So Anthony did a fantastic job at describing our journey of the first 5 days of the trek so I figured I should contribute too. Unfortunately I do not write as eloquently as Anthony so expect a lot of wordy descriptions with overused superlatives. This is our journey from day 6 – day 11.
Day 6 – Las Torres to Camping Serón
Anthony and I decided it was best to have as much rest as possible at Las Torres to give his body the best chance to get on top of the virus and also to give us a good indicator of whether we could (or should) continue on with the trek as Las Torres has a bus service back to Puerto Natales – our one and only escape route. The morning of day 6 came and Anthony was optimistic about his ability to carry on. His cough, fever and husky voice told me otherwise but anyone that knows Anthony knows that he is a VERY stubborn person when he wants to be and sense cannot be talked into him once he has made his mind up. With that being said he was still happy to wait until early afternoon before we continued. We had amazing weather that morning and we enjoyed it by lounging around in the sun soaking up the views and watching the wildlife which included the cutest little bunny that was running around our campsite chasing birds. The time came and we packed up our campsite (which we had grown to be pretty proficient at by then – we are total experts now!) and we set out for our leisurely walk to Camping Serón. The start of the back circuit begins. With Anthony being sick I decided to take the lead and set the pace which is naturally slow and steady. We made our way in the direction of Serón and 5 minutes and an awkwardly placed navigation sign later were heading in the wrong direction (I am totally awesome at navigation). Thankfully we were not far along the wrong (and steep) path when we saw another couple approach the awkwardly positioned sign and head in the opposite direction of where we went so we decided they were probably right and honestly I was pleased to not have to continue up the steep path I thought we had to tackle. The path from Torres to Serón started with pretty mellow scenery and I was a little disappointed. 5 days of walking a wide gravel road isn’t particularly appealing, but less than 15 minutes in and we were in a pretty forest which turned into meadows covered in daisies. A couple of hours later we were having a packs of break near the river and ran into 3 loud hipster american’s with, get this, BANJOS! We didn’t take snacks because we didn’t want to carry the extra weight and these guys were carrying BANJOS!! We thought this was a little strange but as we would find out later we grew to be very appreciative of these guys and their banjos. We continued on and arrived at Camping Serón at around 6pm – plenty to of time to set up tent and chill out at this amazing camp site! The camps facilities were nothing special but this campsite had the best vibe and I may even go as far as to say it had a ‘positive energy’ about it. We had a good time chatting to the Aussie couple (Laurie and Nicole) that, without knowing it, had saved us from heading in the wrong direction that morning and had passed a few times that day on the trail. I was beginning to get very excited about the back circuit at this point and Anthony had done really well and ‘said’ he was feeling better (to make me feel better I think).
Day 7 – Camping Serón to Camping Dickson (19km)
The walk from Serón to Dickson is said to take 6 hours and is supposed to be pretty easy. We set of at around 11am after our usual breakfast (although our portions had increased a little as we still had a LOT of oats left and were sick of starving ourselves) the walk was beautiful! It started out easy and I was really settling into a good rhythm when we were met with a big, steep hill. I was so unprepared for this and at one or two points I thought I was going to die! Anthony, sickness and all, managed to get up the hill fine which was good advertising for the benefits of regular physical activity! As always, despite it feeling impossible I made it up and the rest of the walk was pretty tame but the scenery was anything but! I was so thankful to be doing the back circuit and to be experiencing these amazing views with the man I love. We saw glaciers, forests, rivers and flower filled meadows all in this 19km day. The walk took longer than planned and we arrived at Dickson after 7 hours of walking. Dickson was Anthony’s favourite camp site of the trek and a close second (to Serón) for me. It is in a meadow with a small Refugio, surrounded by mountains and on the bank of a glacial lake. The photos do not even do it justice.
Day 8 – Camping Dickson to Camping Los Perros
Day 8 was a great day!! We had a bit of a sleep in and then wandered down to the lake where our Aussie friends were chilling with the American hipster trio. Anthony, Laurie and the American guys decided that it would be awesome to swim in the lake (did I mention this was a glacial lake?!?) They stripped down to shorts (one guy decided nude would be better) and entered the water. It was funny watching tough men turn into squealing kids as they the entered freezing water whilst Nicole and I laughed and filmed their adventures from the shore (having my feet in the water was enough for me and they were numb in under a minute)
After his refreshing morning swim Anthony got ready and we set off at around me midday. This was another of our easy days as we only walked four hours that day. The walk was relatively easy and through a beautiful forest which provided a nice relief from the heat of the sun which had been pretty intense the last few days. We got to Los Perros pretty early and had a chilled out afternoon And in the early evening we saw a fox walking through the camp ground – it was the first time I have ever seen a fox in the wild and it was a really great experience. We didn’t have the camera on us at the time so unfortunately we didn’t get any photos of it. We had an early dinner and an early night. I was apprehensive as the next day would be the hardest of the whole trek – the infamous John Gardner Pass.
Day 9 – Camping Los Perros to Campamento Paso (12km)
The day of ‘the pass’ had arrived. The pass is the hardest part of the trek and the part the EVERY traveller without fail will say is difficult. Hearing horror stories about people getting lost in the snow and the winds that regularly reach 110km/h in this section of the trail had me more worried than I ever would have admitted to Anthony. I honestly didn’t know what to expect in terms of views or terrain (other than steep uphill) but I had demonised this section of the trail in my mind so much that I woke up feeling pretty nervous. Thankfully we awoke to blue skies which were such a blessing and Anthony was feeling a bit better. We started out a bit earlier than usual to maximise our time with good weather and avoid the afternoon heat. The uphill started almost as soon as we left the campsite I knew it would be uphill so this part wasn’t unexpected but I didn’t expect to be walking through forest which was a nice surprise. The forest didn’t last too long (about an hour) as we were quickly above the tree line and walking on a very exposed rocky surface. As we have mentioned before rocky surfaces require a lot of concentration in order to avoid rolling ankles or falling on your face and thankfully we had no wind so that made the task of staying upright much easier. For about an hour we wandered over these rocks with a pretty mellow incline and I was starting to think that people had made up the stories of the pass being difficult. All too soon though the terrain took a steep change and we began the real ascent. The walk itself was pretty similar to the walk up to the miradore Torres but it was a lot longer and there were a few sections that required you to walk through snow which was exhausting. Whilst the walking was tough and I needed regular stops to give my burning calves a break I never once through that I could not make it or that I was going to die which was a nice surprise. Anthony made it to the top before me (as always) and was spurring me on to finish with the promise of the ‘most amazing views ever’. I reached the top and walked with Anthony toward the most awe inspiring views of my life! Glacier Grey was sprawled out in front of us like a river and with the near cloudless skies we were blessed with we could see the southern patagonian ice fields to the horizon. The Southern Patagonian Ice field is the 3rd largest collection of ice in the world (after Antarctica and Greenland). We stayed at the top of the pass for over an hour and were joined by Nicole and Laurie. I think we were all humbled by the view and so thankful for our luck with the weather. The stillness actually freaked me out a little as this region is ALWAYS windy apparently and it felt like we were in the eye of a storm or something an unnatural calmness but it really made the experience unforgettable. We finally managed to pull ourselves away from the view and started the descent. As we have mentioned the trek had been pretty hard on our knees and Anthony had a particularly sore right knee and we knew that the descent would be tough on them but again we totally underestimated it. The decent took about 3 hours and was the STEEPEST descent I have ever attempted. There were not flat section to rest; no uphill to balance it out it was all down on a slippery surface on a track that never seemed to end. Whilst it sucked immensely the views had been worth it and we arrived at Campamento Paso tired, very sore but thoroughly content. We had a great experience that evening watching the sunset over glaciar grey with Nicole Laurie and our American friends who serenaded us with their banjos whilst we sipped hot chocolate. It was one of those moments were you think to yourself…life doesn’t get any better than this!!
Day 10 – Campamento Paso to Camping Paine Grande (the home stretch) 21km
We woke up pretty stoked that it was our last day of walking. Not that we were over the walking or the trek itself but because we had slept pretty poorly as the limited camp sites at Paso meant that we were sleeping on rocks and tree roots on a site that had a pretty big slope and were a tired of the constant packing up and moving on and setting up routine that we had carried out 9 times already. We planned to walk to Paine Grande which was 21km and around 8 and a half hours. A tough day but it was to be our last and I was pretty determined to get it finished. The walk was not overly noteworthy and was reminiscent of the return leg of a day hike – trudging back to the start with no new views of anything to spur you on. Don’t get me wrong we were walking beside a pretty cool glacier most of the day but we had been so spoilt with amazing views and scenery – particularly the day before – that this sight was good but not great. We made awesome time to Refugio Grey where we met our group for lunch and spent about an hour chilling out and eating snacks we purchased from the refugio. We started again, back on the official W circuit and were immediately greeted with hoards of day hikers that we hadn’t seen for days. It was not a welcome sight and we both missed the isolation and awesomeness of the back circuit. It didn’t help that I was in a food coma from the noodles, M&Ms and biscuits I had eaten. The final leg was a 3 and a half hour stint but because we had made such good time in the first leg I honestly thought we would smash the second leg too. This unfortunately was not the case and poor Anthony copped the brunt of my frustration and fatigue. We were so close and yet so far. The last hour was really tough on me and I was so mentally fatigued. At one point I was blown by the wind, and whilst trying to correct myself, I managed to trip on a rock causing my back to spasm. Poor Anthony, he turned around and I just burst into tears, tired, sore and pretty over it at this point. The trooper that he is carried my bag (despite my protests) for a while to give my back a break and was carrying over 30kg for a km or 2! I don’t know how he does it sometimes – he was just as tired as me AND sick and still managed. The last hour of the walk was through a valley which had been ravaged by a fire so the scenery was completely boring (or maybe it was just my mood) We finally caught a glimpse of the refugio and campground and I have never been so relieved. When we put our stuff down at our camp site we had done it. We had completed the Q, walking just over 140km over 10 days and traversed Torres Del Paine as fully as possible. We had so many ups and a few downs that were quickly put into perspective as the reality of our accomplishment set in. I was so thoroughly proud of us.
That night Laurie, Nicole, the Americans (Benji, Chris and Bergen), some Dutch friends of Nic and Laurie and Anthony and I had the most relaxing time chilling out with some wine, some popcorn, some banjo music, good conversations and some star gazing as we reflected on our journey as a group and as individuals. The people that we shared the adventure of the back circuit with really made the experience so much more valuable and I will be forever grateful to them for enhancing our experience with their presence.
Day 11 – Time to go home
After the festivities of the night before our last morning in the park was pretty mellow. We took our time packing our tent for the last time and bid farewell to the American hipsters and our other friends that we had made on the trail who were continuing on to do the W part of the circuit and waited for the ferry with Nicole and Laurie. I was so happy to be heading back to civilisation to a bed with a pillow, a shower and clean clothes but we were particularly looking forward to a really big feed! Anthony and I spent hours on the trek talking and fantasising about food and it was soon going to be reality!
On the ferry Anthony said he was sad to be leaving the park and at the time I was really not. I said I enjoyed it and would recommend the trek to others but wouldn’t do it again and at the time I really believed it. But as I write this, less than a week later, I am sad reflecting on us leaving the park and would go back and do it all again tomorrow. Anthony and I get so excited for people who are starting or planning their Torres adventure and we hope they have as positive an experience as we did.
Once we arrived back in Puerto Natales we showered and got dressed for dinner and headed out to Bagueles aka ‘the Brewery’ we had heard so much about with Nicole and Laurie. We ordered burgers and after demolishing the most AMAZING BBQ bacon and cheese burgers we decided we would order the mega papas – 1 lkg hot chips covered with bacon, fried chicken and melted cheese (I know it’s genius right!) after consuming these in less than 3 minutes, 3 pitchers of beer and around 4 cokes later Nicole and Laurie’s Dutch friends arrived and ordered their meals. When their food arrived we couldn’t bear the smell and ordered another mega papas and these too were gone within minutes. It was the perfect feast for 4 hungry trekkers and we were so happy to eat foods other than soup, oats, pasta or rice!
The experiences of the trek are a lot to process and I know we will still be reminiscing on this adventure for years to come!
WE DID IT!!!