Tom had wanted to hike Torres in winter after reading a Guardian article about doing just that. The writers had stayed in an eco village in the park and enjoyed numerous other luxuries – we planned on roughing it a bit more, but a night in the eco-village had to be worked in! That is, until we found out it was not open – the Guardian may have been using some editorial licence in the definition of the term ‘winter’. However, the fact of the park being fairly quiet at this time of year was probably not going to be to far off the mark, and as it turned out we passed a total of ten other people over the four days. This is unlike the summer when the park is full to bursting! The other supposed advantage of visiting in winter is that the infamous Patagonian winds are less prevalent at this time of year, although it can be bloody cold… We had mostly blue skies and no wind for the duration and it wasn’t even that cold – well, cold enough so that mud on the trail was frozen, but that definitely has it’s advantages.
We planned to hike the “W” route at Torres as the good weather should last long enough for us to complete it, and the full 10 day hike is not open in winter. We eventually got to the base camp after a few false starts (the Parks board only accept cash payment, imagine that? And they don’t have an ATM to hand – I thought this was a civilised country?!!!) but it did give us time to realise we didn’t need to pitch a tent every night and could cheat and use Steve for one – the “W” route is so named as the trail follows roughly that shape, and it was possible to go up and down one leg in a day. A wood burning stove and comfy mattress over roughing it in a tent? Don’t mind if I do… Who needs an eco-village eh?
The first leg of the trail took us up to view the Torres themselves, which is a hit or miss affair as they are often cloaked in cloud. One of the major benefits of doing this walk in the winter is you avoid all the crowds which can also get in the way of the view, so when we arrived at the lookout point and were the only people there just as the clouds started lifting we felt very lucky indeed.
Day two had us setting out with full gear with an aim to get to Glacier Grey. This was the furthest point of the route, and logically we had decided to get the longest hike over as early as possible as aches were already setting in. Reading this back it doesn’t really make logical sense but it did then, thankfully Tom remembered that he had a knee brace in his sack this time!
What can I say about Torres? Quite simply, it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We were so very lucky to be blessed with perfect weather just for those few days.
We elected to skip the middle leg of the W as we were a bit slower than we would’ve like to be, and could view the impressive glaciers from the path – they had been crashing down over the days we were there and make a pretty incredible sound! It was great to get back to Steve though, knowing we were only about an hour away from a much needed hot shower and a slap up meal. We threw all our kit in the back and jumped in the front, turned the key and…nothing. I cannot describe how awful the sound of an engine failing to start is, particularly when you are miles away from civilisation and have no way to call for assistance! This was where we got the full value of Tom’s stint as a mechanic’s apprentice. On advice we carried a spare fuel filter with us, and Tom just hoped that the only problem was that it needed changing after probably slight dubious Bolivian fuel – and thankfully knew how to do this. Even more thankfully, this seemed to do the trick and we were able to head off to Puerto Natales and probably the best shower I have ever had.