Despite having lived four and a half years in one of China’s four ‘ovens’ (Nanjing), I have never jived well with heat. I’m a fan of temperatures that sit below +20 and if I had to choose, I’d take below freezing well before a +30 day. Sweating is incredibly uncomfortable, and high temperatures will drain my energy levels faster than… While I find cooling off extremely difficult, placing more clothes on to fight the cold is quite easy. I hammered the Sierra Valdiviseo largely because of it’s mild temperatures and constant broken cloud skies. My distaste of heat is probably why you’ll never find me on the beach and it will take a considerable amount of coaxing to enable me to tackle a jungle or desert trek (high altitude deserts excluded).
As the following pictures will demonstrate, my second day on the W circuit was a scorcher. A beautiful, yet absolutely exhausting trek of roughly 20 kilometers in blazing heat. Like most high volume treks, you’ll complete trek segments with roughly the same group of people. Sometimes you trek together, sometimes you leapfrog one another, sometimes you pass one another, but you will usually always end up at the same camp at the end of the day. My trekking speed is above average, but today I was literally the last person to make it to the XXXX…by about two hours. When I arrived…the first people I met happened to be this couple I had shared a row with on my flight from Houston to Bueneos Airies. I could barely hold a conversation for more than five minues…despite usually being very chipper when crossing paths with fellow travelers. They gave me a cookie, which probably seems odd, but on a multiday trek, cookies are generally selfishly horded for personal consumption. Probably the best Oreo I’ve had in my life, followed by some pretty awesome pesto/pasta concoction Dan had cooked up prior to my ultra late arrival.
The morning view from Paine Grande on the way Campapento Italiano…only about two hours away. Once arriving at Italiano, you are at the entrance to Valle Frances where the best option is to drop your bags (with the exception of water) and make the three hour return hike up the valley. Spending the night at this camp is probably the best option, however like any well managed National Park, the campsites along the circuit are often closed for maintenance, as was the case with Italiano (and Britanico…which is at the end of Valle Frances. The next approved campsite (Refugio Cuernos) was an additional two hour trek (which doesn’t seem like much, but when you are being killed by heat, it’s more like 10 hours) A large ranger presence usually means that you won’t be able to sneak your tent into a closed camp and wild camping is completely prohibited. Trekking is also prohibited in the evening, meaning you need to be on the trail before 6pm, or the rangers will hold you back. This rules would generate a considerable amount of trekker story swapping and lore over the ability to break the rules and what type of consequences that would entail. One group we were trekking with managed to swing ranger permission to stay at Italiano after arriving late from the back end of Valle Frances. However, an Israeli trekker, furious over the tent pad quality at Refugio Cuernos, freaked out at the owners and trekked the two hours back to Italiano well after the 6pm curfew. Apparently when he arrived at Italiano the rangers there made him go back to Cuernos.
Moving up Valle Frances. It’s a fairly rough trail, but water is plentiful and there is enough shade that the heat is bearable (at times). It’s certainly worth it to make the effort and go right to the back end.
Espada Peak (2500m). Not particularly tall by any means, but in the case of Torres del Paine, height does not equal magnificence.
The granite peaks. I haven’t seen blue skies like this since I was in Nepal.
Looking down Valle Frances (French Valley…if you haven’t figured that out yet).
The dying Glacier del Frances.
Cook tent at Refugio Cuernos.
*I have been steadily rebuilding my photo catalogue and I’ve managed to reinstall photos up to my travels in Tibet. About a month ago the links bizarrely ceased functioning. I have yet to find a solution.