Patagonia Trek Torres del Paine  •  Chile  •  5,246'  •  1599m
Trip Report

Patagonia Trek 2016 Trip Report

by Tye Chapman

Day 1  —  Travel.
Long flights. More movies than sleep.

Day 2  —  Arrive in Punta Arenas.
I met up with Doug, Salinda and Michal en route. Once in Punta, sans Michal's bag, we made our way to the hotel. Our first dose of adventure was a nice bit of kindness from a local. All the taxi's had left the airport so instead of waiting for one to return a local offered to give us a ride. We piled into her pick-up truck, Michal and Salinda hopping into the back, Doug and I in the front, and we were at the hotel in no time. Waiting inside were the rest of the team: Jim, Julie and Elizabeth. It was off to dinner at my favorite spot in town, La Luna. Everybody was tired so we kept it pretty brief. We'd have the next two weeks to get to know each another.

Day 3  —  Punta Arenas  —  Puerto Natales.
We made the rounds in Punta stopping at the Magellan statue, money exchange and the grocery store. Once back at the hotel we grabbed our gear and jumped into our awaiting van and made our way to Puerto Natales. We got checked into our hotel and quickly did some gear checks. Michal's bag was still a no show so he had some shopping to do. While Michal did his shopping the rest of the team ventured out to explore a bit. We came back together for dinner at El Bote. The team was gelling nicely.

Day 4  —  Free day in Natales
This day is a new addition to the itinerary. A lot of us rented bikes and explored some of the outer reaches of town. It was a nice day for a ride. After a few hours we made our way to the Singular Hotel for lunch  —  what a cool spot! It's an old slaughterhouse that's been meticulously transformed into a hotel/restaurant/bar. After lunch we returned the bikes and did some packing before dinner at Don Jorge. We were joined by Tadeo, a good friend of mine and our local guide for the trek. At dinner we got word that Michal's bag had made it to Punta Arenas but wouldn't be delivered in time for the trek... Not to be deterred we made a plan. Bottom-line, Fernando saved the day! He drove to Punta Arenas and back in the middle of the night eventually delivering Michal's bag to me at 3am. I in turn gave it to Michal at 6am. He repacked and all was right with the world!

Day 5  —  Puerto Natales  —  Trailhead - Los Torres It's time to hit the trail. We made our usual stop at Cerro Castillo for a coffee then a few photo stops along the way to the trailhead. The Nandu (flightless bird) and Guanacos were out in full force! We started walking around noon. It was hot! The first stretch is in the sun with no tree cover and is pretty much all uphill. We got a break at Refugio Chileno, our home for the first 2 nights. After checking in, dropping off some gear and grabbing a bite to eat we carried on up to Los Torres. It's a couple hours from Chileno up to the towers. In those two hours the weather changed about 7 times. The clouds seemed determined to obstruct our view of the towers, but as we pulled into the lake below the towers the clouds lifted and we all enjoyed our first postcard moment of the trek! It was back down to Refugio Chileno for dinner.

Day 6  —  Japanese Camp and The Silence Valley
The trail we take today requires a special permit and access is generally only reserved for climbers heading into climb the towers. Once past Campamento Torres we only saw one other group and a couple climbers. A noticeable difference from the previous day on the trail to the towers. We enjoyed some views (and the silence) as we trekked next to the Ascencio River. After a couple hours we stopped for a good break at Campamento Japones. A few members of the team opted to take a long break and head back to the refugio with Tadeo while I took a few others a little further into the Silence Valley. It was hot as we made our way up the dry creek bed to the treeline. Once above the treeline things mellow out a bit as we skirt the moraine of the Ascencio Glacier. We continued on until we found a nice big rock to take a break and have some lunch. After some photos we made our way back to Chileno for a beer, I mean Coke.

Day 7  —  Refugio Chileno  —  Refugio Los Cuernos
What is typically a pretty mellow day was complicated a bit by the heat. Not a breath of wind and 100% of the sun. We made good time and got to Refugio Los Cuernos by 2:30 and were able to avoid most of the afternoon sun. Some showered while others explored the shore of Lake Nordenskjold. We had dinner around 8 after which most went down to the beach to take in the sunset.

Day 8  —  The Bader Valley
Another out and back day. A couple team members opted to stay at the refugio to rest the knees and read a book by the lake... a pretty good option if you ask me! The rest of us went up to the entrance to the Bader Valley. There had been a recent rock/landslide that took out a large portion of the trail so we played it safe and had lunch, enjoyed the views, then made our way back to the refugio before the heat of the day.

Day 9  —  Refugio Los Cuernos — The French Valley  —  Refugio Paine Grande
Another postcard moment of the trek. We had some overcast skies but that didn't affect our views or our ability to see and hear the hanging glaciers calving off ice! We found a nice spot to take it all in and enjoy lunch. After lunch we made our way to Refugio Paine Grande. We made it just before the rain and wind set in! We missed the super bowl but I was able to get 3rd Quarter score before we went to bed.

Day 10  —  Refugio Paine Grande  —  Refugio Grey.
Today is a pretty mellow day. The morning starts out with a bit of an uphill but mellows just in time to see huge icebergs afloat in Lago Grey! It was super windy but the views were incredible. We hit all the viewpoints along the way and still made it to the refugio by 12:30pm. We had lunch then went down to the Grey Glacier lookout. Absolutely breathtaking. After soaking in the view for a bit we made our way down to the 'beach' where Tadeo and I grabbed a couple big chunks (50lbs each) of ice for the bar to use over the next two nights. Small price to pay for a piece of glacier ice in my scotch. After the beach we went to the 5pm kayaking briefing. It was a short briefing... no kayaking today. Too windy. So it goes. Showered and a few games of Bullshit before dinner.

Day 11  —  Grey Glacier
Today is usually reserved to kayak and/or trek up the trail above the glacier or as our case call an audible and implement Plan X. We commissioned the zodiac boat captain to take us out to Nunatak Island for an up close and personal look at the glacier. We hiked for about an hour on the island, jaws dropping from time to time. We stopped in a spot where the team could touch the glacier itself. We had some hot tea and hung out for 30 minutes taking photos and just soaking it all in. After hiking back we made our way back to the mainland and had some lunch. The water was still a little too rough for kayaking so some of the team meandered up the trail a bit before returning for some more Bullshit before dinner.

Day 12  —  Grey Glacier  —  Grey III Boat  —  Puerto Natales
Still too windy for kayaking. That's ok we've got Plan B this time. We commissioned the zodiac again and went for a personal tour up to the glacier. We stopped at a little outcropping for some photos before cruising right by the face of the glacier. After our tour we had lunch then boarded the Grey III for our ride down the lake to our awaiting van and ride back to Puerto Natales. We got to Natales around 5:30 and had our farewell dinner at La Guanaca at 8:00pm. **Note to self for next year  —  the pizzas and salads are big enough to share!

Day 13  —  Puerto Natales  —  Punta Arenas  —  Santiago

Day 14  —  Santiago  —  Home

— Tye Chapman, IMG Operations Manager & Trek Leader