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The W track part 2

posted on 2019-11-13 13:42:14 in Patagonia

Day 3 Italiano to Frances

With only a short walk planned for today it was possible to have a more restful start taking our time over breakfast and enjoying a warm tea after another cold night. With our tents packed I noticed a Carancho wander into the shelter. This is quite a big bird to see in a campsite and one to potentially look ok in a photograph, I carefully pulled out the camera and he was off like a shot, not frightened to check for scraps but to shy for a photo.

The first part of today’s walk was a relatively short 2.5 km and climbing 300m in altitude. However, It was quite rocky and steep in places and what I had not bargained for was the snow. Not just flurries like yesterday but a full blown storm making the track slippery underfoot and treacherous on the rocks. Nevertheless the challenge of hiking in the snow was fun and it painted a completely different picture to the landscape.

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I reached the lookout in good time, unfortunately there was not much to see of the Frances Valley through the snow storm but I could certainly hear loud cracks and rumbles coming across the valley. On the opposite side of the valley was a glacier creaking and groaning under the weight of the ice. Then after one particularly load moan then boom I heard a wish and could just make out a small avalanche falling like a waterfall of ice tumbling down the rock face.

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I took my time going down the valley making sure I placed each foot carefully before it bore my weight. While it took a little longer I did manage to get down without sliding and ending up on my bottom.

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The rest of the walk to Frances campsite was easy and straight forward, the snow turned to sleet and had stopped completely by early afternoon. The Campsite is set up in a forest in a hillside . The tent plots were a little different here as we were allocated a platform to pitch the tent on. A little bit of a mental challenge to find a sensible way to erect and secure the tent without using pegs and I was very pleased with the result. With the flat platform surface hopefully it will give me a slide free night and a good night sleep.

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Lucky me, I managed to get the tent up just as the rain started again, the rain persisted for the rest of the afternoon, quite heavy at times so I was glad we didn’t have any more walking to do.

The campsite had hot showers, being so early I thought I would give them a go. “Brrrr” so much for hot water it was freezing! Still I got to feel fresh and clean and a little walk back up the hill to the tent afterwards soon warmed me. It turned out there was hot water but the cubicle I went in had a broken tap handle and only drew cold water – just my luck!

The tent platforms are packed together very close and with tent walls being very thin you can hear the various conversations from all around quite clearly. With all the chatter, especially the loud Spanish speaking ones to my feet, no chance of listening to nature’s lullabies tonight.

Day 4 Frances to Central

Hooray! it is not raining, so much easier to pack up the gear in the dry and on the solid platform. A large bowl of nutritious cereal and milk (I had made up the milk from powder the previous night) for breakfast then on the road at 8:45, ahead of our plans. The walk today didn’t include any major climbing just lots of small ups and downs but still totalled over 50 of climbing throughout the day and quite a big day covering 16km. There was a good variety in the landscape to make it very interesting and we had sunshine with a high cloud base so the mountains were in full view for the entire day.

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Birds along the way included Long-tailed Meadowlark with their brilliant red chests and the Fire-eyed Diucon with equality impressive red eyes. As we got lower down the slopes and a different landscape the bird life changed and numbers increased. One bird that stood out was the Austral Negrito. A small black bird slightly larger than a sparrow with a bright brown back looking like they are wearing a saddle. Throughout the entire 4 days I had not seen one mammal despite being warned several times to be on guard for pumas and foxes.

It was a long day of walking not helped by the fact my knees were sore and I took a few more photo stops than previous days, both slowing us down.

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We eventually came to a split in the track, a perfect place for lunch before we took the right fork for Central. From this point the track became quite easy and very different from anywhere else, it was very open and barren, no trees at only small bushes amongst the rocks. As we descended towards Central the land flattened and became grassy, very nice to finish the day with easy relaxed walking.

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The campsite at Central was large, a big open area beneath mountains. After putting up the tents we rested under the mountains in the warm afternoon sun and drying off the remaining wet gear. Yes I still had some!

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There were lots of people camping here, some finishing the trek like us, others starting out and a few here to do day walks. It was good to listen and share experiences with other campers while we cooked our dinner. It was here we learnt that the “O” track had been closed after the main pass was mid thigh deep in snow. While we couldn’t have walked it with Thomas’s knee maybe we were actually better off doing the trek we had just completed.