I removed my pack from the bus and asked the driver where the Refugio Torres was. He replied that this bus did not go there and we should have changed to the shuttle bus at the entrance to the park. That was 12 Km back!
We had to wait there and be picked up on the return journey in about 3 hours’ time. We would then get off at the ranger station and from there get the transfer bus.
This was the first hurdle that Jenny and I had to face on our trekking adventure to Chile and Argentina. In the last 4 days we travelled from Barbados to Puerto Natales via Miami, Buenos Aries and Clalfate.
It all worked out. There is a nice cafe where we got some food and drink. We walked to the Salto Grande waterfall from where we had good views of Cuernos del Paine range. We got to see a bit more of the area than planned for. Eventually the bus arrived and we transferred to the correct bus. The cost of this shuttle bus to Refugio Torres was not included.
The bus drivers and park rangers were very helpful in getting us on the correct bus. Especially the American lady from Louisiana who was on working holiday with the park authority.
When we got to the Refugio Torres it was too late to walk to Campamento Torres lookout. I walked along the trail for a few Km and got the feel of the land.
The next morning we planned to walk to the lookout but due to time constraints and deteriorating weather we decided to return to Refugio Torres, collect our gear and start the days hike to Refugio Los Cuernos. This was an easy and pleasant trail with good views of Lago Nordenskjold and the surrounding mountains.
Unfortunately the Cuernos Refuge had problems with the water supply. Very strange considering the amount of water in the nearby rivers and lakes. The showers and toilets were not working. We were offered the use of the facilities in the Cabanas, a few hundred meters away. The staff did not ask for volunteers to get buckets of water from the nearby river to flush the toilets. I would not have minded doing that. Better than doing the walk at night.
The third day was to be a long one. We started at 8.30 and planned to explore the Rio del Frances Valley. The well-marked trail follows the shore of Lago Nordenskjold before turning north to cross a bridge over the Rio del Frances.
For those wishing to go to Campamento Britanico their backpacks can be left with the ranger station and collected on the return.
After crossing the bridge the trail follows the shore of Lago Skottsberg before going around and over a few small hills. The wet and muddy parts are covered by walkways.
On the way to Paine Grande I started to think of food. I imagined having a large, hot bowl of pasta, with a cheese sauce. With bits of green herbs on the top.
Life is like Roulette wheel. Sometimes you think you are going to win the jackpot but the ball stops on a slot short. Then you get nothing.
After I checked in and left my pack in the room I returned to the restaurant. In front of me a lady had just got a large hot bowl of pasta with a cheese sauce. With bits of green herbs on the top.
Maybe the chef had met me on the trail and took my order. I felt elated. I asked for the same meal.
“Sorry, that was the last meal. We have no more food until dinner!”
I missed the jackpot! I made the waitress open all of the food-warmers and sure enough they were empty. However she did find a bowl of soup from somewhere. You do not ask too many questions in situations like this. I had this with a piece of dried garlic bread.
This gave me just enough energy to go back out for another 5 hours to get partially up the French Valley. In the end it was an 11 hour day. I returned in time for a good dinner and a few drams of 12 year old single malt Scotch whisky from my private reserve.
This area of the trek is the most scenic. High snow clad mountains are reflected by the blue lakes. The air is very clean and distant mountain ranges appear very close. The water in the lakes and rivers is pure and refreshing to drink. In the evening when the snow started to fall high in the mountains it was especially beautiful. This was a good day.
Next morning was another pleasant day with high clouds and calm winds. We teamed up with an Australian couple and made our way along the shores of Lago Grey with many photo stops.
Our last night was at Refugio Grey. In the evening I took a short walk to view the Grey Glacier. This Glacier is split into two by an island as it enters the Lake. There were many small icebergs on the calm grey water. It started to rain.
The weather had started to get cold and some snow was falling at higher altitudes. Time to return to the lodge for some more Single Malt.
The TGO has taught me the need to have good waterproof gear and keep a few drams for times like this!
The lodge advised that the forecast for the next day was for snow and gusting winds. Although the trail back to Paine Grande would not be closed an early start was important.
We decided to take the ferry to Pingo. This sailed along Lago Grey, first visiting the glacier. It was cold and wet on the upper deck but both of us joined everyone to get pictures of the Grey Glacier. After we returned to the warm cabin we had a Pisco Sour made with ice from the Glacier.
Once we beached at Pingo we walked across the beach and then took three buses to the park entrance and another bus back to Puerto Natales.
We booked into the Big Bang B&B. After our first good shower in five days we walked into town for dinner in a brief snow shower.
We survived the first part of our adventure. Soon we would travel back to Calafate and then to El Chalten for part two of the trip.
Some notes on the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine trip:
- Parque Nacional Torres del Paine has well-marked trails. The campsites and refugios are well-spaced for a day’s walking. The campsites have pit toilets and water. Wild camping is not allowed.
- I am not a fan of staying in a Refugio. You share the room with 6 to 8 random people. I am not sure how often the sheets are changed as I did not see any laundry facilities. I think a tent, with the proper gear, is a lot warmer and comfortable. But it should not be your first trekking and camping outing.
- We were provided with food in the Refugio. This was adequate but nothing special.
- We did this walk in early October. The weather was good with very little rain and only one day of light snow. The temperature was about 10C to 15C during the day. At night it fell to around 5C.
- This is at the same latitude as Vancouver, Newfoundland and Germany. Just the other side of the equator.
- If I did this walk again I would do it in October. I would carry my tent, food and sleeping bag and factor in an extra day or two for FWA (Foul Weather Alternative) days. This will give me the flexibility to move at my own speed.
- One thing that was missing at all of the Refugios was a drying room. For those who needed it would have made a big difference.
- If you camp near to a Refugio it is possible to buy dinner. Alcohol is expensive.
- The ferry and bus timetables work together so that it is easy to transfer from one to the other. However check the times when you arrive in the park as the information we got before was not always correct.
Below are some of my previous South American adventures:
- Antarctica | December 2005
- Ushuaia – Argentina | December 2005
- Mount Roraima – Venezuela | June 2009
- El Calafate & El Chalten – Argentina | December 2009
- Circuit of Cordillera Huayhuash – Peru | August 2010
- Parque Nacional Torres del Paine – Chile | October 2016
- Return to El Calafate & El Chalten – Argentina | October 2016