El gran circuito

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Andean Adventure

El gran circuito
February 10, 1997

We started out on a beautiful day
Being from Washington state, rain does not bother us, because we know we can get dry. But 10 days of trekking through knee-deep mud, near-vertical root-choked passes, and rain for days on end was enough to make a North Cascades bushwhack seem a picnic. This is Torres del Paine National Park, in the south of Chile.
We looked up to see the needle-pointed peaks surrounding us
We began on a beautiful day through rolling meadows with the famous "teeth," or towers, in the background. The next day it began to rain as we conquered a 50-degree climb that ended by a huge silver lake that seemed more like a vast amount of space than a body of water.

Despite the hardest hiking we've ever done, hauling more weight than a human is suited to carry, we had the time of our lives. After at least 24 hours of rain the sun came out and we immediately spread out all our things. Even the herbs from our kitchen bag were wet.

Finally we knew why
we were here
We were getting frustrated and wondering why we were on this hike. Then we looked up to see the horseshoe of needle-pointed peaks surrounding us. Finally, some scenery!

As things got dry, packs got lighter (10 days worth of food is heavy!), and the scenery started to improve, we finally knew why we were here. We saw Glacion Grey icebergs calving from the Patagonian Icecap, lakes majestic and serene in every hue of the spectrum, and of course the famous towers rocketing from the earth and expanding to infinity.

We ended the circuit today with a fabulous boat ride across turquoise Lake Pehoe. We had to choose between Valley Frances or Valley Acenceo because we didn't have time to do both. We chose Valley Acenceo, which is home to the famous torres, the towers that climbers from all over wait months to climb because of weather. Bill is so excited to be among the climbing crowd.

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