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TORRES DEL PAINE: PART III

Emily Forsythe

we woke up around 7:30am to start our long, 10+ hour journey up the valle francés and up to the even higher británico. both of us had a decent sleep so once we ate a full breakfast we were ready to go explore!

during breakfast i had sat next to a W trek guide who had a full glass of maté, an argentinian version of incredibly strong herbal green tea that is sipped slowly out of a hand-carved gourd and typically through a metal straw. it is tradition to share it with others so he was just passing along the caffeine i guess! i took a few sips, could feel the good energy running through me and was geared up to hike!!

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Top of Frances TDP.jpg

those few sips of maté proved to be detrimental for jared because i was so hyped up that on the beginning of our hike i gave him the full chronological order of all the pets my brother and i had since i was born!! :) just as i was through a few cats and dogs, we came across our friends, ashli and jessica, who we had met a couple nights before. they were finishing up the end of their trek and were hoping to make it back to paine grande to catch the 12:30pm catamaran back and then would be heading to their hostel in puerto natales where they had left their big packs. 

we told them that they were welcome to get our yahtzee out and play a few games to pass the time if they wanted. they said they would take a look and leave us a note if they played. we said our goodbyes and well wishes and were back on our way down the trail and i was back to my animal stories, much to jared’s disappointment i am sure. :)

once the maté wore off, we were starting to slow a bit and had caught up to some folks from denver whom we had met at our refugio the night before. they were both geologists and were heading to a conference in santiago but took a little detour trip to torres del paine before they had to go back to work. we ended up hiking alongside each other most of the rest of the way up.

our first little break was just across a rickety bridge and over to a small camp site called italiano that was set back into the woods. this was a site that only had tents available and boy was I glad that we were sleeping in an enclosed building versus a tent!! it was so incredibly freezing and this was in the middle of the day so I couldn’t even imagine it at night when it was dark and the wind picked up!! was very thankful for our little bunk house!!

it was pretty much straight uphill to mirador francés (i.e. also our lunch spot), we trudged over streams and boulders, through forests and waterfalls and then we caught the fantastic site that we were hoping for!! it felt like we were up above everything and everyone! you could see all of the wonderful turquoise-colored lakes and snow-capped mountains in the distance; it looked like a painting bob ross had painted himself with all of the beautiful fall colors and ‘happy little trees’!! ;) we were 'happy little trees’ with this view alone and didn’t know if it really could get any better, but there was more ahead of us!

i have to admit, the last leg up was a bit of a struggle for me…i was running out of steam, lacking the energy that i had at the beginning of our hike. it also felt like we were never going to reach our destination. we wove through what felt like an endless forest and when i thought we were finally through the treeline, there would be yet another forest ahead of us. we finally got into what seemed like a pass past the forest and it was all huge rocks, straight up. one hiker who had passed us was sitting atop a huge rock looking out and we realized our final destination was within reach!!

when we made it to the top, we were completely encircled by mountains and then could see for miles through the valley and really how incredibly far we had hiked! while up at the top, we ended up running into the aussie gal we had chatted with a couple days before. she was on the last couple legs of the W trek and would be crashing at paine grande (our same refugio!) that evening.

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Jared Hiking to Refugio.jpg

the descent was fast and furious, we tried to keep the morale up knowing that we would have some vino tinto and a hot cooked meal waiting for us when we arrived. it was quite a muddy trek on the way back because all of the ice that we had seen earlier that morning had melted throughout the day.

finally we made it back to paine grande along with our aussie comrade, shavaughn. she checked in for the night and we realized that she was also in our bunk room! we all threw off our gear and darted to our respective hot showers, then off to dinner we all went!

shavaughn explained to us earlier on the hike that she had planned to camp in a tent the entire trek, but quickly realized after the first night of freezing temps that the refugio was well worth the splurge. to save a bit of money, she continued to cook her food instead of eating at the refugio dining hall and ate mostly noodles or warmed something up out of a can. since we had hot meals we had bought from the refugio and we were one for the last few for dinner in the cafeteria, we tried to sneak her a hot meal so she didn’t have to ‘grin and bear it’, so to speak through her cup-o-noodles! :)


on the menu that evening was the argentinian equivalent to chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes (which actually wasn’t bad…the only miss was there was no cream gravy, but the soup they served stood in as a decent substitute!). our portions were so large that jared and i put our untouched leftovers together, told our newfound aussie friend to put out her camping stove and asked her to come and eat with us. we also were able to sneak her dessert!! ;)

after we had a nice filling meal, we headed up to the bar area for a pisco sour to celebrate our hikes for the day and exchange trekking stories with shavaughn and then we were all off to bed!

we slept in until about 8 or so and grabbed a bit of breakfast and then just took our time to take our last hot shower that we would see for a while. we gathered and packed up all of our stuff and waited in the paine grande lobby with quite a few others to catch the 12:30pm ferry back to pick up our trusty little camper van, ché!

we met back up with our scottish friends, neil and lana who took the boat back with us and told them that we would give them a ride back to the base of the torres that they were planning to hike up that day. we exchanged info with them, bid them farewell and we both were on our way! i still am mad at myself for not snapping a photo with them. it was such a treat to meet up with them!! hopefully we will run into them soon or maybe we just will have to go visit them in aberdeen! :)