“Help Me”, “Help”
Sometime in the middle of the night we were all woken up by someone crying “help me” “help”. Delirious from sleep it took us a while to determine that the source of the call for help was from one of the New Yorkers on the bottom bunk. At first it seemed like she was having a nightmare but then her fellow New Yorker got up and asked “did you fall again?”. Sounds like this wasn’t the first time this happened. It turned out that she did have a nightmare but it was still a really creepy way to be woken up.
Night terrors aside we still managed to get up at a reasonable hour to get ready for our hike to Refugio Cuernos at the heart of the W. The sun was out but there were clouds out in the horizon that looked dark and threatening. We had to hike uphill out of the valley before we started the descent down the mountainside towards Las Torres area.
After 45 minutes we reached a fork on the trail where a sign told us to go right to take the shortcut to Los Cuernos (the horns).
The trail took us toward a small lake before turning westward along the shore of Lake Nordenskjöld. Except for the low clouds obsuring the mountain tops we got great views of the surrounding scenery and the deep turquoise lake below. Occasionally snow-covered mountains made an appearance when the clouds moved out of the way.
It was at this point the trail got really muddy and we had to cross a succession of streams. It was slow going as we desperately tried to avoid getting our feet muddy and wet. It soon become an exercise in futility.
Blowin’ In The Wind
Eventually the weather turned and a light rain began to fall. It was time to break out the rain gear and the backpack covers. We continued on the muddy path following the lake shore and crossing more streams and puddles. It was at one big stream crossing where our feet got totally submerged that we just gave up with the charade of keeping our feet dry.
The trail was mostly flat with some gradual uphill and one very steep continuous climb that almost did D in. WTH? This leg of the trail was suppose to be “moderate”.
At the top we stopped off to admire the view.
With the light rain moving in, most formations were clouded over but we were still able to see the back side of Los Cuernos.
As we got closer to the lake and to our Refugio, we noticed waves of water rising and dancing across the lake. We continued hiking as we watched the strong winds whip up the water creating lines of white water and high spray. When the powerful gusts of wind slammed into us and almost knocked us over, we realized what we were just about to walk into. We had to brace ourselves against the side of the mountain and stop as the wind kept pushing us backwards. Yep we were finally experiencing the notorious Patagonia winds.
It wasn’t until we went into the trees that we got refuge from the wind. When we reached lake level we could see that those lines of disturbed water were actually 2-3 story high walls of spray moving fast across the lake. At the Refugio it was hard to tell if it was still drizzling or if the spray off the lake was reaching us.
No Reservations Los Cuernos
We had to cross a suspension bridge to get to Refugio Cuernos which is located at the base of Los Cuernos.
Instead of sharing a bunk room, we booked private cabins figuring we deserve to pamper ourselves for making it this far. Sally was supposed to get her own cabin but they messed up the reservation and overbooked. Sally could either sleep on a bunk bed in the Refugio or shack up with us on an extra bed. We decided to allow her into our private abode. On the plus side they comped us a bottle of wine for the mix up. We were then shown to our cabin by a cute Chileno named Bernardo who gave us a tour of the grounds. He was definitely putting on the charm and we wondered if this is just his regular MO with all the women who stayed here. Sadly the hot tub that we were so looking forward to using was closed permanently because some idiot tourist opened the firebox that heated the tub and started a fire when burning embers from the wood fire escaped.
After two nights of sharing rooms with complete strangers it was nice to have our own little sanctuary. Ah yes, glamping at its best. Before dinner Sally went down to the lake to experience the winds while we hung out at the cabin.
We still slummed with the common riff raff for dinner where we sat with a couple from DC, one who worked for the soon to be defunct EPA, and another couple from Manchester, UK. Dinner was the standard issue beef with some carbohydrates accompanied by our comped bottle of red wine.
After dinner, while most people went to their bunk rooms, we went back to our cabin where a nice fire was roaring providing much needed warmth in our room. We slept to the sound of fierce winds rocking the cabin while praying that the structure would hold.
Cabañas Los Cuernos
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
I’m not going to lie, it was sooo nice to have our own cabin. Located at the base of Los Cuernos del Paine, in the same area as the Refugio, these cabanas are the only private rooms in the park other than Hotel Las Torres. The single cabin room was large enough to fit three of us comfortably. It had a wood stove and plenty of outlets to charge our electronics at our leisure. The only downside was that the shared bathroom was in a separate building and you had to go outside and navigate a rocky path to use the toilet.
The common and dining area was also nice and roomy but had to take off your shoes before you enter.
It was worth the extra dinero.