Trekking in Patagonia
Torres del Paine, Chile
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

February 2006

Paris, El Calafate, Puerto Natales - Torres del Paine NP - Los Glaciares NP - Buenos Aires

Page: 2 / 4

Chile Torres del Paine National Park

Day 1
Refugio Laguna Amarga - Campamento Chileno

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
4 hours
12 km
    Full backpacks Fully loaded backpacks

We carefully packed our backpacks for 7 days in the wild, leaving behind some nonessential items like travel and reserve cloths to minimize weight, and purchased supplies. We were planning on completing the "W" track in Torres del Paine, the shorter and more popular version of the complete circle. A bus will take us from Puerto Natales back up north to the entrance of Torres del Paine, and until evening we had to walk the distance to the first camp site, Campamento Chileno.

All packed up and
ready to go
The first view of Torres
from a bus
Trekking finally begins! Starting in the afternoon, we walk for 4 hours from the
entry point at Refugio Laguna Amarga to the first camp site, Campamento Chileno.

We are passing Hosteria
las Torres, and proceeding
into the valley ahead,
Valle Ascencio
At last, the roof of
Campamento Chileno
visible by the river
Tents go up for the first
time in our first camp.

Day 2
Campamento Chileno - Campamento Torres - Torres mirador - Campamento Japones - Valle del Silencio - Campamento Chileno

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
9 hours
19 km
    Small backpacks Light backpacks

The second day in Torres del Paine was planned to be the most difficult one. The weather was exceptionally good, as we were after the most notorious viewpoint in the park, the view on the Torres themselves. Taking advantage of good conditions, we started early in the morning, postponing breakfast until we reach Torres.

For the first hour, the trail is fairly easy, going
through the woods alongside river at the bottom
of the valley, crossing occasional streams
Reaching Campamento Torres, trail markings turn
left and uphill, through the scree and rubble
to the lookout point
Looking back to the
valley, gaining height

The path is rather steep and difficult, climbing through rocks
and boulders, markings often barely distinguishable...
... but the view is getting
better with every step
After an hour of climbing
rocks, the goal is in sight

And this is the reward! The famous Torres del Paine, raising above a
small mountain lake, in a fantastic weather. It may be hard to tell,
but the highest peak is a bit over 2000 meters above the lake
Having breakfast with
a view
Returning down the same way
to the river, we are to proceed
left an up the valley towards
Campamento Japanese

Looking back up on
Torres while descending
More streams and screes to cross Going upstream Río Ascencio,
with valley turning left to Valle
del Silencio visible ahead
Taking a break before
Campamento Japanese

Looking up the slopes encircling Valle
Ascencio, waterfalls are a common sight
Following Campamento Japones is another steep climb, first through
a forest and slippery wet rock, followed by yet another rocky scree

Climbing on the last edge,
facing Cerro Escudo
A view from the top of
Valle de Silencio back
down to the valley
Dark, shady walls
rising above us

From the top of Valle de Silencio we had started returning home to the Campamento Chileno, but we were quite a distance away. Tired already from long walking and some steep climbing, we spent one hour for the descent on slippery wet rocks to the bottom of the valley, and another two hours of fast paced trek along Valle Ascencio to our camp, awaiting hot dinner, and sleeping bags.

Exhausted after a long day, a welcome sight
of the cabin and camp at Campamento Chileno

Day 3
Campamento Chileno - Refugio los Cuernos

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
6 hours
14 km
    Full backpacks Fully loaded backpacks

On the third day, we left Campamento Chileno and moved on to the next camp site, Refugio los Cuernos. While not the shortest in distance, and we were carrying full equipment, this section mostly runs flat and has probably the most beautiful nature experience in the park. Trail is going by many mountain streams and small lakes, in a nice, hot summer weather; we took our time for this one.

Leaving Valle Ascencio, the trail goes up
the right side of the hill
Looking back
up the valley
Trail splitting up, we came
from the left the first day,
now going right to Cuernos
Hill climbing on our
right side...

... and a beautiful view on the country below us Path is taking us towards invitingly
looking lakes
Horses are used through
the park to carry supplies
to camps and refugios

A view behind
the flower
Wild Patagonian scenery, with the
trail running through
Reaching the first marvelous lake

One more stream
to cross...
... and we are on
the beach
Almirante Nieto
raising above
the lake
Trekking between
the two lakes

A panoramic view of Lago Nordenskjöld A crystal-clear stream
with drinkable water

Reflective surface of Lago Nordenskjöld Crossing a small river

The trail runs up in the banks, in parallel with the shore of Lago Nordenskjöld

Looking back
on the trail
More streams making
their way through
hard rock
The trail starts
descending again to
to our destination
Approaching Refugio los Cuernos, the Cuernos and
Glaciar del Francés already visible ahead

One more breathtaking view
on Lago Nordenskjöld...
...and Refugio los Cuernos'
roof shows up behind
the corner
Yet another larger stream to cross... ...and we set up our
tents at camp

A bird came posing
just a few meters
Berries at the
camp site
Dropping a few steps down to the lake shore

Soaking our feet in the cold mountain lake after day's walk, enjoying perfect weather in late afternoon

Camp site at
Refugio los Cuernos
Cooking pasta for dinner,
a few cooks and plenty
of supervisors
Avalanches are rumbling
down from Glaciar del
Francés in the distance

Day 4
Camping los Cuernos - Campamento Italiano* - Camping los Cuernos

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
2 hours
11 km
    Small backpacks Light backpacks, water only

Waking up on the fourth day in Torres, our luck with weather finally run out. It was raining in the morning, and it continued raining into the afternoon. We had a day prepared in reserve for cases like that, so we stayed in our tents, or gathered in the nearby cabin to wait out the weather.

It's dull and raining at Camping los Cuernos, low clouds extending almost to the ground Stream carries more
water than yesterday...

Horses are wet, too In the afternoon, the
sun finally managed
to get through
The rest of the day turned out to be magnificent, and three of us,
stiff from lying in tents all day, went for a quick, fast-paced
trek to the Campamento Italiano and back, 11 km altogether.

Waves are high on the lake,
as it is quite windy
A view on the western part of Lago
Nordenskjöld, in the afternoon, just after rain
Heavy clouds are still hanging
around mountain peaks...

... but clearing up
The sun starts casting long shadows...

...and shines last rays
on the Cuernos... we return from the
trek in under two hours

Day 5
Camping los Cuernos - Campamento Italiano - Campamento Britanico - Los Cuernos mirador - Campamento Italiano

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
6 hours
18 km
    Full backpacks Small backpacks Fully loaded backpacks up to Campamento Italiano

After the rainy day, we were able to go on to the Valle del Francés. The trek was composed of two parts, the first goal being getting to the Campamento Italiano and set up our camp there, then proceed up the valley to Campamento Britanico, another hour of steep climbing up to the viewpoint, and return to Campamento Italiano by the evening.

Today we are going into
the valley to the right
Down by the lake again The path to Campamento
Italiano goes through
a bushy slope
Last views on the lake...

...before turning into
a thick foliage
Glaciar del Francés
is getting closer
Campamento Italiano is
just next to the
Rio del Francés
We set up our tents
in the foresty camp...
...and prepare ourselves
for the second leg

A hanging bridge
by the camp
Yet another avalanche
on Glaciar del Francés
Glaciar del Francés is feeding a small lake Rio del Francés flows down
in the other direction

Panoramic views of the glacier... ...and black-topped
Cuernos on the other side
Behind us are the
marvelous lakes

Rio del Francés is
a fast-paced one
Distinctive Cuernos
peaks are following us
on the right
Rocky walls are no less spectacular
on the other side

The trail takes us through open bushy
fields, and into thick forest
A welcome

After reaching Campamento Britanico, there is the last steep 30 min climb up to the viewpoint on the Francés valley.
The view is well worth it, interesting clouds over Cuernos asking to be photographed

AVI Video Clip
640x480, 30fps, XVID, MP3 stereo
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Returning down to Campamento Italiano, we stop once again at the Glaciar del Francés viewpoint

Day 6
Campamento Italiano - Camping Lago Pehoé - Refugio Grey

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
7 hours
19 km
    Full backpacks Fully loaded backpacks

The sixth day was the last day of trekking in Torres del Paine, but it had made it up with the distance, weather, and the fact that we were walking with full gear. The plan was simple, pack up the camp in the morning, and move to Refugio Grey, our last camping site, passing Refugio and Camping Lago Pehoé on the way.

This time we are
crossing that bridge
Saying goodbye to
the Francés glacier
Trekking towards Lago Skottsberg

It is an extremely windy day, wind gusts are
throwing fine sand from the trail in our faces
Lago Pehoé shows up
in the distance
Lago Pehoé has a distinctive greenish
blue color

Shortly after, our first destination, Refugio and
Camping Lago Pehoé comes in sight
Two hours after leaving Campamento
Italiano, we take off our backpacks
to take a short rest
Weather doesn't look so good,
heavy clouds right where
we are going

At this point, my camera went back in the safety of my backpack, and we all brought out our rain gear. Heavy wind was already bringing down first drops of rain, and we were sure we are going to get wet this time. We no longer had any spare time to wait out the rain under Pehoé's roof, we had to make it to Refugio Grey that day to stay on schedule.
Astonishingly, nothing happened. Clouds were dark and threatening, a few drops did sprinkle down on us in the next two hours, but that was all there was to it. Eventually, I brought the camera back out just as Lago Grey came into the view for the first time.

Spotting the first blocks of ice floating on
Lago Grey, suitably named for its grey color
And this is the source. Glaciar Grey.
It looks massive even from the distance.
Ice blocks right
beneath the trail

Refugio Grey is right
ahead, on the beach
near the peninsula end
A chance for refreshment The trail starts to drag on.
Taking the last break.
Some beautiful flowers by the trail

One more close up
photo of floating
...and we arrive with heavy feet to our final
trekking destination in Torres del Paine,
Refugio Grey
As we are catching our breath, a group is boarding
Grey II, taking a tour to the glacier Grey itself.
We will do that tomorrow

We put up our tents A few impressions from the beach by the Grey camping site

Icebergs are such grateful subjects Clouds are still there,
but no longer threatening
A flowing mass of ice awaits
us just behind the corner

Day 7
Refugio Grey - Hosteria Lago Grey (boat trip)

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
    Full backpacks Fully loaded backpacks

For the last day in Torres del Paine National Park, we went on a boat ride up close to the Glaciar Grey before returning by bus to the park's entry point at Refugio Laguna Amarga, and eventually by the evening back to our small hotel in Puerto Natales, where the rest of the luggage awaits us.

It's morning at Refugio Grey,
and we are going boat riding
A smaller boat picks up us and our backpacks at the beach,
and delivers us to the Grey II

The boat slowly takes us to the glacier's edge, first to the eastern part Everybody get their cameras ready

Big blocks of ice shine with a deep blue glow that appears out of this world

Eastern part of
Glacier Grey
We get our own
little icebergs
Going around the island splitting Glacier Grey
to the western side

Larger, western side of glacier Grey

They went glacier trekking.
Only here shows the real
size of the ice blocks
Slowly making our way along Lago Grey to the port on the other side Clouds open up just
enough for this iceberg
to shine in deep blue

Just before disembarking,
we spot a condor nest
up in the cliffs
Driving back by road to
Refugio Laguna Armanga, to
catch a bus to Puerto Natales
Guanacos, South America's llama,
photographed from passing bus

Puerto Natales - El Calafate

We completed our Torres adventure with a dinner in Puerto Natales' local pub, where we were reunited with the rest of our luggage, and spent the last night in Chile in cute little Hotel Residencial Centro. In the morning, we are catching a bus back to Argentina, another 4 hours of driving on gravel roads back to El Calafate.

A local driver will
help us take our luggage
to the bus station
One last photo of Puerto
Natales, 8:20 AM is way
too early for locals
Five hours later, El
Calafate, and our familiar
hostel once again

Next page: Los Glaciares NP