W Circuit: The French Valley

  • Total Distance: 62 (felt like 100) miles (100 kms)
  • Starting Point: Las Torres Refugio (Torre Norte)
  • End Point: Grey Refuge
  • Highest Point: Mirador Britanico, 2510 ft
  • Accomodations: Campsites, Refugios (hostels)

<- Day 3

We were all excited for today’s hike. Hike to Paine Grande Refuge was going to pass through the French Valley, one of the most picturesque spots of the National Park! It was going to be a long strenuous hike, so we decided on an early start. We requested the kitchen to bag our breakfast and lunch so we could start walking earlier. 

It had rained in the evening and at night, so everything was wet when we got out of our tents. The weather looked clear at least for time being so we decided to take advantage of it. The clear skies didn’t last for too long, it started drizzling in about an hour after we started walking. We covered our packs with rain covers and layered ourselves with waterproof jackets. The views got obstructed as it became foggy and misty. 

After another hour or so we started ascending on the steep trail to the Frances Lookout. It was raining on and off by the time we reached there. The views just got clearer for us to witness amazing views of the lush French valley. The ridge of the mountains with looming glaciers lined one side of the valley and when I turned around there was a view of the lakes! It was one of those scenes that get etched to your memories forever! 

We started climbing more and entered the forest; and some steep switchbacks after that. It started snowing as we gained some elevation. Not knowing how much more left to the next lookout, we just kept on climbing. After about 45 minutes, we finally reached the last point- Mirador Britanico Lookout. It felt great to finally reached here but to our disappointment, by the time we got here, the snowstorm had increased blocking all the views. We just had to imagine seeing all the views of the Cuernos, and the turquoise lakes from the lookout, unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything.  

It was getting quite stormy so we decided to rush back. We still had a long hike left to Paine Grande Refuge, our tonight’s destination. The next few hours of the hike were the most painful ones – not the endurance-related but it just got uncomfortable as we got soaking wet. The weather got really bad with heavy rain and wind. Our shoes, even though were waterproof, got wet, I believe through our socks. It was impossible to look up, we just kept our heads down and kept on walking as fast as we could. Lake Pehoe finally came to the view and that’s when we realized that we were getting closer to our destination, as the lodge was supposed to be right at the lake. 

The rain started getting curbed off during the last hour of our walk and we felt so much relief. We just couldn’t wait to get to our lodge and change to dry clothes. Thankfully, we were supposed to be in the refuge rooms and not in tents tonight!

We made it to the Paine Grande Refuge around 5 pm, changed and got to the dining hall for dinner. It was very cold outside, they had a few fireplaces going around the lodge where all the trekkers had their shoes lined up to dry them off! 

Thank Goodness for the fireplace, don’t know what we would’ve done without it!

Today, we got a real glimpse of the truly unpredictable nature of the Patagonian climate. We witnessed rain, snow, and windstorm – all in one action-packed adventurous day! 

Day 5->

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