Torres del Paine, W Trek – Nordenskjold Lake & Mirrador Britanico

Our second day was meant to be the easiest of the whole trek. An easy 11km walk around the Nordenskjold lake to reach our second Refugio for the night, so by far the shortest distance.

After a nice breakfast and getting ready at a leisurely pace (no rush to set off early today), we started off on our hike. We spotted a couple of foxes in the garden of our Refugio just before we left, which set the tone for a great day.

Both Nick and I had set wrong expectations for this day.

We saw the walk was ‘moderate’, so thought it’d be easy and more like a stroll than a walk. It wasn’t.

After our 20km day the day before, both pairs of legs and knees were already tired, and this time we had to carry the whole contents of our bags all the way, which made this day (to me anyway) seem harder than the previous one.

The terrain was very rocky, which made it quite painful on the knees and soles. It was quite tough. But the vistas were incredible.

Nearly all of the way we walked beside the lake, with the most incredible views to keep us going.

Again we started with great weather, before it started turning and the rain joined the party, but luckily it wasn’t too bad.

Luckily for us this walk only took 4 hours, which allowed us to check-in at our refugio by 12.30pm and enjoy the rest of the afternoon to rest. This was important as we had another 20km mountain hike to look forward to the day after.

The following day was meant to be another hard one; a guy working at our refugio said for him it’s harder than day one. It involves a long uphill walk up the mountain to reach the Mirrador Britanico, over 1000m high.

The first leg of the walk was a 2.5km trail in-between the two refugios we slept in. As the rain didn’t stop all afternoon and night the day before (and that morning actually), the path was just the boggiest muddy trail you’ve ever seen.

Both Nick and I have trail shoes and not proper hiking boots, which meant they’re not waterproof so we tried as much as possible to avoid getting our feet wet. That was until we realised it was inevitable.

We were wasting way too much time trying to find dry places to walk through (news flash, there weren’t any), so we ended up embracing the wetness and getting on with it.

The first leg in-between the refugios took us over 2.5 hours, as the terrain was very steep, rocky and wet. Then, following what was told at our briefing, we tried to drop off our bags at the second refugio. This was without knowing there weren’t any proper lockers and bags were left outside for anyone to grab! We declined.

Instead, we decided to carry them all the way up and down the mountain. This was tough! The entire way up was made from either mud, rocks or slushy snow, which made that day the hardest of all.

We had to constantly look at where we were putting our feet, crossing over rivers, uphill through rocks… madness. The entire walk took us nearly 10 hours because of the terrain we had to deal with.

Though the walk itself was a bit boring as most of it was through a forrest, the lookouts we finally ended up reaching – Frances & Britanico – were absolutely incredible.

We got lucky that by the time we got to each, the weather and clouds had cleared and allowed us to enjoy the magnificent views of the mountains surrounding us.

We heard a few avalanches, enjoyed more snowfalls and further stunning views over the lake. Those walks were hard, particularly with full backpack on, but the reward we got from the views was worth every minute of pain.

The way back down the mountain was a real knee punisher. 90% of the people doing the trail had walking sticks to help their back and knees, and after all the up and down hill and the toll it had taken on our knees, we believe it would have been a good idea to get some as well. Hindsight is wonderful!

Oh well, you live and learn.

Our final refugio was ok, they were big domes shared by 8 people with bathroom and sink in each dome. It was a lot colder than the other two we slept in, but a better outcome than the poor people camping, that’s for sure. It was a small refugio, but we were joined by a few friendly faces that we’d met along the way (mostly Americans), and met a few new ones (mostly English, one guy from Birmingham!).

Tomorrow will mark our last day on the trek, up towards the Grey Glacier.

TIPS

  • If you have bad knees, using sticks and/or knee braces might be a good idea to relieve the weight a bit.
  • If time doesn’t allow to go all the way up to Britanico, at least continue half way up between Frances and Britanico to the opening in the Forrest. To us it was the most beautiful place of the day, even better than Mirrador Britanico.