Monday, 21 January 2008

Torres Del Paine, Chile - The Ascent

Photo: The hike begins at Paine Grande at Lake Pehoé

Photo: Wobbly bridge at Camp Italiano

After a hearty breakfast, we set off for the first real days hiking. The forecast was for strong winds and lots of showers and we had about 5 to 6 hours hiking ahead of us. Our plan was to get to Camp Británico in Valle Frances and stay the night in the tent. There was a viewpoint a further hike up from the camp that was supposed to have a good view of the valley with potential for great sunsets / sunrises.

To try and be somewhat prepared, I'd bought rainproof leggings which I donned as we began our trek. Unfortunately, all the leggings seemed to do was collect moisture / sweat and drain it into my shoes and after about two hours of walking in showers and sunshine, there was a discernable squelchy noise as I walked and it wasn't the exactly the most comfortable, but we had to motor on to reach base. We reached Camp Italiano which was sort of the half way point and scoffed down some sandwiches and then began the ascent to our base for the night. It's one thing to haul yer arse uphill, but to add a back pack is a whole different animal. I'm a light traveller or unprepared depending on which way you look at, so I had a relatively small, light pack compared to others. However, by the time I'd reached the summit, I'd made all sorts of empty promises about trying to keep in shape, sometime real soon!

Photo: Pit stop up Valle Frances

Photo: View of Lake Nordenskjold

Photo: Los Cuernos (The Horns)

We finally reached the campsite and it was pretty basic. No toilets, showers or running water. A nearby river was going to have to serve as water supply / bath.
We set up tent and it was fairly obvious the flimsy abode for the night, wasn't going to stand up to much. Only two other tents (professional looking kits) were set up that night on the summit and to detract from the little confidence we had, a German couple were vocally bemused that we were actually planning to brave the elements in this mere wind breaker of a tent. "Are you sure this is waterproof & windproof and big enough for two people + two packs?" they snickered.
"It's the best tent 45 pesos (usd$15) can buy" I snapped back "and we're Celtic warriors, well used to the elements!". I'm not sure they were convinced, mind you, I'm not sure I was convinced either.

About an hour after arriving, the temperature dropped five degrees and the showers started again. My feet a.k.a. 'sweat trophs' started to freeze over. This was clearly not going to be a comfortable night. What would McGyver do ? I thought to myself. And then the brainstorm of plastic bags on the feet kicked in. It worked a charm to keep the damp away from my feet. When the rain cleared again we headed up to the view point but the real motivation for me was just to keep moving. Exercise = Warmth = Comfort! It was a bit too cloudy for a good sunset photo but impressive nevertheless.

Photo: Mirador Frances

Photo: Eerie dead forest

As it started to get dim, we headed back to the camp for dinner a.k.a. tuna sandwiches and chocolate, then retreated to the tent for shelter.

The tent itself was quite a novelty indeed. When you lay flat out, your head protruded into one wall of canvas and your feet stuck out the other side. The fear was if you stretched out, you would pop the pegs holding the tent to the ground. This was either a two midget man tent or it had been swapped for a kiddies play tent. A picture of Kermit the frog on the side wouldn't have been out of place. To make matters worse, a plague of flesh eating flies/mozzies surrounded the tent . The plastic foot warmers were still working a treat. So much so, I decided I would keep them on in the sleeping bag. After a wee dram for medicinal purposes, I faded into a deep sleep.


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