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DAY 67 (2 OF 3) – DESCEND, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

This was definitely the worse day of our visit in the park. The furious wind and heavy rain didn’t show a sign of stopping anytime soon. We left Refugio Chileno at 10:30am. We were cold and exhausted, and were glad that this would be our final descend back to the park entrance. On the cliff side trail near Chileno, the wind was so strong that most hikers, including us, had to stop advancing and keep ourselves from falling off the cliff by holding tightly on any fixed objects we could find, big rocks or strong branches and waited for the wind to pass. God knows how long we had waited but at some point when one hiker started moving again, we all stood up one by one, balanced ourselves and continued walking again. The wind got weaker after several turns down the hill, but we had no intention to take any break until reaching our final destination, Hosteria las Torres, where shuttle buses would take hikers for the final 7.5km to Laguna Amarga, the main park entrance where all buses to Puerto Natales would depart. Our clothes were soaked by our own sweat when we arrived at Hosteria las Torres. Good that our GORTEX gears worked well to keep us dry from the rain. There was almost 3 hours of waiting before the shuttle bus departed at 2pm. We decided to sit down at the hotel bar restaurant and treated ourselves with a delicious and meaty Patagonian pizza and soft drinks. At the hotel, we saw hikers, including some familiar faces, arriving one by one. Some unfortunately came down with bruises, cuts, and broken ankle, requiring assistance from their travel-mate when walking. Although we didn’t see the orange sunrise at la Torres, we were both happy for our trekking experiences, and glad that we survived the mighty Patagonian wind. The beauty of Torres del Paine is not only about mountain glaciers and turquoise lakes, but also the power of survival of all living things under all kinds of hostile circumstances of mother nature, from the tiny orchids that withstand the giant winds, to all the trekkers that brave the unpredictable weather for a dose of the pristine Patagonian experience.

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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought

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DAY 67 (1 OF 3) – LAS TORRES, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

We woke up at 2:45am, and could hear the sounds of drizzle and strong wind outside. Electricity was cut since midnight and we had to get ourselves prepared in the dark with our headlamp and flashlight discreetly without disturbing other hikers. After a “flash-light” breakfast, we put on our winter hats, gloves and jackets, had our hiking poles in hand, and packed our cameras and tripod in the backpack. Leaving the rest of the luggage at a locker, we left the refugio at 3:30am to embark on the final section of our W-trek up to Mirador (lookout) las Torres. The iconic granite towers of las Torres (Torres del Paine) are the symbol of the park, and hence the national park is named after them.
The past few days of hiking got us familiar with the trail conditions and signage, so even in the dark we could easily spot the right path in the woods, and cross the right streams without hesitation. Walking in the dark with only meters of visibility from our headlamp gave us a unique feeling: we were more focused on the trail while hearing became more sensitive than usual. Our eyes quickly got used to the dark only after minutes of hiking. The sky gradually brightened up at around 4:30am. At 5:00 when we reached the campsite closest to las Torres, we no longer needed our headlamps. The “Mirador” sign pointed towards a boulder path uphill. For the next hour or so, it would be the most difficult session of the W-trek. The sky was dull and our faces were cold. The rising sun beyond moving clouds formed a strip of orange glow along the horizon outside the valley. We both hoped that by the time we reached the top, there would be sunbreak to cast an orange glow on the famous granite towers. The chance was slim, but we didn’t lose our hope. Walking against the strong wind and rain on boulders for about 45 minutes, we could finally see the rock towers of las Torres and the glacier lake. After 4 days on the W-trek, we finally reached Mirador la Torres, our final destination. No magic moment, no orange glow on the peaks, but at least the towers were visible despite the mist. At the lookout, there were about 30 people scattered on the rocks. Some were sitting inside their sleeping bags while some were posting for photos in the wind. We set up our tripod and made a short timelapse.
After about 15 minutes, the weather got worse, rain had turned into snow and we could no longer see the towers. The wind had picked up its speed and we all had trouble keeping balance. One by one we found our way back down the boulder path carefully. On our way down, we encountered a few more people willing to brave the weather for the mirador. We were delighted of reaching Refugio Chileno safely at about 9:30am. We rested a bit, dried ourselves, and had a cup of warm water and a sandwich at the dining hall while watching all other people preparing rain gears and backpacks for their departure. At 10:30am, it was our turn to leave the refugio with all our belongings safely wrapped in rain covers.
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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 66 (2 OF 2) – REFUGIO CHILENO, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

After 3 hours hiking on gentle terrains along Lago Nordenskjold, we finally reached Valle Ascencio where a relatively steeper ascend up to Refugio Chileno was about to begin. The cliff-side trail winding up the valley was narrow and rocky. Rio Ascencio was rumbling down the hill on our right. Angela was quietly hoping for a dry day tomorrow for us to safely descend down to Hosteria las Torres on this very same path. 10 minutes before we arrived at Chileno, we finally saw a small mountain lodge across the river. We crossed Rio Ascencio via a wooden bridge and were glad to arrive at Refugio Chileno in mid afternoon. Located at midpoint between Hosteria las Torres and the Mirador las Torres, Refugio Chileno is a good base to explore the granite towers of las Torres. In front of the refugio, we could see clearly the magnificent rock towers of las Torres at the far left. We were planning to make the final ascend tomorrow before dawn to see the sunrise at las Torres. All we needed was fine weather. Inside Chileno, the small dining hall was packed with hikers. The refugio was fully booked. In each dorm room, 8 bunk beds that at times stacked 3 high were tightly placed against the wall. Outside the window, the ever-present Patagonian wind shook everything in its path, from tree branches to the glass and metal panels of the refugio. After dinner, we arranged a 3am breakfast with the refugio, and quietly went to bed to get some sleep. Of course, it was difficult to fall asleep at this early hour (9pm), but we got to try.

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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 65 (3 OF 3) – ITALIANO TO REFUGIO CUERNOS, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

The 2-hour hike from Camping Italiano to Cuernos was not as easy as we thought, as we were already tired from the hike in Valles Frances.  Nonetheless, we took our time and carefully hiked the remaining 2 hours without any slips in the strong wind.  When we finally saw Refugio Cuernos from a distance, we were so relieved that we were about to finish the longest day of our W-trek experience.
At Cuernos, We loved our mountain cabin.  Inside the cabin, we could see Cuernos del Paine from the skylight; and at the front porch, we had a good view of Lago Nordenskjold and the snow-capped mountains beyond.  The only downside was the distance that we had to walk to and from the refugio for meals and showers.  In the evening, the notorious wind started to pick up again.  The cabin was continuously shaken as if in a hurricane or typhoon.  The door of our cabin kept on banged open by the wind.  We had no choice but to place a few fire logs to block the door throughout the entire night.
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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 65 (1 OF 3) – PAINE GRANDE TO ITALIANO, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

When we planned our W-trek routing, we knew that today would be our longest and toughest.  The plan for today was to trek from Paine Grande to Camping Italiano at the entrance of the famous Valle Frances (French Valley).  At Italiano, we would leave our big backpacks at the guardhouse and hike up to the lookout near Camping Britanico.  Then we would return to Italiano to pick up our bags and continue the hike eastwards to Refugio Cuernos, our final destination of the day.  If everything went according to plan, the total walking time of today would be roughly 10 hours, with approximately 26 km in distance.
At 7:30am, we had a quick breakfast at Refugio Paine Grande, picked up our lunchboxes, and left the refugio right after.  The hike from Paine Grande to Camping Italiano at the entrance of the French Valley took us about 2.5 hours.  The wind was strong, but not as extreme as yesterday, thus we could still appreciate the morning scenery of the mountains.  By the time we crossed the spring bridge over Rio del Frances, Camping Italiano was already in sight.
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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 64 (4 OF 4) – REFUGIO PAINE GRANDE, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

Located strategically at the ferry dock, and between Glacier Grey and the French Valley, plus the magnificent view of the most iconic mountains in the park, Refugio Paine Grande is a crucial accommodation hub for all trekkers in Torres del Paine.  Facilitated with 60 beds, a large dining hall, and a decent camp site,  Paine Grande is the most prominent among all the park refugios.
The dinner here was quite decent and filling.  After the meal, we spent quite some time photographing the mountains just in front of the main door of the refugio before darkness fell upon.
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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 64 (1 OF 4) – GREY TO PAINE GRANDE, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

Some people came to Glacier Grey as a long day hike (8 hours return) from Refugio Paine Grande, but we preferred to stay a night at Refugio Grey so that we could have more time at the lookouts at the glacier.  After some good rest and a simple breakfast, it was time for us to return to Refugio Paine Grande.  Glacier Grey was in shade in the morning, but the deep blue colour of the ice was still a beautiful sight.  As we approached Laguna los Pasos, we noticed the wind was significantly stronger than yesterday.  When we entered the valley near Refugio Paine Grande, the wind had really picked up and at certain spots it was so strong that we could hardly walk up straight.  From a distance, we could see high waves and water splashes on the surface of Lago Pehoe.  We were glad to arrive at the door of Refugio Paine Grande at about 1pm.
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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought