Team looking fresh at Puerto Natales bus terminal
We took the morning bus from Puerto Natales into Torres Del Paine National park (about 2 hours). There was a short stop for toilets before the longer stop at park entrance for registration and video briefing. The CONAF (Corporation Nacional Forestal) is stricter about the fire hazards within the national park after the last disaster end 2011.
While waiting for the many hikers to get processed through, it gave us a brief moment to catch our first glimpse of the famous granite towers. Plenty of cloud cover, which added to our fears for the worst since the weather forecast for next few days ain’t pretty.
Finally we reach our end point at Pudeto to catch the 12noon catamaran ride for our trail head. Buses are timed properly so that passengers get unloaded for the catamaran transfer. Good time to have some lunch while waiting. Also better idea to be at the back of the queue to ensure your backpacks don’t get crushed under everyone else, as all packs are piled into a designated area inside catamaran.
Lining up to board the catamaran
View from catamaran ride
The catamaran ride was scenic as we had a nice view of the mountains behind us. After disembarking, we proceeded to the Guarderia Paine Grande where all hikers were issued a trail pass to be stamped on & park rules. And then we are off!
Our first day of hiking was pleasant. We encountered more bushes and colourful wildflowers during the first 2 hours as compared to rest of the trek. After a steep climb, we were rewarded by the sight of Lago Grey. Walking with the lake on our left, the winds picked up because of the open areas and it was indeed a struggle to move ahead with our heavy loads. When I saw the enormous Glaciar Grey in front, my spirits soared as I knew campsite was nearby.
First sign of civilization was Refugio Grey, and the official Campamento Grey was still some steps ahead. Campsite was on big open grounds, with the mountains providing shelter on the east. One need to present our trail passes and pays for the camping fees, getting a sticker in return which needs to be displayed on our tent (usually guy lines in the front).
After pitching up our tents, there was still time and daylight for a short walk to the viewing point of Glacier Grey. We even managed to walk down to a little bay where the smaller ice blocks congregated. Too cloudy to view the top of the glacier, but at least we were blessed with a dry hiking day.
Icy bits from Glaciar Grey
Surprised to find out we get shower facilities, so it was refreshing to wash off the sweat and dirt from our day’s hike. As there was only 2 shower cubicles in the female toilet, it was definitely a long wait before my turn came up (luckily there was still hot water left)
Camp rules dictated that all cooking must be done in designated area. At Campamento Grey, it was a small building with 3 rows of benches and tables. Not much room to fit everybody, so again another wait before dinner gets going. If you are hungry, a better idea would be to cook your meals early and enjoy your showers thereafter.
Campamento Grey in the early morning hours