Camp El Paso – Camp Grey

The Facts

Short Outline of Hike

  • Distance: 7km
  • Duration: 3.5h, including breaks at the first and last mirador
  • It starts out with some steep but short up and downs within the first few kilometers.
  • For the rest of this day’s trek there’s a steep decline of about 350m in elevation.
  • The trek follows along the last bit of the Grey glacier and the Grey lake all the way to camp.
  • If lucky with the weather, mesmerizing views are guaranteed.
  • 2 suspension bridges make the trek extra exciting.
  • This section is well-marked and crowded.
  • Camp Grey is fully equipped with hot showers, bathrooms, a kitchen room, a (quite fancy) restaurant, a shop. Prices for food and items from the shops are very high though. There’s a shelf with camping and food items left behind by hikers, such as unfinished gas bottles. This was useful for us as we weren’t sure if ours were going to last.

Grading

Following is my personal grading of the hike including some key points. If you have no idea what the SB scale is, have a quick look here.

The overall grade regarding difficulty is SB-3. The grade is made up of the following categories:

Category A – General – SB-3

  • Distance: 7km, duration: 3.5h
  • Elevation gain/loss: steep ups and downs at the beginning, steep decline of 350m in elevation

Category B – Terrain – SB-4

The steep downhill part can be heavy on the knees. It was for me with the heavy backpack on my back. Other than that it’s a nice path, a bit rocky here and there. You walk along the Grey glacier all day, so stunning views the entire time. The last bits up to camp Grey go through forest.

Category C – Weather – SB-1

The weather was awesome. Very sunny. Little wind. Clouds only collected around the mountains. No too cold.

Category D – Special Conditions – SB-3

Still with the heavy backpack. In combination with the steep downhill, this puts quite some force on the knees.

Category E – Individual Conditions – SB-4

I was fit and happy. But it’s the first day when I start feeling a bit undernourished. Christian and I estimated a certain amount of snacks for the both of us which we share each day. I feel hungry most of the time. Darryn starts sharing his snacks with me since he barely eats any of his. Also with the end of this day I feel the weight of the backpack on my knees. Despite the short trek, my body seems more exhausted than should be.

The Story behind the hike

Before we went to bed the night prior to this day, we hung all our stuff. The main concern was for the stuff to not get wet. The kitchen area at Camp El Paso is only a little half open shelter. The ground was really muddy and full of little puddles from the rain.

As we come into the kitchen, we are welcomed by a bit of a chaos this morning. One or more crazy mice found their way into Christian’s bag, ate some of our food and bit a hole into his emergency coke. A coca cola he brought with him for the kind of day when energy is low and he needs fast sugar. His backpack is flooded with it now. We have a little cleaning session before making breakfast. It’s a difficult decision but we decide to throw away the parts of our food that were hit the hardest.

Usually we wouldn’t be so picky and just eat the food despite the bites. But there’s been cases of Hantavirus in Patagonia in the past. The virus can also be transmitted via mouse saliva. We didn’t want to take a chance.

Some of our snacks and a bit of the breakfast oat mix were hit hardest. Luckily, Darryn has an abundance of snacks that he planned for each day but has barely touched. Good for me, as I start feeling a bit undernourished, though I’m not aware of it yet. I just feel more exhausted than I probably should. Also, despite really big dinners, I wake up super hungry. Darryn gives me a snickers for this day. But I will eventually end up eating over half his trekking snacks within the next days. When I compare the amount he eats to what Christian and, specifically I, eat daily, I seriously wonder how he keeps his engine running with that little fuel.

After this little unexpected morning entertainment, we are off and head for the mirador (Spanish for viewpoint) that is close by and on the way to the Grey camp. We went there the night before already. The views are mesmerizing. The trek follows along the edge of Lago Grey. You have beautiful views of the glacier and the mountains all day. Two longer suspension bridges make the trek all the more interesting.

Patagonian weather has followed a pattern for us so far. 2-1: 2 somewhat nice days followed by a nasty day. Today is a really nice and sunny day.

Last night’s camp has been the most crowded for us up until now. We met 4 new hikers. What I find super interesting are the different trekking stories. Darryn first met the 4 hikers from Paso at Dickson in his first night – when we were having the time of our lives in our emergency camp 😛 One of the 4 started trekking a day prior to us but decided to not give a shit about the closed Séron camp and camped there in his first night. Something we should’ve done also, I was thinking, when he told us. The other 3 started trekking the same day we did but a bit earlier. So, did Darryn. He started hiking around 5am. The bad weather of that day kicked in when he was “only” a couple hours away from Dickson. The 2 hikers who arrived after us at Dickson started the trek on our second day but took a rest day at Dickson and are taking one at Grey, too. We will meet them again later tonight. They do big distance treks with rest days in between.

There’s a bunch of ways to do the O-Circuit. Keep this in mind, when you make the reservations and do the planning 🙂

The trek towards Camp Grey gets more and more crowded the closer we get to it. Torres del Paine is very popular for the W-Trek and its day treks to the viewpoints of the Grey glacier. Grey camp is part of the W-Trek. It’s a little culture shock when we arrive at camp later. We actually need to look for a nice camping spot because it’s rather crowded.

Just before this camp there’s another viewpoint. It’s a little detour worth taking.

The three of us decide to get a Pisco bottle and drink to the past days. I mention this specifically because it will totally kick my ass on the next day. Another future-self-would-love-to-pinch-past-self moment.