An unconventional route - trekking towards John Gardner Pass

Torres Del Paine Travel Blog

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The end of the east arm of Grey Glacier

While planning the trip, we were indecisive about doing the W or the Circuit Trek. On one hand, the Circuit Trek was appealing because this trek would take you to the source of Grey Glacier i.e. the Southern Patagonian Ice Field via the John Gardner Pass. On the other hand, the first part of the Circuit Trek through the flat Pampas and boggy woodlands before reaching the Pass was unappealing to us. In the end, we decided for the W Trek but would hike towards the John Gardner Pass to see the glacier source.

Grey Glacier is Chile’s largest glacier and is known for its impressive and vibrant blue icebergs sailing in the lake of the same name. Measuring an area of 270 square kilometers and a length of 28km, it begins in the Patagonian Andes Mountains and terminates in three distinct lobes into Grey Lake.

Th stunning ice walls of Grey Glacier
It is one of the 48 glaciers that form the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, among which include also the Upsala, Viedma and Perito Moreno Glaciers in Argentina.

After breakfast and grabbing our lunchbox, we made our way towards John Gardner Pass. The lunchbox from Vertice Patgaonia which runs the refugios and campsites from Paine Grande to Dickson was no surprise as we got the same food as the previous day.

The trail to Campamento Los Guardas winds through the forest with the usual ups and downs. Grey Glacier came into view at times from between the trees. There were two rocky parts on the trail with the water running down from the mountains which had to be crossed. These are the problematic areas as the water flowing down from the mountains could be so torrential in times of heavy rain or melting snow that it is inaccessible.

Lago Grey and the snow capped mountains on the horizon

 

As a result, a suspension bridge was in the process of being built across one of these spots. This project was a collaboration between the Conservation Volunteers International Program and Corporacion Nacional Forestal with funding from the individuals. Leading the project was a retired American engineer and his wife and they were both actively involved with the design and physical construction of the suspension bridge. Salute to them!

It was a warm day of about 20 deg C with hardly any wind. The hike through the forest was not very pleasant and without any winds, the mosquitoes were out. The worst part was at Compamento Los Guardas where there were millions of the tiny mosquitoes swarming around. Perhaps it was due to the human activities here but it was certainly not a nice campsite.

A close up of the face of Grey Glacier
About 50m away was a viewing point where the end of Grey Glacier could be seen clearly. We chatted with some hikers who came from the John Gardner Pass but not for long as the tiny buggers were just too irritating.

About 15mins later, we deviated from the trail and went to the open area where we were in close proximity to the face of the Grey Glacier and the extensive Lago Grey beyond. As it was a still day and although there was hardly any mosquitoes out in the open, there were some horseflies instead. But they were pretty easy to get rid of. One just had to keep still, wait for them to settle on the arm, then hit the arm swiftly with a cap and they are gone! We had a break, enjoyed the views and continued.

We arrived at the next problematic spot where no suspension bridge was being planned.

Grey Glacier measures an area of 270 km2 and length of 28km, begins in the Patagonian Andes Mountains and terminates in three distinct lobes into Grey Lake
This gorge is a much steeper one and one had to trek a little higher in order to cross the trail. Thereafter, one had to climb up a steel ladder erected on the slope in order to get back onto the trail. It looked rather scary but it was fun!

Continuing towards Campamento Paso, we walked through the forest again for an hour or so before coming out into the open where we were walking alongside the glacier with jaw-dropping views of the glacier extending far and beyond.  We continued for a while but as it was nearly 2pm, we decided to find a nice spot and have our lunch with the excellent scenery.  

Lunch was occasionally interrupted by the rumbling sounds of the tumbling crevasses, showing the dynamism of the glaciers. Other than that, no trekkers came by on the trail.

Southern Patagonia Ice Field Glaciers - hanging, calving and never ending!
It was a bliss to enjoy such beauty of the nature without any disturbances. Satisfied with the glacier viewing, we returned to Refugio Grey after the late lunch.

Dinner for the day was delicious fresh bread, corn soup, beef lagsana and jelly with poached pear and cream. The lagsana was so good that it was comparable to that served in the restaurants. The staff was really polite, helpful and well trained, serving the ladies at the table first. After dinner, we went out to sit in the sun next to the lake and chatted with some campers. Although it was nearly 9pm, the sun was still high and had not set yet. With such wonderful weather, what more could we have asked for!

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Vikram says:
Sounds scary..... the bridges and stuff. But wow at 20deg C.... and here I am in cold wet Seattle freezing my toes off!
Posted on: Feb 10, 2012
skippyed says:
Great blog! makes me itch reading about those mozzies!!
Posted on: Feb 10, 2012
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The end of the east arm of Grey Gl…
The end of the east arm of Grey G…
Th stunning ice walls of Grey Glac…
Th stunning ice walls of Grey Gla…
Lago Grey and the snow capped moun…
Lago Grey and the snow capped mou…
A close up of the face of Grey Gla…
A close up of the face of Grey Gl…
Grey Glacier measures an area of 2…
Grey Glacier measures an area of …
Southern Patagonia Ice Field Glaci…
Southern Patagonia Ice Field Glac…
The Condon Olguin mountain in the …
The Condon Olguin mountain in the…
A suspension bridge was in the pro…
A suspension bridge was in the pr…
Glacier Grey Quebrada Suspension B…
Glacier Grey Quebrada Suspension …
One of the many icebergs floating …
One of the many icebergs floating…
A close up of the face of Grey Gla…
A close up of the face of Grey Gl…
An even steeper gorge to cross
An even steeper gorge to cross
The gorge and the glacier
The gorge and the glacier
Climbing the ladder up the slope a…
Climbing the ladder up the slope …
Jaw-dropping views of the extensiv…
Jaw-dropping views of the extensi…
Grey Glacier at the southern end o…
Grey Glacier at the southern end …
Mesmerised by this vast system of …
Mesmerised by this vast system of…
Just being silly :-)
Just being silly :-)
A close up of the seracs and creva…
A close up of the seracs and crev…
Grey Glacier extending far and bey…
Grey Glacier extending far and be…
Reflection of Grey Glacier
Reflection of Grey Glacier
The same lunchbox from Vertice eve…
The same lunchbox from Vertice ev…
The secret of problem-free feet du…
The secret of problem-free feet d…
Crossing one of the gorge
Crossing one of the gorge
Crossing one of the gorge
Crossing one of the gorge
Dog Orchid (Palomita)
Dog Orchid (Palomita)
Patagonian Pea (Arvejilla)
Patagonian Pea (Arvejilla)
The Condon Olguin in the late afte…
The Condon Olguin in the late aft…
Torres Del Paine
photo by: Vlindeke