Las Torres del Paine
Today we did our big day hike up to the top of Torres del Paine. After a big buffet breakfast at the hotel, we left at 10 and returned at 8 p.m. The hike was VERY windy and I ended up having to wear this horrible lime-yellow shell that I bought for $15 at the Mountain Hardwear Sale. If I had ANY idea how much I would be wearing that thing, I never would have bought it. I bought it because it was lightweight, and I figured I’d only need it in case of an emergency downpour. Ha ha ha ha. We didn’t have any money on us, so when we arrived two hours up at Refugio Chileno, we had to keep right on going without buying any hot drinks. Fortunately, we had the $22 lunch box the hotel sold me (lunch boxes were $6 in Argentina!) The last leg of the hike to the top was a field of boulders, so we stopped for lunch first before heading up. The trail through the boulders was marked by orange circles of paint on the rocks, but it didn’t really matter which way we went. Once at the top, we had a clear view of the Torres, three towering peaks, rising above a cirque, but you couldn’t see them until you reached the top and the wind was fierce up there. We took some pictures, found shelter to eat our lunch, ate in about fifteen minutes, hiked down to the lake to take more pictures and video the lake flowing into the river that we had followed all the way up, then took off back down the mountain. It was too cold and windy to stay in one place for more than a few minutes. At the base of the boulder field, we turned left and took an hour-long side trail to Campamento Japones, but there wasn´t much to seee there, and it was another very cold and windy hike across several streams and the bottom of the same boulder field we’d hiked on our way up. The strangest thing at this little Blaire Witch camp (a climbers only camp) was a small monument: carved in a tree trunk was “Korea” and a bunch of Korean writing and on top of it three whittled choique birds. Not sure why Japanese Camp had a Korean monument, but the birds were cool.
The hike on the way down was so incredibly windy (and raining lightly, too) that we had to stay as uphill as possible on the narrow ridges, so we didn´t blow into the ravine below. Because the wind was at our backs, we let it blow us downhill until it got so rough and unpredictable that I had to sit down on the trail because I was afraid it would blow me into a rock and I´d sprain my ankle (the trails here are pretty rocky.) Fortunately, it stays light until about 10 p.m., so we made it down well before dark.
For dinner that night we ate in the bar and discovered Calafate Pisco Sours. The Calafate bush, after which the Patagonian town El Calafate is named, has a small red berry and mixed with Pisco and lemon it tastes a lot like my favorite cocktail, a Cosmopolitan. We slept well that night.