Saturday, December 02, 2006


Our first morning waking up in the Torres del Paine National Park was an amazingly beautiful and inspiring morning.
Camp Pehoe in morning

There was a pretty strong wind sweeping across the lake and through our campground, though.
Pehoe in morning

The original agenda for this morning according to the itinerary was pretty mellow. The plan for the group was a simple hike from Pehoe to the Italian Camp and back. I read the map as saying this was a 5.5K hike that would take around 2 hours. Now, even had our group been way out of shape this seemed like a glacial pace for a hike that had no real elevation gain. So, when I awoke in the morning, I decided the best thing to do would be to pre-run the trail before breakfast to get an idea if this was really a valid estimate (and to get in a decent workout if it really was all we did). Somewhere around 35 minutes into the run I knew something was up as even if my pace estimate on this nice rolling hill trail was WAY off, I should have been at the camp by then. Somewhere around 48 minutes I arrived. I quickly used the facilities and high tailed it back towards Pehoe as I didn't want to miss breakfast! I finished the run a little over an hour and 38 minutes feeling that the map must have been way off and it might take closer to two hours for the hike than I originally thought. Well, they happened to have a map at the entrance to the refuge which showed very clearly that the trail between Pehoe and Campo Italiano was 7.6K and not the 5.5K which I somehow read. Anyway, it was an excellent run and I was primed for my pre-hike breakfast.

Hiking a trail that you have just previously run is actually a pretty good way to do it in my opinion. When I run a trail, I obviously don't get to take in all of the sights, but I catch enough of a glimpse here and there to make quick mental notes like "wow...that's cool...check that out..." This way, when I return to hike the trail I can take a more leisurely pace and really look forward to enjoying all the views I previously only glimpsed.

Our hike to the Italian Camp was excellent. We especially enjoyed watching various small avalanches on the upper snow fields and catching more and more amazing views of the lakes.
Snow covered mounts
On the trail
Pehoe from trail

Just before Italian Camp there is this great swinging bridge that is only supposed to have 2 people on it at a time. This spans a glacier fed river that runs down to the lake. This river is the also marks the entrance to the French Valley.
Bridge at Italiano
French River

We made Italian Camp in around 1.5 hrs and everyone was enjoying the excellent weather and feeling good. We decided to continue up to British Camp which would add another 10K round trip. This section also included some decent elevation gain and even more amazing view points. The further up we went the bluer the lakes looked, the stronger the rivers ran and the more majestic the mountains seemed to be.
High view of Pehoe
Rushing waterfall
Amazing snow fields
Getting close to the Cuernos
Avalanch location
Me at lunch

Just before British Camp there is a great open rocky plane that has incredible 360-degree views.
360 view 1
360 view 3
360 view 2
Torres through the trees

We then entered the woods which is were the rather primitive campground is located.
Almost to Britanico
Campo Britanico

There was some debate amongst the group about continuing on to an even further viewpoint. It seemed like most of the group was ready to head back so Robin and I decided to make a run of it. He hadn't gotten a run in that day and I was game for making it a big day. We ran most of the way down (some sections are not runnable or not safely runnable).

It turns out that some of the group did continue on to the final viewpoint while others headed back after Robin and I. The viewpoint was also said to be even more amazing, but I had no regrets. I'd had my fill for the day. Running, hiking, and then running again in the most beautiful land my eyes had ever seen. I was content to just sit and relax the rest of the afternoon.

Final talley:
Morning run: ~15.2K
Hike to Campo Britanico: ~13.2K
Run back from Britanico: ~13.2K
TOTAL: 41.6K

Just shy of a marathon. I thought about doing a couple laps around camp to make it complete, but somehow a cold beer and some quiet time with my journal seemed a better end to the day.

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