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February 2009: Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

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At the beginning of February, I backpacked Torres del Paine National Park with Annie. The park is located in Patagonia, in the South of Chile. I met Annie at the airport of Punta Arenas. Just the week prior, she had successfully climbed Aconcagua, which is at 6962 m (22841 ft) the highest mountain of the Western hemisphere. I was so proud of her! After our joyful reunion, we took a bus to Puerto Natales where we stayed over night. The next day, we traveled on another bus to the National Park.

The Park features glaciers, turquoise lakes, and the most rugged mountains in existence on this planet. It is named after spectacular granite pillars, the Towers of Paine. We started our adventure with a boat ride across Lago Pehoe, and then backpacked the park's most popular trail, the "W."

Photos of this most beautiful place are provided below, starting with a view of the mountains on the East side of the French Valley, which forms the center line of the "W."

Cuernos (Horns) to the East of the French Valley



Day 1
After getting off the boat, we hiked along the shore of Lago Grey to the Grey Glacier. We camped at "Campamento Los Guardas" and enjoyed a nice sunset over the glacier before retiring for the night.


Lake Pehoe and Cuernos

Lago Grey

Grey Glacier

Treacherous Terrain



Days 2-4
On the second day, we retraced our steps back to Lago Pehoe and then continued hiking until we reached "Campamento Italiano." Mountains, lakes, and open spaces were pretty beyond believe. On the third day, we hiked up the French Valley, which is regarded the most spectacular part of the park, besides the the Torres. We could only confirm this view! We stayed a second night at the Italian Camp and hiked the next day towards the East, along the shores of Lago Nordenskjol. We saw great rainbows, experienced hurricane force winds, horses, and friendly fellow hikers. At the end of a long day we had dinner in our little tent, pitched in "Campamento Torres."


Cumbre Central

Annie and Me


French Valley

Cerro Catedral

Cerro Paine Grande


La Espada

Lake Nordenskjol


Lady Slippers

Dining in Style



Day 5 and 6
On the fifth day, we slept in and hiked up to the "Mirador Las Torres," the view point of the Torres. It's only a half-hour hike from camp and the Torres are hidden until the very last step. It was a breathtaking view when we finally reached the top! After retracing our steps to camp, we hiked further up the valley. It started to rain and when the rain turned into a blizzard, we decided to turn around. We saw Lady Slippers and forests that haven't been touched by men ever. On our last day in the park, we hiked to the Hosteria Las Torres, relaxed, and took a shuttle bus back to the entrance of the park. From there we took another bus to Puerto Natales, had dinner (the first food sitting on a real table since almost one week!), stayed over night, and took a bus the following day to Punta Arenas where we lodged in the nicest hotel of Patagonia, Hotel Jose Noguiera (I've been in this hotel several times before en route to Antarctica).


Torres del Paine

Dance of Joy

Torres at Sunrise

Not one inch too wide



Penguins on Isla Magdalena
On our last full day in South America, we jumped on a ship to Isla Magdalena, which is a penguin sanctuary. There are about 60,000 penguins on this island, one cuter than the other, but judge for yourself:


Curious and Cute

Happy molting

The Pride of the Island

Making more Penguins



Later in February, I traveled for a week to New Zealand to attend a business meeting. After discussing UV instrumentation all day, we found time to go on a bike ride along the Otago Central Rail Trail. The weather was great, and so were my colleagues!


WMO SAG Working Group on UV Instrumentation

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