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DAY ONE- Lago Pehoe to Campamento Los Guardas 15km

Take two, and we were ready with 15mins to spare.  It was raining lightly when we arrived, and it was a dreary wait for the ferry to take us across the lake to the start of the hike.

We decided, along with a french couple who had been staying at hostel Melinda´s, to mix up the usual route and (in retrospect) make it a hell of a lot harder to complete the W trek in four days, as we had planned.  This was mainly because the usual route makes use of all the paid refugio´s and camping areas, and after paying $30 for the park entry we were all keen to save some cash, escape the crowds on the main route and head for the free camp areas.

So rather than leaving our packs at the camp site as soon as we stepped off the ferry,  we hiked about 7 hours up to Glacier Grey, ascending all the way, with a steep climb to the camp ground hidden in the trees beside the glacier.  We arrived at dusk, with just enough time to set up the tent and admire the fading light on the magnificent glacier before cooking and stumbling into bed.

DAY TWO- to Campamento Italiano, 22.6km

The next day, the  27th March was my 31st birthday. The lookout close to the camp site was so beautiful the evening before that we decided to get up for sunrise and have breakfast as the sun warmed the ice river. It was absolutely stunning with the glacier and dramatic mountains looming above it in one direction, and the soft, still lake opposing it.  We both had fun taking photos and watching the colours change and fade.

After retracing our steps back down the valley, leap-hopping with the French couple, we hit the ferry stop again and continued walking along the lake to the wooded Campamento Italia, the second free camp site. It was a nice, but unremarkable walk and we arrived with enough light to set up and cook – no special birthday meal im afraid- pasta and salami, and a pice of chocolate for desert.

DAY THREE – Campamento Italiano- Valle de Frances-to Refugio Las Torres,  34km

We realised at this stage that we had a really long way to go  if we were going to make the bus and accommodation that we had booked in a few days time.  We had planned to get up before dawn to walk the first section up and down the valley with out packs quickly, but made it out around 7.30 just as the sun was taking the coolness from the air.

This middle valley was completely different from the glacier views of the previous day. The Valle de Frances is surrounded by snowcaped jagged grey peaks, a striking contrast to the autumn colours on the trees below. We were the first ones up and walking, and so mistakenly went past the lookout point at the base of the valley, and started walking directly upwards towards the pass. We realised our mistake after much rock scrambling, and finally  decided to cut our losses, and continue on the days marathon effort back down the mountain.

We reached the next refugio at about 6pm. Adam talked me into continuing to the next and final camp ground, a further 11km,  promising a romantic supper while watching a beautiful sunset over the lake. The walk was rather special. We followed the edge of the glassy lake for as long as the light held. The colours in the hills, sky and reflected in the water were just magical, and as everyone else was well and truly settled for the evening, we had it all to ourselves. After our well deserved supper of salami, cheese and biscuits, watching some strange circular clouds turn luminous pink, we turned on our trusty head lamps and walked on.

Another hour or so and it was getting tough. We both faded into remote control mode for the last hour, and stumbled into the campsite at 10.30pm, completely exhausted, foot sore, and very glad to have a hot shower and fall into bed.

DAY FOUR – Las Torres- 18km

We had grand plans the day before to start walking at 4am in order to see the Torres (mountain peaks) at sunrise, as it is supposed to be spectacular, but clearly there was no way that was going to happen on a few hours sleep. Instead, we watched the Torres change colour from the camp, while enjoying a leisurely breakfast.

It was a very slow walk up the final valley.  It took about 7 hours (no packs), and again was very different from the other two, quite barren with a river running at the base of the valley.  The Torres were a steep climb again to the look out spot, and were three rugged rocky points above a aqua green lake.

On the way back we were entertained by a condor searching for food, and doing loops over our heads.  A stunning black, huge bird with white tipped wings.

I was very relieved to  be at the base again, and to have completed the W, or the `Super W´ as we now refer to our route. A stunning hike, but we really needed one more day to complete it at a more leisurely pace. Anyone in the area is well advised to strap a pack on and hike away.

See the hiking maps page for more details and a suggested route.


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