Climbing the “W” Circuit in Torres del Paine Nationwide Park – Patagonia-Chile

A mountain climbing journey on the finish of the world just isn’t one thing I’d usually contemplate. I’m a girly woman whose ears perk up on the point out of reserving a “spa” or a “villa” fairly than doing “rugged mountain mountain climbing.” The luxurious journey magazines Journey & Leisure and Departures are my trip planning sources. Nonetheless, my tennis accomplice and good buddy, Donna, had deliberate a visit to Patagonia to rejoice her birthday and insisted I do one thing new and totally different for my subsequent trip. All the time up for an journey, I agreed to tag alongside.

Two months later I discovered myself on a 10-hour flight from Dallas to Santiago: the primary leg of a visit that will finish at Torres del Paine Nationwide Park in Patagonia, Chile. Torres del Paine is a spectacular, unspoiled nationwide park boasting a wide ranging mountain vary, azure lakes, and sumptuous natural world. Positioned 1,000 miles north of Antarctica, the park attracts vacationers from all around the world.

I did not have time to do a lot analysis concerning the journey and had envisioned the hike to be stuffed with rolling hills and delicate sloping paths set with a spectacular mountain view. The Sound of Music involves thoughts. Nonetheless, as an alternative of a calming stroll via nature, the “W” Circuit (named based mostly on the form of the path) was a really difficult Hiking Tours Chile protecting over 30 miles of territory in solely 4 days. It was to be a grueling journey for a first-time hiker.

The rugged terrain and lengthy mountain climbing days weren’t the one challenges. Patagonia’s distant location meant there have been no TV, radio, and cellphone or e mail entry accessible. Having zero communication with the surface world was daunting, at first, however quickly grew to become probably the most alluring points of the vacation spot. Our leisure was the untarnished fantastic thing about the area. Pure glacier-fed springs with recent water and sumptuous mountains revealed nature at its greatest.

After a layover in Santiago, the capital of Chile, we took a four-hour flight to Punta Arenas, the southernmost metropolis within the geographically lengthy and thin Chilean countryside. We stayed an evening right here earlier than driving three hours to Puerto Natales, Chile, a small city that serves because the gateway to Torres del Paine Nationwide Park. Right here vacationers replenish on meals and tenting provides earlier than heading into the park. Our group had meals and lodging equipped for us since we had determined to take a small mountain climbing tour organized by an American journey journey firm that makes a speciality of South American treks.

The primary day was a four-hour boat trip into the park the place we seen a colony of condors, sea lions, large glaciers, and an genuine estancia earlier than stopping for lunch. After lunch was the much-anticipated two-hour zodiac boat trip taking us deep into the park and providing unsurpassed views of Cuernos del Paine, part of a powerful mountain vary. It was stunning trip however bone-chilling chilly. Even the immense parkas the guides wrapped us in weren’t sufficient for the sharp Patagonian rain and winds within the open boat. And, there are not any loos on zodiacs. I discovered that out the exhausting means.

After our zodiac journey ended, we have been taken to our first night time at Eco Camp, environment-friendly lodging comprised of personal tents with two twin beds however no warmth. Clear loos with sizzling showers and scrumptious meals have been offered. Right here we met the opposite members of the mountain climbing group: two girls from Pittsburgh of their mid-50’s, and a younger couple from Tampa. Everybody was a seasoned hiker apart from myself. We chatted over a hearty dinner and went to mattress early for good night time’s relaxation earlier than the primary mountain climbing day.

Superb blue skies, heat temperatures and a mild breeze welcomed us to our first day of mountain climbing alongside the shores of Lake Nordenskjold. I used to be suggested this five-hour trek can be the simplest with rolling hills and just a few steep ascents. The azure blue water of this dazzling lake was my fixed companion as I hiked alongside its path to our vacation spot at Cuernos Lodge. It was a superbly quiet day the place nature was picture-perfect.

Cuernos Lodge was the primary time I had stayed at a hostel. Every traveler is given a sleeping bag and a bunk mattress in a room with eight hikers. No thought is given to gender or nationality. You simply seize a bunk and hit hay. The decrease bunks all the time get snatched up shortly as hikers are exhausted from the trek and do not need to climb yet another factor on the day’s finish. I even politely requested a flirtatious German man to modify bunks with me as I used to be afraid of heights and obtained a strong “no means”. It was everyman for himself.

The subsequent day we rose early to start a difficult ten-hour hike that runs alongside the bottom of Cuernos del Paine, that are super granite towers in the midst of this circuit, into the French Valley. It snowed all day making the hike stunning however a bit treacherous in locations. Lined in layers upon layers of clothes, toting a heavy backpack, and strolling in a line of equally clad vacationers made me really feel as if I used to be a part of an Everest Expedition. We hiked all morning till lunchtime the place we sat within the snow to eat. Ravenous from the troublesome trek I polished off two large sandwiches in lower than 5 minutes. After lunch we had 5 extra hours of mountain climbing. All of us collapsed exhausted at Camp Pehoe at dusk.

The third day took us via the Wind Valley and to the bottom of Gray Glacier. Unbelievable 45mph gusts of wind made the trek troublesome. It was like mountain climbing towards a wall of hurricane-force wind. The ever-changing climate in Patagonia could possibly be mentioned at size however suffice it to say that in a quick span of our four-day trek we skilled every little thing Mom Nature might throw our means: brilliant sunshine and heat temperatures of 65 levels, adopted by temperatures plummeting to the 30’s with snow, rain and winds near 45 miles per hour. Vacationers ought to deliver all waterproof gear for the hike and gown in layers because the day by day temperatures fluctuate tremendously on this a part of the world.

On our remaining day we left Eco-Camp and headed to the bottom of Torres, probably the most common viewpoints on the circuit. The difficult ten-hour mountain climbing day started with brilliant, sunny skies as we hiked from Eco-Camp to the Chilean Camp the place we stopped for a fast relaxation. Hours later we discovered ourselves on the backside of what some confer with as Boulder Metropolis: a seemingly countless expanse of enormous rock boulders heading upwards. On the prime of the boulder subject, far, far-off a noticed a speck of a person. “We’re going there?” I requested my information in disbelief. I couldn’t consider the trek that lay forward. As I took the gradual climb up, I discovered myself shedding layer up layer of clothes as my coronary heart charge elevated from the troublesome climb. I crouched low and steadily moved from rock to rock. Ultimately I reached the highest to glimpse the huge towers within the distance. I felt really insignificant in comparison with the majestic mountains surrounding us, and loved the sensation.