Saturday, March 9, 2013

Patagonia 2012 = EcoCamp Mirador Las Torres

We chose the Wildlife Safari five day tour at EcoCamp Patagonia. This allowed us to be flexible with our activities in the park. Each evening we had the opportunity to choose from an Easy or Active adventure for the following day.

An introductory video about EcoCamp Patagonia

Next up on our adventure list is an Active trek from the comfort of our EcoCamp dome to Mirador Las Torres (The Towers of Torres).

We got up early and headed out past HosterĂ­a Las Torres down in the valley and across a suspension bridge to the trailhead. Our guide, Isi (learn more about her HERE), described the route to the towers as mostly Patagonian Flat "up and down, but with overall elevation gain". That's how they describe the majority of hiking in the park, and it's pretty close to that, but most of the time your hiking up. Isi was an excellent guide, describing the peaks and flora all around us.

Mirador Las Torres Trailhead

The trail begins by ascending 1,200 ft steeply along a river in the Ascencio Valley on the Tower's eastern face. Once we reach the top of this uphill climb, there is a good view down the valley and of Campamento Chileno Refugio (hut). Next we drop 600 ft to the river and reach the refugio. The refugio is one of several run by a few companies in the Torres del Paine park.

Valley View down to Campamento Chileno Refugio

It's another mile or so beyond the refugio, and about 1,200 feet more of climbing to the the base of the towers. The trail can be a bit rough with steep ups and downs, but it's well marked. The last few hundred feet involves boulder hopping up the moraine.  Once we pass a huge house sized boulder there is a spectacular view of the towers rising up majestically before us from the small turquoise glacial lake below.

Mirador Las Torres

The famous Torres del Paine (2,900 m/ 9,400 ft) consist of three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. At the base of the towers we enjoyed a packed lunch as well as an Upslope IPA craft beer that we brought all the way from Colorado. We took a ton of photos as the clouds appeared and disappeared around the peaks. The weather was beautiful for this time of year, so we spent a good 45 minutes enjoying the views and then headed back to EcoCamp. Our trekking crew was a small and young bunch, so we made the round trip in a "record" 6 hours when it typically takes about 8!

Mirador Las Torres

Back at EcoCamp we cleaned up and headed to the Core Domes for the evenings Pisco Sours, apps, wine and three course gourmet dinner. Exhausted from the day we said goodnight to our fellow ecocampers and enjoyed the almost full moon and late twilight on our way back to Suite Dome 6.

The next day would bring even more awe inspiring views from around the park, with less hiking, as we headed South to explore the beauty of Grey Glacier.

To view photos from Ecocamp Mirador Las Torres,
click the image below:

EcoCamp Patagonia - Mirador Las Torres

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Patagonia 2012 = EcoCamp Arrival

We finally arrived at the pinnacle of our trip. EcoCamp Patagonia in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile!

EcoCamp provides the region’s first fully sustainable accommodation, complete with green technology. You can enjoy guided treks and wildlife excursions by day and share evening meals with new friends, before falling asleep gazing up at the star-filled sky through your dome ceiling. Wake up in the middle of the Patagonian wilderness in a cozy geodesic dome, with a panoramic view of the majestic Torres del Paine, ready to pick up the hiking trail!

From El Calafate, we took about a seven hour van ride with one other couple from Australia. Mike and Wendy were great to chat with during the ride and enjoyed most of the park with us during the next five days. We entered into Chile at a small border crossing in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road. It took some time to explain why Melissa had no incoming stamp in her passport for Argentina and that it was an emergency replacement passport, but we got it sorted out and were on our way again.

Our first view of the park was from a roadside pullout overlooking Lago Sarmiento de Gamboa. It took our breath away, and we were speechless knowing that we would get to play here for the next few days.

Cordillera del Paine

After turning in some paperwork at the entrance to the park we made our way to the domes at EcoCamp. We settled into Suite Dome 6 and then made our way to the Core Domes for an amazing gourmet lunch with Mike and Wendy. From there, we explored around the camp and walked through an interpretive nature trail to learn about some of the flora and fauna we would see during our stay.

Suite Dome 6

Yes ... we are excited to be here!

The evening started with some Pisco Sours and delicious appetizers back in the Core Domes while other guests made their way back in from day hikes around the park. The friendly and knowledgable staff announced the activity choices (one easy and one active option) for the next day and pointed out the locations on a large map before we all headed into the dining dome for dinner. A three course Patagonian fusion meal with Chilean wine is served each evening. After dinner you can relax in the bar with a drink on the sofas or head to the library, the smallest core dome, to look over maps, read a book or chat with other guests.

Amazing apps to go with our Pisco Sours

Dinner ends around 10:30 p.m. or so each evening, which is interesting to get used to along with the fact that it is not even completely dark yet. Twilight hangs around until about 11:30 or so this time of year and this far South. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow so we head to bed, somewhat early, and dream of the towers of Torres del Paine.

To view photos from Ecocamp Arrival,
click the image below:
Ecocamp Arrival