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El Circuito Grande Trek Notes

93 km in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Argentina

all seasons in one day 52 °F
View South America 2009 on retomer's travel map.

For years trekking in this park has been on our list of things that we waited to experience. We didnt really know what to expect, but we knew if we ever came here we would need to be prepared with our backpacking gear. Thanks to all those trips to REI we are very stoked on our gear and I wasnt even cold once! The natural beauty was more than we could ever imagine, really, this trek will be with us forever! Here is our trip report.

Day 1 - A Visit to the Namesake
Yesterday a local told us to start the circuito grande trek at Laguna Armaga - if we could see the torres (towers) in the distance from the laguna then we should take advantage of the good weather and hike to the parques namesake today, the first day of many days. The bus into the park took us pass herds of guanacos (llama like creatures, distant relatives to the camel). We bought our park entrance tickets with several huge condors soaring above. The torres (towers of rock) rose in the distance and we set out in that direction. There is a lot of "hola"-ing going on this stretch of trail as we share the are on the tourist trail with day hikers. We reached Campamento Torres and quickly set our tent up, securign each corner for the unpredicatable weather. We set out for another straight up 45 minutes to the base of the three spiky towers, the Torres del Paine. Sitting in amazement we soaked it all in. We felt thankful to share the sunset beneath the towers, all bundled up in our cold weather gear.
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Day 2 - Just a walk in the park
We rolled out of our tent this morning with a handful of other trekkers ready to start the day. 7 hours later we reach the Campamento Seron, just before the wind and rain start. And wind it is - fierce wind pulling and pushing the tent all over the place. I am slightly scared, though not sure of what....rain continues all night and all we can wonder is what tomorrow will bring.

Day 3 - Valley of Beauty
7 am - Just as discouragement starts to set in as we contemplate how to handle takind down the tent in the rain, it stops raining! We skip coffee and head out adorned with rain coats and pants on over layers of clothing. Turning a ridge an immense wind startles us and we laugh and make a movie of the sound a 50 mph wind makes...its all fun and games, but actually slightly tricky as I almost get blown off the ridge. We have turned the corner of the circle path that the Circuito Grande is (yes, this circle has corners) and are walking up a wide valley with peaks on all sides. The peaks are sprinked with sugar like snow from the storm last night and all day we watch as the snow is blown off beneath puffy clouds. The scenery is beyond gorgeous - wheat colored grasses, forests of green stout trees, a wetland of mud. Our camp is one the shores of Lago Dickson, where there is a refugio (hut) for those without tents. The fire is warm, though the couple of guys working are not quite as welcoming. We are in bed at 6pm.


Day 4 - Mud and Rain

We are lucky today is a short day of 4 hours hiking as it is wet and muddy and moist. We are treasuring our rain/wind gear and wonder how others are managing without. Today´s hike highlight is the base of Glaciar Los Perros, where a windy lookout point has us taking in the view from the bottom of a glaciar. The rain bumps up a notch and we scurry off to the smoky hut of tarps at the Campamento Los Perros. We hang out for a while chatting in the hut with the other brave souls traversing el cicuito grande but really just want to nuggle down and head to the tent early.

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Day 5 - Making the Pass and Gawking at Glaciar Grey
We are stoked to wake very well rested to a partly sunny, very cold sky. We lurch out of camp after a few hardboiled eggs and climb hard and long through a muddy forest and up a rocky steep slope to the pass. What a surprize to reach the pass and see Glaciar Grey and all its splendor layed out before us. It is immense and goregeous and we feel as if we are at the core of all existence. We gawk and ooohh and ahhhh for hours as we trek alongside the length of the glaciar, ending the day in a calm rain shower that is slightly romantic.

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Day 6 - The "easiest" day proves challenging

Our bodies ache. Only 5 hours of hiking on mostly flat terrain, our luck with the weather continues as we reach the indoor lunch spot just as a short rain storm starts, but stilll, today is challenging and as we turn another corner of the circuit we start to wonder if we will make it out of here in one piece.

Day 7 - The Valle Francais
Wet. Everything is wet. HOw can I get out of my cozy sleeping bag to brave the wet morning? Intention overrides laziness and we hike an hour inot the Valle Francias. What a prize to view the all encompassing glory of snowy peaks surrounding us. This is the one place I feel like I could sit and stare for hours.....the emotion is overwelming as we stare mouth open as the sun peaks over and shines on us. I could sit here for hours.....though the trail to complete our circuiit beckons.

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Day 8 -
Oh the joy of completing the circuit, meeting the same path from where we began 7 days ago. The rain hardly matters as we set up our tent once more just as the weather shifts to wet. We are happy and proud and celebrate with chocolate and wine. One more 2 hour hike to the park entrance where the trekkers gather and share stories as we all limp around waiting for the bus and anticipating celebration dinners back in Natales.

93 kilometers! We did it!

Posted by retomer 17:06 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking

Packing the packs

62 °F

We´re hanging out here in Puerto Natales, Chile, prepping for a 4-9 day trek on the Circuit of Torres del Paine - this is the one big trek that we have been anticipating/planning since we even thought of coming down here...we´ll see how we can coupe with the crazy weather that everyone seems to be obsessed with here. Today alone we have had rain and sunny alternating at least 20 times.

We´ve done our shopping: dried soups, pre-cooked pasta, cooked potatoes, fruit, nuts, cheese, salami, hard boiled eggs, 12 bon-bons - this time we are convinced to set out with enough food! Our packs are lined with heavy duty garbage bags. We have extra pairs of socks ready for the other side of the bog we will have to cross. We have extra money for an emergency stay in a refugio hut if necessary.

This town really reminds us of of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua - really, the way the viejos (older people) hang out the front doors of the flat faced houses, all different colors, we really feel a similarity.

See you all on the other side in a week or so!

Posted by retomer 13:16 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking

Trying Not to Gross Out

Bed Bugs in Patagonia

semi-overcast 60 °F

OK, don´t gross out...I am trying not to......it all started when we were in Bariloche, the travelers hub of the Argentian lake district. We shared a dorm with 4 Irish folks and were warned straight away not to stay at a specific hostel in Calafate, which is the gateway town to the Perito Moreno Glaciar, a HUGE tourist attraction that is on our tick list because the Irish woke up in the middle of the night covered in bed bug bites!!

So....well, we had a stop on the way to Calafate at El Chalten, which is another gateway to a huge attraction which we certainly weren´t going to miss, the Fitz Roy massive peak. Anyway, now here we are in Puerto Natales now - different country (Chile vs. Argentina) but seems like the bed bugs are propagating southern Patagona regardeless if of what couthry because we keep hearing about them! Ugg! Anyone who knows me knows that all ALL bugs love me (I can walk into your house and tell you if you have fleas, my brother Keith can, too) - and here I am after El Chalten (lovely hike on a gorgeous day to Fitz Roy, and Calafate (awesome surreal experience at the base of one of the only advancing glaciars in the world) --- I am all bitten up by something...don´t think they are bed bugs, more like spiders.

BUT, the hostel we stayed at last night had to exterminate a dorm room today cuz the bedbugs struck - we stayed in a single room but changed to another hostel today cuz I AM SO GROSSED OUT.

BUT, this is just a travelers´hazard, right?

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Posted by retomer 16:45 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking

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