Anyway, I had a great four days hiking the 'W' route which is a shorter option than the entire circumnavigation of the massif, with all sorts of weather from sun to wind to snow and rain (all in the same day/few hours even!). No hail actually, and no tank top temperatures but I'll get that back in Texas :). The forecast looked grim as I was heading out but true to form TDP has it's own microclimate and so it's possible to have spots of good within the overall "bad" and so I got lucky! Hiked up to see the actual towers (Torres means towers in English) in the snow and dense cloud but after an impromptu blizzard blew in for a out 10 minutes the clouds started to swirl and break and there were the towers! Made even more spectacular by the mystery of the mist, the early morning sun, and the gift of being there at the moment to see it. Tears were shed.
Then back down the hill through beautiful southern beech forest alongside raging river , for the rest of the long day hiking from Refugio El Chileno (super cool staff and buena onda - good vibes) to Los Cuernos across the base of the peaks in sort of open pampas grassland with rocky outcrops and great views of the many glacial lakes in the foothills. After a cozy time hunkered in the corner of the dining area writing in my journal, dinner was great (simple meat and potatoes but filling!) and the tent and sleeping bag cozy, listening to the wind and showers outside instead of the mass of humanity inside the Refugio... There certainly was a trade off there... Comfy warm bed but with numerous people making their own noise of life... Or your own space and the wonderful peaceful alive sounds of nature but decidedly less comfy on a pad only 2mm thick...
Then up and out heading to the French Valley side hike (the middle 'leg' of the W) which ended up being closed due to too much snow on the trail. I hung out for a while chatting with two guardaparques (park rangers) sharing what it's like to work in a national park in our countries but more how nice it is to live the simple life in the backcountry. Then on again in beautiful sunny weather through the area which suffered a fire two years ago, accidental start by a visitor heating food. Really sad as that ecosystem is not adapted to fire, no lightning strikes etc, so the trees burned were hundreds of years old likely and slow to return if at all due to slow growth in low temps... And slow decomposition too so the landscape vistas will not change much without generations of time. But there are lush grasses covering the burn areas and some basal regrowth of some trees and shrubs which is good to see... But again, at the end of the day, it's a catastrophic change.
Last night at the hosteria/Refugio Paine Grande where they had a two for one special on Pisco Sours at the bar (yes, surreal, especially because the bartender was from Boulder Colorado!)
so I enjoyed my two watching the clouds swirl past the mountains and writing in my journal.
Next morning took off in the rain (discovered my boots are NOT waterproof anymore, but rejoiced in my tendency to travel with an umbrella because it is eversomuch more enjoyable hiking in the rain with some dry open space around the head!) to Lago Grey to see a glacier exiting the southern ice field, which as it happens is the largest ice mass outside of Antarctica and Greenland. My luck (or perhaps the local weather pattern) held and the clouds began to lift just as I arrived to the viewpoint overlooking the glacier from afar. It was neat to see a glacier in a different context than Antarctica... Much more craggy and broken due to melt, and with more dirt and rock (and vegetation, trees!) than ice in the area. And icebergs (well, bergy bits to be more accurate) in a lake not in the ocean. Caught a sightseeing boat to cruise the glacier then hooked up with the shuttle system to exit the park and arrive back to Puerto Natales in the evening. A quick trip but a fantastic one. Goodbye Chile and the Magellanes state (for now)
and hello Argentina! A small border crossing and we're on our way...
Love to all...
PS Chile doesn't have the monopoly on cool cafés... Here I am in El Calafate waiting for my bus to El Chalten passing my time at the librobar Borges y Alvarez... My kind of place!