South America | Chile | Torres del Paine National Park – The third and fourth day of the ´W´
Walking down the trail seemed a piece of cake after our climb the first day. We stopped mid afternoon for our lunch of avocado sandwiches, and pushed on hoping to make it all the way to a free campsite, Campamiento Italiano. As the afternoon wore on, and we still had our spirits up, we started to speed up realizing we still had 2 to 3 more hours, and only about 2 and half hours before the sun started to go down.
As we rounded a corner and saw a magnificent view of the lake, blue green from the glacial run offs, and the clouds parting the way for a first sign of blue sky that day, Walter turned to me and said, ¨We should not rush through this¨. I could not have agreed more, and we decided to only go as far as Cuernos, possibly only another thirty minutes if we kept walking at our pace. But we did take our time, and enjoyed the peace of the trail, the late afternoon blue sky mixed with distant storm clouds, the wind starting to pick up and blow towards us over the lake and the beauty of a place not many people have the opportunity to pass through.
We came to a small cliff with a solitary tree bent into a hunched shape by the force of wind blowing across the lake over time overlooking a gravel beach. A stream could be seen down below emptying its glacial melt into the lake. We sat on my back pack, zipped up our jackets against the wind, and soaked it all in. Loaded our minds with the beauty we were seeing. A rainbow appeared across the lake, sort of summing up the joy we felt at that moment. ( Pause in typing, sigh, wow this one of the most beautiful spots I have ever been lucky enough to visit).
As we set off, and rounded a corner a few hundred feet down the trail, we realized our camping spot sat right on that stream and gravel beach. Good for the views, but not so good for the wind. We got the tent set up after another hot shower, and the wind introduced us to even higher levels of blowing than we knew to exist. I can gladly report, MSR tents can stand up to some high winds and huge gusts of wind.
The next morning we allowed ourselves breakfast inside the refugio made by the cooks in residence there. Packing up, we then hiked only about two hours across the beach of the lake into some muddy flats to finally arrive in a forested area for our campsite for the night. The wind blew me over a couple of times with my backpack adding to the balance problem while I walked across the beach. I stopped though because as I watched the wind blowing towards me, I saw vortices (dust devils, water funnels) of water picking up off the tops of the whitecaps. Then these vortices would literally turn the colors of the rainbow since the sun shined through them. What an amazing sight, rainbowed vortices sailing towards me across the lake.
After dropping our things and setting up the tent at Camp Italiano, we started hiking straight up a narrow steep valley, Valle de Frances. At first, we climbed over ankle-breaking rocks, up some boulders and followed the raging stream alongside some big waterfalls. As we got higher we could see the multiple glaciers coming down into the Valley, right there, again as if I could reach out and touch them. I had never been this close to a glacier before now!
Onwards and upwards we traveled through some low scrubby forested areas, across muddy flats and into a very windy valley surrounded on three sides by massive mountains of granite, glaciers and ice. I don´t think my words can describe the wild, harsh beauty of this world we had entered. After a rest, we turned around and headed back down to the campsite. The five hour round trip just about killed our knees going up and back down again, but we climbed into our tent, cooked a good meal, and allowed our bodies to rest for the next day.
I had ventured out to the stream near our campsite to purify some water. The water nearly froze my hand holding the water filter is was so cold!