Patagonia. It’s a word that firms the groins of any outdoor adventurers that hear it. Endless wilderness that is just waiting to be penetrated.
The hiking hub of Patagonia is the majestic and terrifyingly named Torres del Paine [pie-neh] National Park. With the literal translation being Towers of Paine, we were expecting a far bigger metal band presence, but maybe those types just look different in North Face gear.
I love walking. I walk from my car to the supermarket. I walk from my car to the beach. I sometimes walk from my car to friends’ houses. Can’t get enough. So when we heard about the W Trek, a trek so majestic they named it after a letter of the ALPHABET, I was one keen bean.
The trek is called the W because of the path it takes, which looks like an M only upside down. It’s a walk of 100km, which I extrapolated to be approximately 2,500 trips from my car door in the Woolies carpark to the shopping cart rack, which seemed, over the course of 5 days, eminently doable.
Probably my longest post thus far was about a 1 day hike through what was essentially nothing, so I feel this 5-day epic would be best covered in a punchier Q & A style format, like that show Q & A.
So Fishy, you man of the wild, tell us more about this joint
Torres del Paine is choccas with rocky mountains, huge glaciers, and yuck blue lakes. It’s located near the bottom of Chile, at a latitude below even New Zealand, and is a 3 hour bus ride from the nearest settlement (Puerto Natales).
The centrepieces of the park are the 3 towers after which it was named. They’re huge, they’re majestic, and they’re a shit-show to get to. That salty old bitch Mother Nature has certainly hidden the Tim Tams fair at the back of the fridge. The 5 day hike culminates in a sunrise viewing of the towers from the lake at their base. An intimate and romantic moment that we would be able to share with 40 other hikers who smell like human excrement.
There’s a circuit that works its way round the park in its entirety, but at nearly 5000 trips from the car to the cart, we thought better of it.
How’d you tackle it though? I’m guessing you had a porter and slept on a down mattress you sook?
Nah not even you big old jerk! We were, like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, entirely self-sufficient. I carried the camping equipment, Sizzle carried the food, and we pack-muled our way around that sucker.
If anyone is interested as to whether I gained any semblance of calf during the trek, the answer is a strong no.
Say Fishy, what’s Mother Nature’s shittest piece of work?
This was a question that was floating around my head quite a lot while we we’re trudging through the wilderness. I came up with 3 nominations – snow, rain and wind.
Whenever I’m in this sort of selection pickle, I get a piece of graph paper and scribble out some Pros and some Cons.
Cons: It’s cold. Pros: It’s pretty.
Cons: It gets you wet. Pros: It’s good for the farmers.
Cons: It’s shit. Pros: Nothing. It’s shit.
Wind is, excusing my French, fucked. It has nothing going for it. As far as I can tell, it is there to annoy the shit out of anyone who finds themselves in it. The environmentalist in me says ‘hang on, wind power is great’. But solar is just as good and you get to rely on glorious sun. And you can SHUT UP WINDSURFERS YOU’RE THE RAZOR SCOOTERS OF THE SEA.
Shit Kit vs Fit Kit
Just as we found Coachella to be a catwalk fashion shoot of a music festival, so too was The W a never-ending parade of fresh-pressed hiking threads. It did appear that many of the trekkers were competing in a ‘most North Face logos on your person’ competition of which we somehow missed the mailbox drop.
As I said, I’ve walked places before. Usually ensuring my penis is covered is all the prep it requires. And when we were packing for a 5 day hike, that mindset hadn’t changed a hell of a lot.
So, when your Kate Moss type hikers were floating past, making the swooshy noise with their fresh-from-the-rack puffer vests, we started to feel a little like a bum sitting on the Champs-Elysees.
BUT the further we trekked, the more we were convinced that we were geniuses and the rest of the crowd were a loose tied bag of fucking spuds. A snapshot of the outlay for a crisp hiker’s wardrobe:
- North Face arse-hugging hiker’s pant – $300
- Macpac hiker’s puffer jacket – $750
- Mammut hiker’s kickarse boot – $250
- Those dicky headscarves you see these idiots wearing – $30
A snapshot of my hiking wardrobe:
- Chinos I picked up from the Cotton On specials rack – $10
- Colombian op-shop sea captain raincoat – $2
- A legit pair of sale price Nike FreeRuns – $50
- That beanie I bought off Ebay 2 years ago – $2
Comfort levels – almost identical. Aesthetic levels – when you look at those prices, who really looks like the idiot? AMIRITE?
So bloody hell Fishy, you’ve managed to skirt around talking about pretty much anything on the actual hike. Can you give us some sugar?
So as you can see by the pictures, it was nice. Like nice nice. Nature can be a beautiful, awe-inspiring beast.
We got through the first 4 days without so much as a hiccup. The tent worked, the powdered foods were surprisingly tasty, and the weather – while being particularly changeable – was never really wet or super cold.
The culmination of the hike – sunrise over the towers – was what we were both getting filthy keen for. The day prior, we had 5 hours of uphill walking to get to a spot that would allow us to attack the towers early enough. Camp was just 45 minutes from the viewpoint. While it was a little drizzly when we were setting up the tent that night, we were primed and ready.
The night then turned to grotty shit. The rain started to piss down. The wind howled. Nonetheless, we set the alarm for 4:45am and started to snooze.
WADDAYA KNOW. 4:45am comes around and some firemen still appear to be hosing our tent. Soon after though, the rain slowed. Then stopped. Siz shook me. ‘GET UP, IT’S CLEARING’ she yelled. So we kitted up and stepped outside.
Turns out the rain hadn’t stopped, it had just frozen. It was snowing. We couldn’t see more than 10 metres in front of us. But bugger it we were going to these friggin’ towers.
AND HERE THEY ARE:
I know that’s them, because Google Images told me so.
Here’s what we saw:
So we frostbit our toes for some rocks at a lake. Would I do it again? YES. The fact that we can say that we’ve been to the towers without seeing them is a better story than all these chumps with actual photos. IT’S BEEN DONE GUYS.
I like hiking. But I often hate it when I’m doing it. It’s like baking a cake. The process is tedious and annoying, but the result is beautiful and delicious. Hiking is the baking, the cake is the memories. WHAT A TERRIFIC METAPHOR.
All I can say is if you’re in the area, do Torres. And hope like hell the weather Gods like the cut of your jib.