P.N. Torres del Paine Part 3

I had soon gone to sleep after sunset at Lago Nordenskjöld. When we woke up a cold front had moved over us. Temperature had fallen significantly and the sun was nowhere to be seen. It looked like it could rain any minute and in some parts of the park it even must have been snowing. Now this was the Patagonia we had heard about!

We only had to walk about 1 1/2 hours until we reached Campamento Italiano. At first we were unsure about what we would do. A slight drizzle had set in and it looked like it could only get worse. We even thought about skipping Valle Francés and continuing to the Paine Grande Lodge.
Luckily we decided to take a short break and ate some chocolate. Our brains started functioning normally again and we kept walking the path into the Valle Francés. It was tough, very tough and we soon learned why most people only go there as a side-trip.

Rufous-collared Sparrow © Joerg Bonner

In places the wind was blowing even stronger than on the first day and we had a hard time standing upright. After the a first steep ascent the path was more or less an up and down (more up than down, obviously). The hanging glaciers below Cerro Paine Grande were covered in clouds. We were in constant fear that heavy rain could set in before we reached the camp. This meant that we couldn't stop nearly as often as we would have liked to. But it was too cold to sit down for more than a few minutes anyways...
In the end we reached Campamento Británico after 4 1/2 hours. Logs had been piled around the sites to serve as shelters from the wind (making them look like small fortresses). The thought of winds that would call for such protection made us shiver.
While setting up our tent we were greeted by a cheeky sparrow. Would this be my only photo opportunity? Photography wasn't on the top of my list anymore. I was tired, and though it had not rained, the clouds would still need to clear off to make it worthwile.

Valle Francés © Joerg Bonner

And that's exactly what happened. By the time we had finished dinner the clouds were gone. I didn't have too much energy left so I declared the stream that passes the camp my sunset location.
This happened to be a good choice since the rapids provided an energetic foreground. The remaining clouds were moving fast and begging for some long-exposure action. (In case you are wondering, the picture above is a composite of two exposures. A shorter one for the water and a long one for the clouds.).

Cerro Fortaleza © Joerg Bonner

The following night was clear and quite warm. We spent some time star-gazing with a couple that also was staying at Campamento Británico (in fact there were only three tents in the camp and for the first time Parque Nacional Torres del Paine seemed to belong just to us).
Before going to sleep we had arranged to get up for sunrise the next morning, so I crawled out of my tent an hour before sunrise and went to our neighbours' tent to see if they were ready. Silence. "Did you really think that anybody else would be so crazy?", i said to myself on my way back to pick up my camera gear. Suddenly I saw lights of two headlamps a bit from the camp. To my pleasant suprise the two had been down by the water preparing tea and coffee.

Morning Coffee © Joerg Bonner

The sunrise shoot could not have been more enjoyable. We had followed the path into Valle Francés until we reached a look-out. The show of light was incredible and the hot tea helped to bear the cold wind gusts. For twenty minutes we couldn't stop turning our heads as the fast changing light wandered through the valley.

I often think back to that morning and it's not only the pictures I took home but also the company of those kind people (they wouldn't stop catering me cake and tea) that made this shoot one of the most memorable ones in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, XII Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena, Chile
On the way from Refugio y Campamento Los Cuernos To Campamento Británico.
51 deg 59' 12" S / 73 deg 3' 18" W

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