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Alicia’s Travel Diary

Monday, 11 Mar 2019

Location: Torres del Paine, Chile

MapWe met in the lobby at 7:30am to get on the shuttle for an hour and a half ride into the park. We bumped and jostled along the gravel road and took in the incredible views of the park as the sun climbed higher in the sky. We finally arrived at a welcome center where backpackers could fill up their water, use a proper toilet and get snacks before heading out. The trail we were hiking is part of the “W” trail (because it’s shaped like a W) and many people hike the whole trail and camp along the way.

The first bit was flat and people were excited and chatting with each other. There was couple from Texas, another from Missouri, and another from Miami. There was guy from Scotland, one from California and a girl from Lebanon. As the trip went on we started referring to each other by the names of where we from. We had two guides leading us, telling us what was coming, and encouraging us to keep pressing on. One guide, Jaime, led the way while the other guide, Stephy, brought up the rear. I got to know her very well, same with Lebanon and Missouri as we were frequently at the back of the pack. Soon we started up a rocky sustained uphill climb that seemed to last forever, the guides kept us motivated by telling us about the Chilean refuge just up in the valley and that the part of the trail after this was more flat and led through forest and along a rushing river and was very beautiful, so we pressed on. At the refuge we filled our water, ate a snack and continued on. This was my favorite part of the trail, I was not expecting such a beautiful and lush forest and the trial would open up occasionally to reveal views of the river down below and peaks of the mountains around us. There were brief uphill portions, but just as they started to get tough things would ease a bit. Eventually we reached a very windy opening in the trail where we took a break before the final, grueling and treacherous ascent to the valley with the view of the base towers. The first part was steep, but sheltered, we were practically climbing up a small stream, it was rocky, but the rocks were large and solid and easily climbable. The perks of climbing a mountain next to a glacial stream is an unlimited supply of the best water you’ve ever tasted. The next, more significant portion was exposed rock that was variable in size and made for slow going as it was steep and the rocks were loose. Since the trail was all open you could look up and see people farther up the trail and it made you realize just how much further and higher you had yet to climb, ugh.

Despite March not typically being very busy, there were a lot of people on the mountain and we’d have to stop occasionally to let people pass who were going back down. All we could think about was the break and lunch we’d get at the top. Our group at this point was pretty spread out, so we knew by the time we at the end made it up, folks would be probably finishing their lunch. Eventually we made it and I found Mike, who made it only a few minutes before me and I collapsed behind a rock for shelter from the wind and got my lunch out. We all sat around a small glacial lake with several other groups of people who had made the ascent. The view of the towers was impressive and we had plenty of time to take in our surroundings and fuel up before the climb down.

The steep rocky part going down was easier than up, but felt dangerous because of how loose the rock was, near the bottom of the first steep descent a woman had broken her foot and one of our guides stayed behind to help her. The rest of us pressed on, we were all ready to collapse by the time we made it to the Chilean refuge, but we only stopped long enough to fill up our water bottles, eat a quick snack, and use the bathroom before we were on our way again. The last sustained downhill was near unbearable. The fact that they provided us a walking pole is the only thing that kept me going at this point, otherwise I’m sure one of my knees would have gave out, I would have twisted an ankle, or just straight up collapsed like those runners do at the end of a marathon. The sun was low in the sky by the time we made it back and we were greeted with cold beer and snacks by the van before the ride back to the lodge. Everyone was in good spirits as we rehashed the day’s adventures and joked that this day was going to become a fish story, every time we talked about it the distance would get greater, lol.

Here’s my ending stats from my Apple Watch:
14.88 miles
4,163 ft. Elevation gain
9 hours 8 minutes (not including lunch break)