My brother Jake came to visit for a week a few weeks back and we decided to go south to Patagonia since he loves hiking. My friend Tiago came along and we had a great time exploring the amazing beauty of the Magallenes Province.
We took a 3.5 hour flight south to Punta Arenas and then a 4 hour bus to Puerto Natales. Since we had some no planning and it was the low season, we needed up having to rent a jeep instead of taking the buses. We stayed over in Puerto Natales then set out really early to get to the park. We drove in on a wet, gray day and went past deep blue water and glacier carved landscapes. We arrived at the edge of Lago Pehoé and took the catamaran across the incredibly smooth water. The weather was warm, but rainy and the water was an amazing shade of light blue.
We arrived to the other side and checked into a refugio. It was super nice, but seemed to be expensive, about $50 per night for a bed, but the location was unreal. We walked down the path, through the rain down toward Galcier Grey. Jake and I had to turn around, as it was getting dark, so we didn’t get a close up look at the glacier, but the walk was beautiful. We got back and ate dinner in the warm lodge.
We slept in the next day and woke up to amazing weather. It was a little cooler, but sunny and clear. We took the ferry across the lake, got back in the jeep and drove across crappy roads toward the base of Torres del Paine. The water was unlike any other color I’ve seen, except maybe in the Swiss Alps.
We set off up the path at about 215pm with the goal of walking about 1.5 hours, dropping off our bags at the refugio and then going another 2.5 hours to the top, then back 2 hours down. After one hour, we realized that the refugio was closed for winter and that if we wanted to see the top, we’d have to go all the way up and down before about 8pm when it got dark. A slight hitch in the plan, so we booked it and did a fast pace up and back down. We knew we’d cut it close, but it was our last day so we were willing to push it.
The walk was beautiful. A combo of the pacific northwest and the great smokey mountains, but bigger and more colorful. It was fall, so the trees were red, orange and green. We crossed glacial mountain streams on small wooden bridges and went up and down the small hills through the forrest. We were moving fast and with our packs, so it was pretty tiring. The last hour was 300 meters up in about 1km. It was super steep. After struggling for a bit, I had to take my pack off and walk to the top.
We got to the top and saw the torres with a small glacier lake below. It was a little cloudy, so we didnt see all of it at once, but it was completely worth it. It was amazing to hear the water rushing down the mountain sides directly from the melting glaciers. We hustled back down the valley as the light was beginning to fade. We had to make sure we were mostly out off the trail by the time it got dark since we didn’t have any big lights with us. The sun was setting over the valley and we were getting close to the bottom. The moon rose and the stars were beautiful as we walked the last 20 minutes in the dark. My body ached from the pace, the pack and generally being used to living in the city.
Patagonia is a beautiful special place. I wish I had more time to explore and I would love to come back some day and see the rest of the park, Calafate, Bariloche and the rest of Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. We drove back to Natales and ate a lamb grill while waiting for the bus. The town is basically base camp with tons of coffee shops, restaurants and places to buy/rent gear. It was a cool town, but we didn’t get to see much. It was a quick trip to Patagonia, about as short as we could do it. I really enjoyed going out of season, as the weather was perfect for hiking and there were hardly any people. It would have been nice to do a full 5-6 days, but with 3 days actually in the park, it was definitely worth it. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.