Tuesday, February 10, 2009


As promised, we are back for new adventures with the FOODBANCS project in the Southern Ocean. For those accessing this blog for the first time, this space is dedicated to our outreach program documenting experiences and results and of this National Science Foundation funded project studying climate warming effects on marine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean. We just came back from a week-long hike in the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. This trip was a short warm up before our next expedition to one of the most inhospitable ecosystems on Earth: Antarctica! We were 9 people from 6 different countries, the United States, England, Wales, Brazil, Croatia and France, all seeking our last land-based experiences before leaving for our 5-week expedition on the open sea. Below you will find a brief summary of amazing trek through Torres Del Paine, which started on February 02 and just ended a day ago. You can follow our track inside the Chilean National Park in the map below. We did the famous W-trail hike starting on the East side of the park crossing all the way to the West. The trail is surrounded by gorgeous scenery from humongous rock formations, glaciers, azure-blue pristine lakes to extensive grasslands. It was a total of 70 Km of hiking and backpacking alternating strenuous 20-km long hikes with heavy backpacks to short 7-km day hikes with only basic supplies such was water and warm clothing. Now, with only a few unhealed blisters left, we share with you all the most amazing pictures taken during this great trip.

1st day (02/02/09): Torres to Chileno’s camping

We took a bus from Punta Arenas early in the morning heading to Porto Natales and then to the entrance of the National Park. It took us 6 hours to get there. We traveled along an amazingly dry landscape filled with parched grasses and populated only with guanacos (small llamas) and sheep. At the entrance of the park we paid the 10,000 pesos entrance fee and started the hike up to the Chileno camping site. After arriving, we set up our tents for the night, planning to head to the campsite Torres in the next morning. The camp site was crowded since it is the starting point of most of the hiking trails. It was hard to find enough spots to set our five tents together. After a hot shower for some and a warm cup of tea for other, it was bedtime.

2nd day (02/03/09): Day hike to Las Torres

The Las Torres camping site was only 1.5 hours from the Chileno’s camp site; however, we were in one of the steepest parts of the whole W-trail so it was not the easiest hike. Still, it was an easier hike compared to what was still ahead of us. The Torres camping site was very comfortable with a small stream passing right up the middle of it and plenty of space for our tents. After we set up our tents, again it was time for a quick lunch before doing our first day hike (without heavy backpacks) all the way to ‘Las Torres’, the beautiful rock towers that give the park its name.
After an almost vertical climb through what seemed more like a granite quarry, we reached the top. Great reward! In front of the towers was a beautiful grayish lake the carved from glistening granite walls. It took a while before the sun came out behind the clouds so we had better lighting for pictures.

Pavica, our Croatian team member used the opportunity to send a ingenious postcard to her mom, who is turning 60 today (February 10). Happy birthday Mrs. Srsen !!

3rd day (02/04/09): From Las Torres to Los Cuernos

Judging from the map, this hike did not seem to be the hardest one. No
steep terrains, no curvy tracks in the woods, and no sliding rocks.
However, it was actually the longest one: 22 Km would separate Las Torres
from Los Cuernos. It took us around 6.5 hours to hike around Lake
Nordenskjol, reaching its North and central portion by the camping site
Los Cuernos. The hike amused us all with more magnificent landscape;
nevertheless, during this hike we realized that to finish the whole
W-trail we would have to put in more energy than we were previously
expecting. The first blisters started to pop up on our brave colleague’s
feet and the first signs of fatigue started to show by the end of the day.
We stopped for lunch for about an hour by a beautiful river with crystal
clear. At this time our friends that had split into smaller groups with
different hiking paces got together, once again, for a nice rest. Some of
us even found time to take a short nap.

Once we were finally back on the trail heading to Los Cuernos more amazing
scenery confronted us. We stopped at one big cliff and the view of the
lake from up there made us feel like tinny little ants in a huge backyard.
Some of us expressed gratitude by stopping for a short moment of
meditation: but upside-down!

A couple of hours more and we finally received our reward for the day: Los
Cuernos. The two thick rocky towers got even more beautiful when the
sunset made the skies turn into a mixture of red-orangish aquarelle.
The Los Curenos camping site was voted by most of our team as the nicest
one, right by the lake and with plenty of space to put our tents cozily
near one another.

Our brave hikers...








Group picture


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Ravil said...

Hi All Antarctic Team from Ravil, Kazan, Russia! Actualli in P.Arenas now.
Glad about all you are Ok.
Worried about may be I explaned not clear I wanted to take part in your team as a volontire, not a passenger.:(
There are here and next your Torres pictures:
Good luck in your expedition!