Winds over Grey Lake
Say Torres Del Paine out loud. I’m being serious; say it out loud at your work desk right now. Doesn’t it sound exotic, adventurous, like a place of pure awesomeness? Trust me it does, it’s why your co-workers are looking at you right now. Now say Grey Lake. Man that sounds like a bummer right, like something out of a Shakespeare tragedy. Come on Patagonia, nothing in your park deserves such a boring name! What about “the vast body of water with blue glaciers surrounded by stunning mountain peaks.” It’s a little long, but that’s a more intuitive name than Grey Lake.
On day 2 of the multi sport adventure at Eco Camp we will be kayaking Grey Lake, located on the West side of the park. Its waters are covered with beautiful blue icebergs that you can kayak right up along side as you paddle towards grey glacier located at the North shore of the lake. Just don’t fall in, because obviously water with floating ice in it is not very warm. Unfortunately, that don’t fall in part won’t be possible today.
The windy season is in full effect today; winds on the lake will reach over 100 km, much to dangerous to be on a small kayak next to a glacier in freezing cold water. Eco camp has a backup plan in place though; in case of high winds we have the option of boarding a catamaran that will take us around to see the glacier. It would have been fun to kayak around Grey Lake, but the catamaran provides a few things that the kayaks don’t and is a solid option that I would appreciate later.
Getting to the lake requires a short but beautiful hike over rickety wooden bridges and through luscious green trees. Once out of the forest, a long walk across the beach to your boat awaits. Here we come to understand why we are not kayaking. Not long into our walk the wind starts to push me around. Some of the smaller women walking have to crouch during the stronger gusts as to not get blown over. I find myself laughing sometimes at the absurd strength of the wind.
As soon as we arrive at our boat, “Lady Grey,” everyone rushes inside to gather themselves at the seats and tables in the main cabin. On a day like this it’s nice to have a warm area to rest and regroup, something that would be unavailable in kayaks. Another advantage to the boat is its speed; you see more of the lake by boat. There is a top deck to the boat for an elevated 360-degree view if you’re willing to brave the elements. As glaciers start to appear beside us, we make our way up the ladder to the deck.
Now I’ve shot with some less than ideal footing. Standing on rafts while going through white water, riding backwards on a snowboard, on top of a moving car, I even have a picture of myself hanging off the side of a boat with one arm, no harnesses or anything. None of those were as sketchy as this wide deck was on the open lake with this boat cruising at full speed. As you can imagine, the boat creates its own head wind on top of the already hurricane gusts over open water. Chad tests these winds by trying to fall backwards into them. Leaning fully into it, the wind could keep Chad up. Wind also creates good size swells on the water that the boat is hitting at full speed, sending us bouncing all over the place. On top of that, I’m trying to shoot steady footage of everything while not going over the side of the boat, or worse, breaking and losing the equipment.
It’s a bumpy ride into the depths of the lake. The closer we get to the glacier though, the more protected we are by the mountains around us. By the time we arrive to the grey glacier, the wind feels like a breeze. The wind high above us blows ice and snow off the mountains, creating the illusion of snowfall. The wide glacier is a bright blue that I wouldn’t expect a chunk of ice to have. It’s a calm and serene scene drifting by this humongous wall of ice. One of the unique aspects of Torres Del Paine is that its made up of many different worlds, all forming one National Park. One day you’re in a wide green plain full of guanaco. The next day you’re in a dense forest on the side of a mountain. The next day you’re in the middle of a grey lake surrounded by icebergs.
Another advantage of the boat over a kayak is the ability to serve refreshments. When travelling to Chile, you will be drinking pisco. A high proof brandy made from distilling grape juice, this is the national spirit of Chile. It’s also the national spirit of Peru, but don’t bring that up to a Chilean, read more about that feud here. Sure, Chilean wine is famous, but this is what you drink when you visit. The best way I can describe it is that it tastes like a salt less margarita. Our journey on the gray lake is capped off with a toast of the beverage, served over ice from the glacier.
Back at shore the wind is waiting for us. We hike to the bus and begin our journey home. There are stops along the way for some of the more popular and breath taking views of the park. For example the Hotel Hosteria Pehoe, a famous picturesque hotel that sits on a 5-acre island in the middle of Lake Pehoe. It’s one of those places in the world that once you stand there, you’ll recognize it from the countless photographs you’ve seen of it.
Back at Eco Camp we enjoy some fresh octopus for dinner. After delicious bread pudding for desert we head to the community dome for more sips of pisco and wine. We retire to our dome with a nice fire in our wood-burning stove already lit by the hotel staff. Howling winds and crackling flames rock us to sleep at the end of day 2.