Torre del Paines, Patagonia, Backpacking Eight Months On the Road
Through South America
By David Rice
Page Twenty Eight
The second day we headed to the next cabin, a long hike to a camp just below a huge rock wall. The park's many sheer cliffs attract world-class climbers and we passed their camps where private huts are reserved for climbers. We spent the next two days hiking along the base of a group of mountains and on the forth day we came into a beautiful glacial lake surrounded by peaks. The glacial lakes are blue with minerals and the park has many of various sizes. The blue is so intense that it looks like dye but is a natural occurrence.
On the way to the lake we came to a suspension bridge with a crossroads trail with one trail leading up the mountain. I split from the group and took the high trail where I climbed to the base of the peaks. As I walked around the cliffs I could see hanging glaciers high above. Suddenly with a roar like thunder, the glacier calved and the ice broke off and made a waterfall of crashing crystals that cascaded down the cliff and into the valley with a deafening roar.
A little more cautious now, I continued walking the base of the mountain and then came to a plateau where the wind was so intense I could barely stand. I had to sit down and prop myself against a rock or hook my arm around a gnarly tree to make a photograph. Within a few miles I had passed through several micro-climates of extremes as I hiked. Towards the end of the day I had been through enough of natures extremes; fatigued but elated, I hiked back down to the swinging bridge and then towards the lodge.
We had booked rooms at the lodge earlier and for the first time in a week we had hot showers. I stood for an eternity in the luxurious shower washing a way week of pain and Patagonian dirt.
After cleaning up we met at the bar and went to the restaurant where the staff served us a free drink and brought a dinner of soup salad and a main course which we savored after our four days of dried foods on the trail.
That evening the trip ended for some but the African man, the Brazilian woman and I stayed on to hike the next day. We headed out at dawn for a seven-hour walk to a glacier were there was a cabin in which we could spend the night.
On this hike I took a fall, the first one for me. Coming down a steep trail I stepped on a loose boulder and went head over heels down the path. Miraculously I had no injuries. I was hiking with an American man at this point, the Brazilian and African had gone ahead of us. After checking for broken bones, I was miraculously still whole and we resumed the hike without much more than a few new aches and pains.
It was raining most of the day but we saw some great scenery and waterfalls and then came to a glacial lake where the cabin was located. We stashed our packs in the hut at the edge of the lake and continued up to the glacier. We hiked the trail and suddenly we came around the corner of some rocks and there it was; Grey Glacier, the first time for me to be so close to a glacier as it calved and shed blue ice into the lake.
I was in awe of the power of nature to put it mildly. A new feeling came over me coming from my feet up through my body, a feeling hard to describe. I can only remember a few times in life being awed like that: standing in front Michelangelo's David, standing at the Devils Throat waterfall, and now, in my sixth decade of life, standing in front of a huge glacier in Patagonia and watching as it shed sheets of blue ice formed in prehistoric times.
You are never too old to be awed by the power and beauty of this world and I look forward to many more.
Little did I know that soon I would stand in front of an even larger glacier in Park Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina where Moreno Glacier would top them all but first I would have a date with the penguins.