You’re reading The Clymb’s Travel Journal, an insider look at our Epic Patagonia Adventure to Torre del Paine National Park, where our very own Michelle Massara will be offering you insight into what our trips are like, what makes Patagonia so epic, and what you might need to take with you on this human-powered adventure. To take this trip, you can find it here on our website.
Michelle Massara is the Production Lead for the Clymb Adventures. Her roots are in Buffalo, NY, but she’s called many places home, from Alaska to Tahoe to Portland. When she’s not out exploring around Mt. Hood with her Bernese Mountain Dog, Summit, she can likely be found perusing the streets of Portland.
Patagonia has always appealed to me, its vivid turquoise lakes and iconic landscapes caught my attention, and I’ve always wanted to experience them in an authentic way. The Clymb’s Epic Patagonia Adventure was the perfect way to take in all that this amazing place has to offer.
Sacred Socks. These are your end of the day socks, the socks you slip into after 12 miles of sweaty hiking through rugged terrain.
Day Pack. For day hikes, some will repurpose their big backpack pack, and that’s fine, but the convenience of a small, packable day pack for the essential items — water bottle, camera, jacket — was perfect.
What did you wish you had?
A Kindle. I brought one book with me (because I was conscious of weight) and finished it before we even arrived at the park. Travel from Santiago to Patagonia takes a whole day and there’s a good amount of down time at the refugios- especially in the evenings, so there were plenty of times where I desperately wished I had brought a Kindle.
Arrived in Santiago around 7am after a long flight. After a well-deserved nap at the B&B I spent the rest of the day exploring the main tourist attractions in the city.
Departed for Chile’s famous Maipo Valley for a day of wine tasting. We visited a family-owned organic vineyard and were treated to homemade empanadas and Pastel de Choclo, a traditional Chilean meal.
Travel by plane and bus to Torres del Paine National Park. I took in the wildlife from the bus windows, excited to see guanacos, condors, rhea, and other unfamiliar animals. As we approached the park, I caught my first glimpse of the epic Cordillera Paine, complete with the awe-inspiring towers.
Began our hike to the Towers through rocky terrain and over crystal clear glacial rivers. The transition from lenga forest to high alpine was a stunning transition between diverse ecosystems. We ended the hike with lunch next to the emerald lake at the foot of the towers.
Today we trekked for the first time with the full weight of our packs. My favorite moment of the day was as we approached Lake Nordenskjold for the first time. Being the tail end of the season, the brush and vegetation were turning red and brown, creating a greater contrast for the vibrant blue water.
We left Los Cuernos and hiked through old-growth forest to an impressive viewpoint of the French Valley. This day hike through the French Valley was personally the biggest highlight of the trip for me. The views continuously got better as we climbed over boulders and across streams to get to our destination, which once there, provided a panoramic view of the Cerro Hoja and Cerro Máscara.
The hike from Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey had strong winds, luckily behind us and not against us. As we hiked we looked for pumas and enjoyed the beauty of Pehoé Lake and Grey Lake as we passed on our approach to Grey Glacier.
The additional day at Refugio Grey was nice, as it allowed us to sleep in and plan a half-day activity. I took a leisurely hike toward Campamento Paso with two others and Sergio, who lead us as we followed along the side of the glacier. We crossed two suspension bridges with the glacier as our backdrop and stopped at a few lookouts for photo opportunities. We returned to the lodge and relaxed in Adirondack chairs on the front porch while soaking up the sun.
Our final half-day in the park we hiked back to the lake at Refugio Paine Grande and took a catamaran to Pehoé to exit the park. From there, we took a bus up to Puerto Natales and enjoyed the most delicious farewell dinner at a quaint seafood place near the ocean. And wine. So much wine.
The last bit of travel was the bus ride to Punta Arenas followed by the flight back to Santiago for a final evening in the city. Our group met for one more dinner together as we exchanged contact information and planned our next adventures.
This final day is set aside for departures, though I chose to stay in Santiago for an additional 2 days to explore, which I highly recommend.
Who were your travel buddies?
I traveled solo, then joined a group of 3 other Clymb members. All were east coasters, around the same age, and we connected nicely to form a small and tight-knit family for the duration of the trip.
The hike to the Towers was so extraordinary because of the diverse ecosystems we passed through along the way. The French Valley was jaw dropping, we stumbled over boulders and rivers to a remarkable view of massive mountains ahead and tiny lakes below, all the while hearing the rumble of avalanches up above. Departing Grey Glacier we walked over a suspension bridge that was about 120ft off the ground with the face of the glacier as our backdrop.
What Made This Trip So Special?
Patagonia lies under the radar of popular destinations. The hard to access Torres del Paine is complete with wild and rugged terrain that is every bit remote as you imagine it.
What was the craziest thing that happened?
On Day 5, as we were passing Lake Nordenskjold, we ran into John Gardener, the man who founded the circuit trail back in 1976, which includes the W route, the very trail that we were trekking on. I would have walked right past him and never known, but luckily our guide, Sergio, was ecstatic at our encounter and made introductions to the group. It was pretty neat.
Where Do You Want To Go Next?
I’d like to trek to Everest Base Camp. Nepal has such a unique and heartening culture, it would be a truly unique experience to hike in the footsteps of some of the most prodigious alpine climbers.
My trip was made possible in part through Oneseed Expeditions.
Oneseed leads expeditions all around the globe and has been recognizes as a leader in socially mindful travel. In addition to offering travel experiences all over the planet, Oneseed’s mission also revolves around providing micro-loans to local entrepreneurs and they give 10% of there total revenue to local businesses in need of capital.
My guide,Sergio Nuñez, is actually the Regional Director of Latin America Travel for Oneseed. Sergio grew up close to Torres del Paine and has guided in the park for almost 20 years. It had been a few years since he’d last visited, so I could tell he was experiencing Torre Del Paine’s beauty all over again. He clearly has a deep-rooted love for Patagonia and it was really special to witness and see that come through in his guiding.
Photography provided by Michelle Massara