|Refugio Cuernos from Visit Chile|
|On the podium for the Ultra Fiord 108mi/173K|
Would you rather be 4'5" or 7'7"?" The Bearded Joker asked. Furrowed brows all around the room. Hmmm. 4'5", the women answered. 7'7", the men answered. Apparently when it comes to sticking out, we prefer our gender roles. I wondered what Megan at 6'4" inches tall would say. She had run the 70k at the Ultra Fiord and had immediately recognized me upon entering the Refugio. She also had come out to the park to hike the O Circuit, now turning out to be more of an "L" with all the trails getting closed down. I glanced over at her, but she was in the corner reading a book, unaware of the height discussion at the next table.
|Tall Megan and Aussie Doc|
|The wind and weather were beyond intense!|
|The last thing I wanted was more mud after the Ultra Fiord's 50k of mud...|
|One of the veryflooded rivers on the way to Refugio Cuernos|
"Hey don't wake up Luis!" Dublin said to me with urgency as I was about to move two chairs with a blanket over them, making space for the group at a picnic table. It looked like a kid's fort right in the middle of the building. Dublin was an Irishman of about 26 years old with a sense of humor that could be counted on at every turn.
"Oh! Sorry, I didn't realize--" I stumbled, surprised, feeling bad for possibly waking up the guy who was sleeping under the chairs in his made-up tent. Then I saw Dublin barely containing a smile as his joke became clear, "Hey! There's no one under there you shithead!" We all laughed. I could hold my own with the boys, that much was for sure.
My trip to Torres del Paine began with an early morning bus ticket to the park. Buses were the most popular mode of transport in and out of the park as many of the visitors came from around the world to see this famously beautiful park, it's massive column like towering mountains, the glaciers, and the world class trails that circled the park in either an "O" Shape or a "W" shape, the W being the shortest of the two routes. It was a hiker /trail runner paradise.
|Refugio Paine Grande, 18 km into the route. Yes the water is incredibly blue but it is cold as fuck.|
Right away I could feel my achilles was still very sore from the race. I've had achilles pain from overtraining/racing before and I had a good idea that I could hike through the pain, afterall, when do you get a chance to run an incredible race AND hike a long route in Chile's most famous park?! The driving rain soon exposed my rain jacket's lack of waterproof abilities. Shit, I should've waterproofed it again before this trip, but it was too late. There was no going back and certainly no time machine for the unprepared. I knew I could handle anything this trip threw at me but it might be a long 4-5 days if it kept raining with this intensity!
|Refugio Grey in all its glory!!!|
|Stark, cold, fall colors|
|One of the tamer river-trails|
|Streams heavy with extreme rainfall|
By the time dinner was over I'd was already undefeated at a sort of "war"-esque card game I'd just learned that included slapping matches and matches that were sandwiched between cards but mostly meant slapping each other's hands. the guide who taught me the game was chubby in a athletic way with dreads and an intense and careful smile. Dreads did not like losing to me but as she put it, she's learned to be a good sport. I wasn't sure what that would've meant for me if I'd played her previous to this change in attitude, but I was glad for it nonetheless.
|Some floating ice from the glacier above Refugio Grey|
I made plans to head out to the next camping/bunking location, just 11km East to Hosteria Torres. No one knew if the buses would be running but we all knew that both ends of the W were closed due to bridges being washed out and dangerously high stream crossings. All the closures meant that I would not be able to hike the route, so I planned to take the bus back to Puerto Natales that day, if it was running. As I left the lodge, two women, Tall Megs from Canada and Doctor Aussie, from Australia, were also headed out for the same section. I decided to hang with them for a bit and chat.
The 11km segment of trail from Refugio Cuernos to Torres was very wet with many stream crossings but the rain had stopped and I even felt the sunshine a few times. I so enjoyed having my girl talk with Aussie & Megs that I was happy to slow my usually fast pace to hang with them. We mostly talked boys and it was fun to see how many similarities the three of us independent women had when it came to dating and lack thereof. Before we knew it we were at Torres, and to our surprise the bus was running!
|Views from the trail, Refugio Cuernos to Torres. You might say I'm in love.|
|Final view of the mountains before returning to Puerto Natales|
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