Guest Blog: One Day Hike to Glacier Grey

Guest Blogger:  Russell Robinson-Grant

March 26th 2015

Clara and I wake up early in the morning to grab a breakfast of eggs, bread, and cereal. At around 7am, we get in a taxi that takes us to the Puerto Natales bus station. From there, we once again take the bus to Torres Del Paine national park. Because it has already been 3 days since we paid our entrance fee, we are technically obligated to pay again upon entrance at the park administration in Laguna Amarga. Luckily, we are able to pass through the entrance point unnoticed by any park officials.

We transfer buses, getting out at Pudeto, where we plan to catch the catamaran across Lake Pehoe and start our hike to Glacier Grey.

We arrive at Pudeto before 11am, giving us time to get the day started by taking a short walk to the waterfall Salto Grande. The weather is not as nice as it has been the past few days, with overcast skies and fog limiting the views of the surrounding mountains. At the falls, we realize that we have unfortunately forgotten Clara’s camera, making me start to imagine the anger of my brother when he finds out that I won’t have any pictures to go along with the blog. The falls are nice though, though not some of the most impressive I have seen.  [For pictures see my blog about his day in the park]

After doing a little exploring, we decide we should get back to make sure we catch our boat. On the way back to the road, we spot an armadillo running on the path, the first of many animals we see today. I had never seen one of these creatures before and they are very weird, more resembling a miniature dinosaur than any other animal I can think of. We are both pretty pumped up to have seen such a funny and rare animal.

After watching our new friend run around hilariously and eventually settle down to do some digging, we continue on and catch a very lucky break. We run into Luke, whose day tour just arrived to see the Salto Grande as well. I tell him to run forward and show him the armadillo. After snapping some photos, he reluctantly parts ways with his camera so I can get photos for the day hike. As anyone who has travelled with Luke would know, he takes an absurdly large amount of pictures, so I was shocked that I was able to get his camera off him for a whole day. Just goes to show his commitment to the readers of this blog, always trying to enhance their experience. [It’s true you know!]

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After saying goodbye to Luke, we walk back to the boat, encountering some strange birds we had not seen before on the way.

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The boat ride is uneventful but expensive (24 000 pesos return, 15 000 one way), with the skies starting to clear a little bit, but staying dominated by clouds. I manage to snap a photo of the Salto Grande, as we couldn’t get any on our first stop. Once we dock, we waste no time in starting our hike, as we know that we have to get back for the 6:30pm boat, giving us a little under 6 hours for the return journey.

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The hike starts well. Only about 1 minute from the boat, we find a very red bird, perched on a branch right beside the path. After snapping a couple photos, we continue on through a small valley, slowly going uphill. This part of the walk has decent views, but compared to the average views we have been experiencing in Torres Del Paine, they are a little underwhelming. However, I still find myself taking quite a few pictures, as I have promised Luke that I will take a lot.

Eventually though, after making our way up a few gentle hills, we arrive at a nice lagoon with mountains in the background. We stop briefly to appreciate the first of many great views then move on.

Not long after, we come to the top of a hill and are greeted with our first view of Lago Grey, a large lake with many icebergs floating around in it, and snow peaks past it in the distance. At this point we have no view of the glacier, but it’s still very beautiful. By this time, the fog has lifted and the skies have started to clear, allowing us to see the majority of the surrounding mountains. Throughout the rest of the walk, the weather continues to improve, but never getting to the bright sun of the previous days.

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After a total of about an hour and a half of pretty fast walking, we reach the first mirador of Glacier Grey. The sheer size of the glacier is most striking, looking like it continues on for miles and miles. We stop for about 15 minutes, taking a break and soaking in the amazing views around us.

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The first part of the hike has been almost entirely uphill, although never very steep and always manageable. However, after the first glacier mirador, all this changes. From there, you start with a steep downhill that takes you almost down to the water level of the lake. Clara and I notice that time might start becoming an issue, as we are still many kilometres away from the second mirador, our final destination before beginning our return. The downhill eventually evens out to relatively flat ground.

After a few minutes of walking in decent terrain and spotting a nice waterfall, we decide that we have to run the rest of the way. This is the only chance we have to see the glacier up close, and make it back in time for the catamaran.

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The next 20 minutes we spend at a steady jog, passing many people on the trail and getting some weird looks from fellow trekkers. However, we have made the right decision. After passing the campsite and Refugio Grey, we come to an amazing view of the glacier. We spend all the time we feel that we can at this lookout, eating our packed lunches and taking a few photos before we have to resume our run.

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For the next 30 minutes, we run and keep a close eye on the time. Once the uphill starts, the running becomes less frequent, as we have figured out that we probably will make it back in time if we keep a steady walk. We even take 5 minutes to stop at the first mirador of glacier Grey and regain our breath while we appreciate the last chance we will have to see a glacier in what will likely be a very long time.

We keep a pretty good pace after that, but we are interrupted by an animal running (or hopping) across the path, only about 10 or 15 metres in front of us. For a second or two, we are hopeful that it is some kind of mountain cat and are only slightly disappointed to realize that it’s actually a giant rabbit. I try to get a photo of it but it hops away before I can, which leaves us both a little upset, as we have no proof of our unexpected find. [And Lord knows myself and Robert would have called him a filthy liar!]

We hurry on at our good pace, and it seems like we’ll be making it back in time. Lucky for us, we get one more surprise when we are less than 15 minutes from the campsite, where  the boat leaves. We see a second, and later a third giant rabbit! These two are a little smaller than the first one, but let us get a few photographs.

We stumble back to the refuge at about 610pm, a full 20 minutes before the scheduled boat. Doing this hike all in one day may not have been the smartest decision, as it was exhausting and difficult to complete in time [considering the catamaran schedule], but we managed. If you are ever planning to try this day trip, you have to be prepared to move extremely quickly, and not take too much time to take pictures.

That being said, after almost 6 hours of hiking and running, we were lucky enough to have time to enjoy an incredibly refreshing beer, before catching the boat back and returning to Puerto Natales.

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