26.01.2007 - 29.01.2007 16 °C
Cathérine, a woman from Ghent I had met on the boat, and me decided to do the W in the National Park together, so we could share food, cooking material etc. On Friday afternoon, we left and arrived at the park's entrance around 6pm. By taking the wrong way, we lost half an hour, good way to start! Once we got on the right track again, we could enjoy the beautiful landscapes, climbing a fair bit, and we got to Refugio El Chileno before we knew it. From there, we got to Campamento Los Torres, the base camp and free camping to go and see the peaks the park is named after. It was quite late when I set off for the Torres, Cathérine was too tired to join me, but it was well worth it. After a steep half-hour-climb over small and big rocks I found myself looking at the Torres, not a cloud in the sky. Moreover, I was the only one up there, it was beautiful!
The second day, we got up at 4 am and walked up to the Torres for the second time, to see them shine with the early morning sun. Again, there were no clouds. The fact that we were so lucky was proved by a man who was up there for the seventh! time and it was the first time he could catch a glimpse of the Torres. Around 7 am, we got back down and I got back in the tent for a little sleep. When I woke up again, Cathérine was setting off for the Torres and I used the time I waited for her to have breakfast, to pack my stuff and to break up Cathérine's tent. By 12.15, we could finally leave. At Refugio El Chileno, I caught up with Diederik and Pieter, two Dutch blokes I had met on the boat, and we started walking together, Cathérine prefered to walk at her own tempo. We walked for a few hours, down to a lake where we could take water to cook our lunch and by the time we had finished eating, Cathérine arrived there, too. After about an hour more, we took a wrong path and walked all the way down to the lake and only there, we found out we took the wrong way. There were two options: either to walk all the way back up the steep path with loose sand or to climb an almost vertical rock wall to continue our way. We chose for the last option which was quite dangerous, seen we were wearing our rucksacks and all, but nobody fell and so we survived. Our detour took a lot of time, though, and a lot of our forces, too. We only arrived at Refugio Los Cuernos around 8 pm and Pieter and Diederik decided to stay there for the night. Because of our little detour, I was not sure any more whether Cathérine was in front of us or behind us and since we were going to meet at Campamento Italiano, I had to continue. After about 1.5 hours, I arrived, completely dead. I heated up the rest of the pasta from lunch, lying down in my tent and fell asleep before 11pm, I think I even was a bit feaverish, my forehead was glowing like crazy.
I slept for over 11 hours, but still felt like crap. Anyway, I dragged myself out of my tent, had breakfast and started walking up the Valle del Francés. I walked very slow and felt like I would not make it to the top, but I caught up with Jasik, one of my cabin mates on the boat, and started walking with him, which gave me a bit more strength. I was feeling better and better and when we got to Campamento Británico, I met up with three English and one Irish girls I had met in Bariloche. We walked to the mirador, with a beautiful view on the Valle del Francés and decided not to walk up the final bit as all the people who came back down told us it was not really worth it. So, back down to Campamento Italiano we went, I had some noodles and some coffee with Diederik and Pieter who had made it to Italiano, too, and then went to sleep.
On the fourth day, I felt quite well again and decided I wanted to finish the W that day and get back to Puerto Natales. At 5.30 am, Diederik, Pieter and me got up, had a good breakfast, packed and started walking around 7.15 am. It took us 1h45 to get to Refugio Péhoe, where Pieter and Diederik decided to take the 10 am catamaran back. I decided to walk on to the Glaciar, 11 kms from Péhoe. I had blisters on my feet, from the first day on, but really wanted to make it. They hurted very much when starting to walk, but after a while, you do not feel them that much any more, you get used to them I suppose. Anyway, just before half way, after a good climb, you can have a first look at Glaciar Grey and that is a very good stimulation, you just want to get there as soon as possible! I walked past Refugio Grey to the mirador, very close to the glaciar, the view was excellent! Everything was even better when two Chinese (twee Chineskes) appeared on a rock just above me and started doing poses and taking pictures of each other, they made me smile, yes, even laugh! The way back was marked by wind, downpours of rain and sun. The wind was in my back, so I arrived at Péhoe, completely wet from behind and dry in front, thirty kilometres later. Finally some of the Patagonian cold, rainy and windy weather I had expected. Luckily, there was a free and warm kitchen at campsite Péhoe, because I still had to wait for three hours before the catamaran would sail of at 6.30pm and take me to the bus. I had a nice pack of rice with already-made-sauce, four portions it said on the back.
Conclusion: although the W-circuit in the National Park is very touristic, it is very beautiful and at times quite though but oh so rewarding. The 80 kilometres can be done in four days, or five days if you want to take it easy. Take loads of food and if you can, take a tent to camp as prices in the park are unbelievable. Some examples: US$33 for a night in a refugio's dormitory (and take your sleeping bag, or you pay extra!), $15 for dinner and $8 for breakfast. To check your e-mails at Refugio Péhoe, you pay 1,000 Chilean pesos ($2) per fifteen minutes, in Puerto Natales, you pay 600 pesos for an hour! And from what I have heard the profits go to private investors in Santiago. A final warning, do not wear shoes that are too big or too small.