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The W track

posted on 2019-11-11 10:06:57 in Patagonia

Day 1 to Grey campsite

Today was wet, windy and cold, when I say wet i mean it rained from striking camp to setting up, all day every minute. Windy, 70kph winds for most of the walk and a couple of particularly strong gust that actually caught me by surprise and blew my backwards, lucky I was not close to the edge. As for cold maximum of 3c and feels much colder with the biting icy wind. I will be praying it improves tomorrow, I really don’t want another like today it however I fear it will be much the same given the weather forecast I saw earlier.

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The day started with another 5am alarm, packing up in the dark again. Then a quick breakfast and off to bus station to catch the early bus the Torres Del Paine.

We arrived at the park entrance, Laguna Amarga checkpoint, and went through the entrance formalities then back on the bus to travel to the ferry terminal at Pehoe. The landscape enroute to the ferry was quite different to what I have seen here. Far more swampy with many small lakes, not really surprising given the amount of rainfall they get. There were lots of photographic potential and I was itching to make pictures but not a chance from the bus.

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During the short wait for the ferry we had a glimpse of what was to come regarding the win, several times the wind swirled round whipping up the water into mini water spouts then racing across the Lake to the far shore. The ferry to Paine Grande across Lago Pehoe was a catamaran and ideal for making the crossing of the lake smooth in the high winds. For our crossing everyone was crammed below deck sheltering from the inclement weather outside.

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At Paine Grande campsite Thomas and I separated, Thomas was not risking his knee on the 11km walk to Grey and staying  put for the night. I kitted myself up, wind jacket, poncho, gaiters – the works! All to no avail though, within an hour I was soaked through and my feet were squelching in my boots. The spectacular scenery I was hoping to see was non existent through the rain and low cloud and when the walking  track turned to a river I was wishing I was staying with Thomas and started questioning my sanity and why I was doing this.

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With the rising water levels the river crossings were becoming more difficult and on the steep rocky parts i felt like I was climbing up or down small waterfalls. With the slippery rocks, heavy pack and buffeting wind I was finding it tough going in places.

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After several hours of head down non stop walking I climbed up a ridge and to my surprise clearly visible not to far ahead was the campsite, Suddenly I had more spring in my step and in no time I was there standing front of the registrar. He directed me to places of most shelter and I found my spot for the night under some trees. It was a little bit of a struggle to pitch the tent in the wind and keep everything as dry as possible from the rain. Once my pack was inside I then added a few rocks to help hold the pegs firmly in the ground.

I quickly made up my bed and changed from clothes, my walking ones were wet through but at least everything in my pack was dry. Remember I mentioned my feet were squelching? When my feet exited the boots I was able to pour water from the bots!. Nothing is waterproof in this type of weather!

A simple meal of tuna and pasta with a cuppa lifted my spirits and when I stepped out of the kitchen area I was greeted to a brief break in the rain, I looked up and could make out the mountains towering above me, the view lasted just a few minutes but that was enough to make the walk worthwhile. Sometime we question why we are doing things making it easy  for us to give up, perseverance does pay off!

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Day 2 Grey to Camp Italiano

I woke again a 5am but not to get up this time, I had a chill! I grabbed another layer and tucked back into the sleeping bag rolling up tight like a burrito to capture another few zzzz’s. At 7am i peeped out of the tent and saw it was snowing, no wonder I had a chill earlier. Once again I had to pack the tent wet, I am starting to wonder if it will ever dry out!

All of the clothing that got wet yesterday was still damp with the exception of my socks they were still saturated. I figured with some fast walking at the start my body temperature will rise enough to finish the drying process, it worked a treat. Even the socks were much improved.

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The day was considerably better than yesterday, I only had to contend with snow flurries and gale force winds. At least on my return trip I managed to get to see some views and what I had missed the day before. Lakes, waterfalls and some of the famed Torres Del Paine mountain peaks showing themselves through breaks in the clouds.

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The journey back was a bit slower than I hoped as I had to tread very carefully on the rocks after I slipped and twisted my knee. When I reached Paine Grande I found Thomas anxiously waiting for me. Not sure if he was hungry, wanting to get away of worried! We had our late lunch which refueled me and after some leg and shoulder stretches we were on our way to the next campsite. The next 8 km was relatively easy by comparison climbing just 200m and with more shelter along the track. Like clockwork as we arrived at camp it started to sleet meaning pitching the tent in the wet again.

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Camp Italiano is a Conaf camp and free, unlike yesterday which was fee paying. Grey was of a very good standard with showers, a kitchen, store and a bar in the lodge. Italiano is basic, long drop toilet, open shelter for cooking and water from the river and that’s it! Unfortunately getting there a bit late meant all the prime spots were taken and I ended up with a slopping section near a brook. Under trees in a valley means we are sheltered from the wind but did have large drips falling from the branches all night long.

Today I covered 20km and climbed a total 1000m. Along the way I  saw two  Chimango Caracara come flying in almost directly overhead very close up and in the camp tonight a couple of Austral Parakeets were trying to be brave around the food shelter. While sharing some similarities to the NZ Kea they are nowhere as brave or “naughty “ as their parrot cousin. Also scurrying around the campsite some birds we have seen all over but yet to mention, the Rufous-Collared Sparrow. It is far from a boring sparrow and takes its name from the rufous – or red brown – coloured collar around its neck.

My legs and body were very tired from the walk and I certainly didn’t need natures lullaby to send me to sleep. From an owl hooting and the rushing river on one side and the small  babbling brook on the other.