Day 4. Los Perros to Campsite Grey.
The rangers made everyone who hikes to Grey leave at 7am. Supposedly it will take 11h, but it’s only 14km and the pass is just at 1200m elevation – for me not such a big deal but many others are a bit scared… I get up at 6.15am, I didn’t sleep well and am awake before my alarm rings. Its still very dark, sunrise is just around 8am. But the rain from last night is gone and I can see the stars. I set out in the forest, trying hard to always keep to the trail, loosing it in the darkness is pretty bad. It’s much warmer than I expected and I am soon sweating. After an hour or so I am above the treeline, the morning light starts to appear but the sun will still take a while before its getting over the mountains. The trail is now easy to find and to walk, out of the forest there is enough light. It’s a perfectly clear sky and there’s no wind at all. I can’t believe how lucky I am again, usually it’s heavy wind and often rain, but I can now see the mountains glowing and admire the sunrise.
Shortly after I arrive already at the pass, it took just 2h. And I am stunned. In front of me it’s white everywhere – enormous glacier Grey spreads out below the pass. Even though I have been to Antarctica, this is one of the most stunning sights, being high above the glacier now and seeing how huge it is. I am finally very happy that I went to do the Q Circuit, I had had doughts about it but this is worth all the other crowded parts. And only a handful of other hikers around, most are slower, not used to hiking.
Then it’s a long way down on the other side of the pass, steep and mainly in the forest. It’s a pity we can’t see much of the glacier for a long time, but just after the Paso campsite, plenty of miradors allow to rest and admire the glacier. At the first one I take a lunch break, it’s only 11.30am but I am starving.
After half an hour I continue, but not too far when I find a perfect spot, only me and the glacier. I even take a short nap before I finally continue. Now it’s mainly easy going with some more short stops before I reach Grey campsite around 3pm.
When I want to set up my tent, I realise that I must have forgotten my bag of stakes at the last campsite. Packing up in the dark I probably didn’t see it. That’s a big problem, as I don’t have a frame I really need stakes. I ask around and I am donated one stake and I find one more on the ground. When the shop and registration opens, I ask for help and luckily they give me a set of stakes which are rather huge heavy nails, but the, work perfectly and it’s for free. Lucky again.
Showers open only at 6pm so I walk to another glacier viewpoint, this time from the lake. It’s still a beautiful day although it’s getting colder now, sitting in the sun and writing my blog. I am very thankful for being here, watching nature’s incredible sights in these perfect conditions.
Day 5. Camping Grey to Camping Italiano + Mirador Britanico.
I can hear the glacier ice cracking off throughout the night when I wake up. Today I am leaving early again before 8am, still in the dark foggy morning. The trail to Paine Grande and then Camping Italiano will be easy. The first hour takes me along Laguna Grey with nice views back to the glacier.
I hike through hilly terrain with dead trees. They were burnt in a big fire just a few years ago, its a shame what humans can do (accidentally but still…) to the nature. Coming the opposite direction, the Dutch couple I met in Puerto Williams, Puerto Natales and on the campamento Centrale. We have a chat, they also plan to go to El Calafate and El Chaltén next.
Then the trail leads through a nice little valley and suddenly I can see the big Paine Grande Lodge. I take a short rest here before continuing around 12am.
Now on to camping Italiano. The trail is again easy and just slightly up and down. The clouds are slowly disappearing. I feel very tired and decide that I will just walk to the campsite but not up to the viewpoint, another 6km up (plus back down).
But when I arrive at 2pm at the campsite, the ranger tells me it’s stunning and I should go to the Britanico lookout even though it’s 2h30 one way. So I have a quick lunch and set up my tent where I leave my gear. Up and up I walk, cross rivers, climb up roots, get an amazing view at the Val de Frances lookout. The sun is now shining and almost no clouds left, perfect!
I walk fast now, realising it might actually take me at least 2h to get to Britanico (so far I was always much faster than the indicated time). It’s getting flatter and I can see the backside of the famous Las Torres I saw from the opposite side on my first day. They seem much more impressive from here, wider, bigger, higher. And above the colourful automn trees with the sunshine it’s just beautiful.
I walk and walk and start to scramble up some boulders when I ran into another couple I know, the Austrians from the Antarctica cruise. Definitely, this country is too small 😉 We have a chat and say goodbye till dinner. I am just 2 minutes from the lookout now. And what a lookout. It’s like a huge round valley with about 3/4 of a circle surrounded by high towering mountains. Wow. Best of all, almost everyone left and it’s just me and a chilean guy left to admire the beauty in silence and taking pictures of each other.
I don’t stay too long though, I am hungry and tired and it’s a long way back down. In the sunset everything gets more beautiful and I am happy I can get some glimpses through the forest.
At 7pm I am back in the camp, grab my dinner and cook in front of the crowded cooking shelter. In Torres del Paine you can only cook in the designated areas, not just anywhere or from your tent. Afterwards I crash in my tent, reading just a bit before sleeping, exhausted after my longest hiking day for a while.
Day 6. Camping Italiano to Laguna Armaga.
Another difficult night, I should probably buy a new sleeping pad but I didn’t find a good one yet. The ice cracking felt a bit scary at night and I am already awake before my alarm rings. I start hiking before 8am, still rather dark but clear sky and I walk into a perfect sunrise.
18km are ahead of me today, again not particularly difficult and not much altitude difference. I enjoy the early morning light and silence as not many hikers are out there yet. Not even half an hour to the Frances campsite and one hour to Los Cuernos.
On and on I walk, the trail so easy now that my feet walk on their own and I listen to music, watch the landscape and enjoy the sunshine. The hours pass and before I can realise it, I already see the Las Torres Hotel, the endpoint of the circuit for me. Plenty of other hikers are already around as I arrive at 12.30pm, eating snacks or drinking beer from the kiosk. The shuttle bus will leave one hour later, I have plenty of time to relax. Everyone is happy about the weather and happy to have made it, looking forward to a shower and fresh food in Puerto Natales. After waiting and sitting in the bus it will be 4.30pm only till I finally reach the town.