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domingo 8 de diciembre
Objetivo: Glaciar Francés Trek Modo: Pies Distancia: 25 kilómetros
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile Last night was a real treat. Around 2:30, Andy shook my sleeping bag and asked if I were “okay.” Evidently, I had been shivering for more than twenty minutes trying to get warm. The night was clear and bitter cold. It was close to fifteen degrees with a stiff wind coming off of Lago Pehoe. And the layer of December dew on the tent was not helping matters either. Fortunately, Andy had some extra warm clothes on-hand which I donned immediately. He then went above and beyond the call of duty by practically lifting my frozen frame off of the tent floor and enshrouding my cheap thirty-peso sleeping bag in the outdoors-equivalent of a Ziploc bag. Fortunately, with my chilled bones out of danger of spoiling, I was able to sleep until 5:30. Around 8:30, we each had a bowl of oats with brown sugar and hit the outdoor stall for quick showers. These “showers” involved sticking our heads under the sink and trying to work up a semblance of lather with a few drops of coconut-scented camping suds. We had four palmsized tubes of the suds that I had purchased back in Buenos Aires at the oversized pride of Bentonville: El Wal-Mart Supercenter. This was the same department store where I had purchased my sleeping bag, which was apparently approved for use only on the surface of the sun. Unlike the sleeping bag, the suds turned out to be a real lifesaver keeping our hair smelling like Patagonia Coladas in the weeks to come. I emerged from the stall brimming with all the confidence of a Pantene model. At 10:00, we were headed due east for a full day trek to Glaciar Francés. We made good time and enjoyed most of the trek despite a minor insect problem. Killer gnats started gangbiting us along the swampy second stretch of the trail leading northeast away from our base camp. After that it was smooth sailing through vast green fields and beds of brilliant red and purple wildflowers along the banks of Lago Skottberg. 47
At noon, we arrived at the footbridge that crosses Rio del Francés to the Campamento Italiano. The wobbly suspension bridge had been built in 1990 by an “Op. Raleigh.” After only a decade, the cables were already well rusted, indicative of the amount of precipitation that this region sees. The structure’s wooden slats were not in much better shape making the crossing a bit hairy. At one point, I almost fell through the slats while I tried filming my own footsteps suspended above the rushing torrent below. Sergei Eisenstein, I was not, but documenting the trip visually was still a priority. We each took 35mm pictures on the bridge before continuing north toward the glacier.
Pehoe Base Camp Lago Skottberg
5 4 3 2 1
3 Campamento Italiano 4
5 Vista Cuerno Norte
..to Glaciar Francés
Fifteen minutes later, we had a good view of Glaciar Francés. It was a blinding white mass that extended up high and blended into the mountain face. The top part of the glacier had been blackened by falling rocks tossed from the jagged peaks above. We walked slowly alongside the river and traversed a very tricky part of the trail that was all large rocks and wide streams. The rocky section eventually turned into a steep mountain path that we followed for a good half hour until we reached the perfect spot for lunch. It was a broad, level clearing with a panoramic view of the glaciers below, the southern lakes that we had passed and the towering spires of Los Cuernos to our east and north. The two mountain peaks at the center of the Torres del Paine National Forest, Cuerno Norte and Cuerno Este, each rise over 9,000 feet. From a distance, the twin spires look like a pair of bull horns, or cuernos. We dined on three bags of ramen noodles with beef and chicken seasoning and capped it off with a hearty dose of Cream of Wheat. The 48
T R E K
suspension bridge andy begins the uphill battle. scenic lunch at the base of cuerno norte.
latter tasted more like warm trail mush without the requisite milk and sugar. The giant meal was enough to put me to sleep sprawled out over a fallen tree limb. Andy also got in a few winks before we packed up the gear and continued up the trail. Thirty minutes later we decided to turn back as three factors were weighing against us: time, fatigue and sore feet. The trek back to camp was much quicker than the trek up. (We tend to adopt an “We’ve already seen this, let’s get back to camp and eat, dammit” mentality on our return legs.) When we are talking on the trail, the movie quotes seem to come fast and furious, reflecting our common taste in fine film. Caddyshack, Pulp Fiction, Swingers and Fletch are all getting their propers.
a typical coversation on the trail
Danny, this isn’t Russia...Is this Russia? Can I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down? Beautiful babies don’t work the skank shift. Let’s hear it for our own Fred “The Dorf” Dorfman. I don’t play golf...against people...for money. Hamburgers...the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. Michael, is he clean? Michael I want to see him! I’ll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich. No, that was Mitch Cumpstein, my roomate in college. Good guy. “What” ain’t no country I ever heard of. They speak English in “What”? You’re all growns up and you’re all growns up and you’re all growns up! Don’t tell me my business, boy. I’m just gettin’ a bird’s eye view. You’re rather attractive for a beautiful girl with a great body.
For musical enjoyment, we take turns humming the bass lines of our favorite techno anthems until the other person recognizes the song 49
and starts humming along too. It’s pomelo: grapefruit. Other popular fruit flavors include manzana (apple), naranja sort of a warped variation of (orange), frutilla (strawberry) Name That Tune, because, oddly Clight: South American Crystal Light. Cheap and loaded with sugar. enough, we don’t know the titles 1,800 pesos: about $4 with an exchange of the digital tunes or the names rate of $1 = 440 pesos. compañero: partner of the artists. But that’s the beauty refugio: cabin. Literally, a place to take of electronica: those things are refuge. The Refugio at Lago Pehoe was a trivial. The only things that matter comfortable log cabin. lunes: Monday. are the purity and the timing of mochila: backpack. the beats. And while we are loving administración: main office. almacén: general store. the great outdoors here in Torres del Paine, we are both looking forward to eventually hitting the boliches in Santiago and balancing out the critical trail : techno ratio. Around 18:00, we stumbled into camp, thoroughly sore and glad to be back at Chez Trango. I washed the pots, filled the Platypus bags with water and pomelo-flavored Clight powder and got our butane buddy primed for dinner. We feasted on the rest of the salami and a mound of white rice, a throwback to Andy’s Asian days. The rice was punched up a bit with some tasty chimichuri seasoning that we had purchased at a small vegetable stand in El Calafate. When rain began to threaten around 20:30, we retired to the tent. I updated the journal and Andy read until 21:30 when we got our nightly visit from Gabby. She hit us up for the daily camping fee of 1,800 pesos. As Andy was paying, he casually snuck in an, “Are you single?” My trail compañero definitely seems fond of our little amiga chilena and he envisions bigger and better things tonight at the Refugio where we have been invited to relax and play cards at 23:00. To quote Andy, “She probably doesn’t get to see too many men around here.” So despite our coconut-scented grubbiness, morale and confidence are apparently running high.
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