Over the course of day four I hike with John and Bernie past Refugio Grey, take a refreshingly chilly swim in Laguna Los Patos, continue to Lago Pehoé and Campamento Paine Grande for lunch then push a few more hours to the free Campamento Italiano. The long 22.6km day sees us arrive footsore and tired to a very crowded campground where flat, rock free tent space is non-existant.
Over coffee in the early morning the three of us are excited by the idea of a rest day and agree to take it easy. At about 9am we hike, sans packs, up the valley to Campamento Britanico and the viewpoint showcasing Valle del Francés, complete with enormous glaciers and mountain peaks. For the first time the weather is overcast, and the low-slung clouds obscure the best of the views. On the way down we stop to “rest” every 10 minutes, dozing in the little patches of sunshine on offer, making the round-trip 11km take most of the day, before more coffee and food back at Italiano.
Anticipating a big one for day six I’m out of camp at 7.30am and make fantastic time around to Campamento Los Cuernos then make a big push further to Campamento Chileno for lunch. Another 45 minutes on the trail sees me arrive at the free Campamento Torres, completing the 20.4km stretch feeling great. The campground is small, uncrowded and peaceful, clearly my favorite of the hike and I’ve just finished setting up by a beautiful little stream when John and Bernie wander in, equally excited about the great hike after our refreshing rest day.
On the morning of day seven we wake before 5am, stuff our warm gear into a pack and hike 45 minutes up to watch the famous sunrise on the actual Torres (Towers). It’s wonderfully calm in the pre-dawn light and we sit quietly, anticipating the spectacle to come. Though the sky is perfectly clear and calm a band of thick black clouds on the horizon obscure the rising sun, killing any chance of us seeing the famous “red flash” on the towers. After waiting a couple of hours and seeing regular old sunshine strike the towers we call it a day and wander back to camp.
We feast on our remaining food before hot-footing it down the mountain to the waiting Jeep, and all things beyond.
A great hike with spectacular weather and new friends.
I later heard reports of relentless snow/sleet and nights of infuriating wind, making me more thoroughly appreciate the weather on our hike.