Day 3 was our longest trekking day on this trip. We planned to hike 22 km carrying our big packs from camp Italiano to camp Chileno over 7 hours. We had the option to make it a really short day by camping at Cuerno (about 2 hours hike) where there were well built cabins with a hot tub in front of a waterfall. Unfortunately, such suggestion from me was met with a stiff veto from Tricia who was determine to sleep on no beds this week.
We set out on Day 3’s adventure around 9am after another leisurely breakfast. The trekking route was flat and followed Lago Nordenskjold, which we saw from the high point of Britanico yesterday. The color of the lake was freakishly blue, cerulean, maybe even indigo. If it wasn’t for the howling wind and cold temperature, I could have been convinced that I was vacationing in the Caribbean. Alas, that was not the case: we had a long way to go before we got to lie down for a nap today.
We arrived to Camp Cuerno just before 11am. I was already feeling a bit tired and secretly wishing that I had made a reservation for the cabins. Instead, I got to use a very clean toilet at Cuerno which was clearly the next best thing that morning.
From Cuerno the trail became undulating. It went up the hills only to descend down to the pebble beaches of the enormous glacial melt lake. The wind on the lake became so strong that I thought I’d witness a water dragon (a tornado on a body of water) at some point. I did not see any tornadoes but the wind picked up water from the lake surface and mockingly sprayed it on our faces.
As the trail passed the eastern end of the lake, we started to head up towards the mountains. Refugio Chileno was built on the east side of Valle Ascencio. The last mile of ascent was brutal. The sky was getting dark and rain started to come down on us damping me and my spirit. I started to wonder if we would have any reason to go up to the mirador at the base of Las Torres with the thick clouds in the sky. If we couldn’t see Las Torres, then what would be the point going up to Camp Chileno? The thoughts were torturing me as I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other trudging up the hill. My backpack seemed to be getting heavier and its waist straps were rubbing my skin raw on my side. In the meantime, Tricia was killing it up ahead of me like an energizer bunny with no signs of fatigue. Didn’t the tortoise beat the hare at the end of the race? Stories for children are all lies, I was convinced while dying on that hill.
Finally, we reached the top of the hill. The valley opened up in front of us. I could see the Refugio down in the valley! There was hope! It was a little after 4pm when we reached Refugio Chileno. I can’t tell you how happy I was to take off my big backpack.
Chileno was both an interesting place and somewhat of an annoyance on this trek. The company that runs the camp required us to buy three meals from their kitchen in order to use their campsite. Dinner that night was served at 7pm. Strangely, they tried to make the dinner somewhat fancy. I got a grilled salmon but the portions were so small that it wouldn’t have satisfied my normal appetite, let alone my appetite after three days of hiking. I was left both hungry and angry. Fortunate for me that we packed plenty of food on this trek. Even more fortunate for me, they sold beer at the refugio, which made me far less angry. While I may have a voracious appetite, my poor liver was no match for two beers a night. I passed out before 9pm.
The problem with alcohol is that it puts me to sleep quickly but also wakes me up before I do naturally, usually leaving me groggy and unsatisfied. And this night was no exception. I was awake at 1230am and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Tricia was even less fortunate, she, for some reason, couldn’t fall asleep at all that night. Since we were already awake, we decided to take our chances and go up to the mirador at the base of Las Torres to try to catch the sunrise. It ends up being one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my years of travel. Keep on follow me on our journey in Day 4: Las Torres at sunrise!