for lunch the next day

7) grated parmesan cheese makes most anything taste a bit luxurious

8) mix up your spices into one ziplock bag, rather than bringing along multiple bags. I put salt, pepper, merken (chilean chili pepper spice), and oregano all together and would just add a pinch or two to everything.

Heading to bed I took a couple night shots, nothing turned out great but still always fun:

“awo”

longexawo

“Under the Sea”

Under the sea

Looking over the lake:

Night over the lake

“W in the W”

W at night

Moving on to Day 5….

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