Outdoor & Landscapes, People & Culture

A Winter in Patagonia – Pt.2

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Warning: Long post…Lots of Pictures.

August 8th, 2014

8:15 AM Local Time

Hostel Maria Jose

The things that have happened in the last two days have been one part amazing and two parts crazy. There’s absolutely no one here in Puerto Natales to take us anywhere. It seems like getting to places requires you to pull a few teeth. It’s a miracle that we even got this far. We’ve been using the past few days to stage our gear and figure stuff out at this weird hostel on the eastern outskirts of town – The Maria Jose. So weird…it’s next to this cemetery and all the dogs congregate there at night. Josh and I will try and gather the last of our stuff and see if we can hitch a ride somehow to Torres Del Paine.

Gear shop:

Manuel Bulnes 497, Arturo Prat 297, Puerto Natales, Chile – Hopefully they are open.

Street Map of Puerto Natales – we stayed at the Maria Jose the first few nights. (Moon.com)


General Map of the region. Torres del Paine is to the north-west of Puerto Natales. (Lonely Planet)

August 9th, 2014

10:43 PM Local Time

Hostel Maria Jose

We got lucky. At a neighboring hostel, we were able to arrange a ride up to the park, it was pretty expensive, but it’s all they could do this time of the year. It wasn’t all bad because that’s where we met Captain Andy, Captain Smith, and Major Matt. Along with their gals, they were driving from Ushuaia to Alaska – all in a london taxi covered in faux Dalmatian fur. We spent the night drinking and talking about all the crazy stuff they’ve gotten into to reach this point. Tuk-tuk races across india, Mongolian rallies in a souped up bus, and this hilarious story of them paddling a Batman moon bounce. So awesome. We’ll need to wake up tomorrow at 4:00 AM to catch our ride out of town to Torres del Paine. Hopefully, we won’t be too tired…or hungover. I hope those British dudes get to where they need to go.


Trail map of Torres Del Paine. We had originally planned to do the “Q”, but were denied by the rangers due to inclement weather.

August 10th, 2014

8:13 AM

Guarderia Laguna Verda

We just made it to Torres Del Paine. Hanging out at the Guarderia Laguna Verde getting our things together. This morning we got up and met the bus driver…which ended up not being a bus, but some sort of passenger van from the 60s. It’s a miracle we even made it up here in the snow. I thought we would die with every turn and pothole we hit. We’re up here with some Russian chick we met this morning. It seems like she didn’t bring any gear and was going to rent it? Mmm…I don’t think she realized that nothing is open. Even the ranger told her they wouldn’t allow her to stay unless she had the necessary equipment. A Chilean guy going through offered to take her with him…God bless him because I don’t know what will happen to her if she doesn’t have a tent or sleeping bag at the least. Anyway, we’re going to start hiking into the hotel and start from there. Hopefully we can reach Camp Chileno by night fall. Supposedly a bad storm is coming in tonight…yikes.


Evidence and scars of the of the 2012 fire caused by an irresponsible camper still remains.
The vast Patagonian landscapes leave you in awe as your eye travels the horizon.

August 10th, 2014

2:36 PM

Trail up to Refugio Chileno

It took us a lot longer to get to the hostel. The hostel is completely deserted for the winter. Everything is boarded up and nothing is open. It’s pretty nice. Absolutely no one to bother you. We just had a pack of Mountain House each and now we’re going to be making another 2.5 to 3 hour trek up to Refugio Chileno.

Personal note: This instant coffee we got taste like crap.


Making our way to Refugio Chileno.
Taking a break on the way up to Refugio Chileno.

August 10th, 2014

11:00 PM

Refugio Chileno

So…we didn’t get too far today. I’m sitting here right now at Camp Chileno. We were on our way through when we met a guy named Victor. Awesome dude. He mans the refuge during the winter in case of emergencies or to provide shelter to people in the park in the event of bad weather. We were the latter…we were hiking through when we heard someone from behind us. “Psstttt!Chicos!” He waved us into the refugio that we thought had been closed for the winter. He then mentioned that a bad snowstorm was coming down the mountains and we would not be able to make it safely to the next camp…which wasn’t even open anyway.

Victor showed us around the refugio and told us we had been the only ones he’s seen in a couple of days. Must have been lonely. He prepared a lentil and chicken stew for us and we sat down together to enjoy a nice hot meal. Apparently, horses bring up around 100 pounds of food for him every week…so there was no such thing as rationing tonight. We feast.


Trails leading up to the Mirador and Nieto were packed with snow.

August 11th, 2014

Not sure what time it is…

Refugio Chileno

Woke up this morning a little sore. I think we’ll be eating breakfast and heading out to climb up to the mirador. It’s colder than hell in here. I need some coffee.


The trails quickly disappeared once we got above the tree line.
Getting close! The snow was something we truly underestimated.
Taking a break above the Mirador.
Making our way back to Chileno. The guide and two clients are seen here as specks south-east of my right hiking pole.

August 12th, 2014

10:35 PM Local Time

Refugio Chileno

The past two days have been great. Victor really saved our butts by making us stay in the refugio. The snow on the trails this morning was above our waistline. The trail markers were buried deep under the snow. At some point we had to poke around with our hiking poles just to find a rock to step on. What was originally a 2 hour trek turned into an all day ordeal. We ended up making the decision to climb Nieto which offered us an amazing view of the torres. It seems like guide-only trails offer the best seats in the house. On our way down we met a guide bringing two Canadian women up the trails and none other than the man who took in the Russian chick.They had given up and headed back to the refugio. I almost forgot to mention…once we got back to the refugio the Chilean man told us that “The russian girl didn’t make it…” Holy crap. I couldn’t believe it. I guess the Patagonian winters here are no joke.

We’ve been sitting by the fire for most of the day. Victor introduced us to an herbal tea called Mate, which we happily passed around like a peace pipe while sharing stories. We’ve been conversing with Victor for the past few nights on many topics. Materialism, global politics, melting glaciers, and even women. It seems like humans have many things in common and share a great interconnection…regardless of their place on Earth and their nationalities. We were definitely on the same page with him. It seems like broken Spanish and a little Spanish-English dictionary goes quite far around a fireplace. Victor told us that he will come visit us once he gets off the mountain and we’ll go grab a drink. What a dude…

We’ll be leaving early tomorrow morning.


Snow, sun, and the beautiful mountains.


The sticker wall at Refugio Chileno.
Bridge back to the hostel/hotel.
Day one of waiting on our ride…who never showed up.
A pissed off Josh.

August 14th, 2014

9:15 AM Local Time

Steps of Guarderia Laguna Verde

Well…we’ve been stuck at the park since we left the refugio to hike down to meet our ride. There seems to have been a miscommunication with us, the rangers that Victor radioed, the hostel, and then the bus driver. We’ve waited two days….still nothing. We had hiked down to the hostel with two MIT kids that were doing a day visit. It seems like they needed to get off the mountains too. A couple of construction workers took pity on us and let us stay in their huts for a night after reports of cougars coming down from the mountains. The bunks were a little cramped and damp, but we were just glad to have a roof over our heads that night.

We did, however, get to go see Lago Nordenskold which was absolutely amazing. Not sure if I would want to spend another night out in the tent with the cougars though….After another frustrating night of waiting for the bus driver…who never showed…again. We decided to hike back out to the ranger station – which is where I’m sitting now. Breakfast and coffee on the steps as the sun rises…I guess life isn’t too bad right about now. After I’m done eating…we should probably find a way back into town….



Lago Nordenskjold in the distance.


Overlooking Lago Nodernskjold. The conditions on the trails were so bad that construction workers had to be boated across the lake.



Sunrise while hiking back to the ranger post. After two days of our ride not showing, we decided to take matters into our own hands.


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