Lessons and flowers learned

2016.12.16, Day 7 Back to Hotel Las Torres

We passed out for somewhere between 12-16 hours, and woke up to a very dreary day. We’ve an extra day in the park with no plans, only that last night’s lackluster stay prompted us to return to the oasis of comfort at Hotel Las Torres. We spent the afternoon over-indulging. An herbal bath! In a Jacuzzi! With bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and mint, it was like we were being stewed...

So. We're obviously happy to have survived. But first, here's Chewie's pet project:

wildflower shots

And now things we learned and tips/logistics:

  • We were way worried about declaring food at customs. They don’t actually care.
  • Sundays are dead in many towns, so definitely don’t plan on getting anything done in Puerto Natales.
  • Grocery stores here don't carry Mountain House type of food :(.
  • Weather reports, just like the distance markers in the park, are a giant and sometimes downright lie. Unlike distance though, weather does change on a whim, and 4 seasons can come in the space of an hour. Never ever leave camp without wind and rain gear!
  • Credit cards are accepted at the Amarga entrance twice a day, when all the buses from Puerto Natales collectively arrive. Otherwise it’s CLP only.
  • Transfer between parts of the park along the main road is fairly easy. Buses come by 3 times a day, and so long as you have some kind of ticket from any company they’ll let you ride. Buses also wait for each other at connection points. It’s also possible to hitchhike.
  • TdP is fairly flat except Valle Frances and the Las Torres trails, but still, the little elevations add up over the course of a long hike. Topo map at the bottom of the page...
  • Days are super long in December, and there’s no reason to bring a host of backup lights really.
  • Refugios have sinks and freshwater for food and cooking. Toilet paper is also generally supplied. Hot showers are available for a limited number of hours each day, usually in the evening.
  • There’s no need to filter/treat water from glacial streams. Always collect upstream of trails.
  • Boots are not strictly necessary, but shoes need to be waterproof.
  • Trekking poles make a huge difference, especially in navigating hills and streams.
  • Painkillers are the real MVPs of the trip.
  • We’re actually way too tired to bother with reading at the end of each day. Or washing dishes. Or showering.
  • You can and should drop bags off at Refugios/Campamentos for day hikes. Nice ones: Paine Grande, Los Cuernos, Las Torres (basecamp). Not quite as nice: Italiano, Grey.

Refugio Paine Grande, still our favorite...

  • iPhone 7 lasts about 2 days on a full charge with Gaia (GPS) tracking on, low battery mode.
  • UV is very high even when it’s cloudy. Bring lip balm with UV protection too.
  • There aren't too many insects, other than butterflies gaaaah, in December.
  • A sunhat as well as headband would’ve been quite useful, as are gaiters (or shower caps) for wetter days.
  • The yellow mushroom balls are called Pan del Indio and are edible (when they're still on the trees). Once they fall on the ground they're overripe/rotten.
  • Don't stay at Hosteria Lago Pehoe. Don't be tempted by its location. Or the flowery carpets. Just don't.
  • Guanacos sightings are for the most part between Amarga and Conaf, along Lago Sarmiento. That's also where pumas hang, supposedly. See the bottom of the page.
  • Budget extra extra extra time and warm clothes for the top of Frances and Las Torres lookouts. If you just hang around for an hour or two the weather will change for the better. Or worse.

Aight. Here's the final breakdown:

And a day-by-day altitude (blue) and speed (red) v distance: