Our first day of the "W" is a round trip hike from Refugio Paine Grande out to a viewpoint past Refugio Grey. Detail map with some topo lines. Click on the map and use the magnifying glass to see full resolution.
Today's hike could be done one way by taking the boat from Hosteria Lago Grey to Refugio Grey, arriving about the same time we did ~1PM. Those who add a 5th day to the "W" can spend a night at Refugio Grey and hike out along the glacier or partway up Paso John Gardner for higher views. The top of the pass is at 4,000 feet so a considerable slog above the lakes at ~300 feet. Yesterday some people hiking the circuit crossed it east to west with 70+MPH winds blasting ice pellets in their faces as the top of the pass was still snow covered.
The weather is nicer today. It's mostly high overcast with wind only in the most exposed places. The wind would have been screaming off Lago Grey yesterday. The hike looks like it's along the lake on small maps but in fact it climbs to ~1,000 feet with total ~1,500 vertical up and down for the day's hike of about 15 miles roundtrip. The trail also tended to be rocky and uneven in some sections.
We left Paine Grande about 8:45AM, carrying only what we needed for the day as we were returning there. First we come to Laguna Los Patos.
Then Lago Grey comes into view
Similar to some mountain lakes at home until you see the icebergs pushed against the leeward shore.
We came to a fork in the trail. Even though the lower fork was the main trail the upper one looked sufficiently traveled that we were confident it would rejoin. Views from the high road.
Descent back to the main trail.
We will eventually get to the point along the lake at far upper right. Refugio Grey is hidden in the forest even though it's close to shore.
Back on the trail we get closer views of the blooming red Notro bushes, also known as Chilean firebush.
The Notro seemed to favor steep as opposed to flat areas. There were lots of them up to about 1,200 feet and and none above 1,500 feet.
Bird on a rock overlooking the lake and a small iceberg
Refugio Grey, where we stopped for lunch and to warm up some
View along the beach toward the Grey Glacier
We followed a spur trail to the viewpoint over a cove to the Grey Glacier.
An iceberg was stranded in the cove.
We then scrambled up the nearby rocks for a panoramic view of the lake and glacier.
Zoom up the glacier
View west across the lake with interesting icebergs
These small icebergs looked like a pair of frogs.
Some interesting peaks above us
Large rocks by the trail
During a sunny break the Notro flowers were well illuminated
The Notro flowers were at their peak and are generally done by late December.
At this time thick clouds were building over the glacier, the wind was picking up and we thought we might be overtaken by a storm before we got back to Refugio Paine Grande. Fortunately that did not happen. We passed some pack horses on the way back.
There was a bit of rain after we got back to the lodge, but it cleared a bit for this rainbow viewed from the bar.
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,318K in 2010-11
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12