Day 72 – Torres del Paine Day 2 – Glacier Grey Redemption
Location: Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Date: Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Redemption comes in many forms. For some, it’s a twelve-step program. For other’s it’s a Jew nailed to some lumber. For others, it’s hair extensions, a line about Royale with Cheese, and a twist with Uma Thurman.
For me–here in Torres del Paine’s “W” trail–redemption came in two forms. First, the weather did not spend all day kicking me in the face. Second, I spent all day not carrying the giant backpack.
Admittedly, after yesterday’s rain debacle, expectations were low. Very low. Lower than the expectations of the next Uwe Boll gamer exploitation movie.
The seven-hour round trip hike up from base camp at Campamiento Pehue to Glacier Grey was mostly pleasant. Even cloud cover and a light drizzle at the start couldn’t dampen the mood. More than anything, though, we were not soaked to the bone or freezing to death or burdened with a bag that weighs more than most six-year-olds.
It helped a lot that the scenery was gorgeous. Of course, most scenery is when it’s not covered in rain.
Nearing the base of the glacier, I discovered that my water bottles were empty. Not to worry. I trudged down to the edge of the glacier lake and refilled both with the cleanest, crispest water on earth. No wonder, considering the water molecules that filled my container had spent the last few thousand years trapped in a block of ice the size of some African countries. The water wasn’t clear—in fact, it was more a cloudy blue—but perhaps that’s what gave the water it’s delicious flavor. And I can tell you this much: it was cold.
At the hike briefing, the presenter had said that the weather in this part of Patagonia was so erratic because of the glacier. As part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field (second largest in the world), the guy claimed that Glacier Grey actually “created weather.”
Now, this sounded silly to me. What doesn’t “create” weather? Doesn’t a butterfly that flaps its wings in London sometimes mean the difference between clear skies in Miami or a hurricane? Doesn’t that butterfly, in a sense, “create” weather?
Walking back down from Glacier Grey, I realized what the guy meant. Small things like butterflies may “create” weather, but some butterflies are bigger than others. And let me tell you, Glacier Grey is one hell of a butterfly –the kind whose wings span 12 miles and whose wing beats cause 90 mile per hour winds. It’s no exaggeration to say that, coming down from the glacier over the mountain pass, if I’d been wearing a cape (common occurrence) and jumped, the wind at my back would have carried me twenty feet before my feet (or face) hit the ground.
So it turns out that trekking isn’t so bad so long as the weather’s nice and you’re not carrying a giant bag filled with five days of food, a tent, and all your clothes—basically, if you can transform trekking into a normal walk.
Bottom line: Trekking may have been redeemed from the bottom of the rubbish bin, but I’m still not sold on it being “fun”.
GALLERY: Click through to see a couple more pics of the hike, including one of Mervyn making a silly face while battling hypothermia.