Day 5, The Grey Glacier to Paine Grande
Your destination today is Lake Pehoe and the Paine Grande hut, a beautiful place to rest, where you have this incredibly diverse landscape in front of you: the Lake, Los Cuernos and Paine Grande.
This stage is a relatively short and flat one of three to four hours and around 11kms of walking.
You start the day on a path making it’s way uphill through the woods. On your way you will find to your left some waterfalls, in an area affected by the fire which happened in 2011 and is still unrecovered. In the background, at the top of the Massif, the famous ice mushrooms are visible. These strange ice formations occur in these latitudes and are caused by moisture being carried by the wind of the Pacific which then gets frozen in the rock.
Unfortunately, the track continues through the remains of the destructive fire, the largest ever recorded in Chile. Descend gently to meet the beautiful bridge over the river Olguin which rages down the canyon.
After the bridge, and a stretch of rocky ascent, continue walking with a few ups and downs, with Calafates bushes on both sides of the path. After about one hour and a quarter from the bridge you will be at the highest point of the day where you will be able to see the Grey Lake.
In addition to the amazing panoramic view of the glacier you also have an excellent view of the Lake and blue icebergs that accumulate on its eastern and southern shore. After about 20 minutes you will find a mark that points you away from the path and here you can climb the rocks to your right to a viewpoint where you can see the Grey and Tyndall Glaciers.
From here, the trail becomes undemanding. After the viewpoint you continue for 2kms downhill until you reach the Laguna de los Patos, a windy place with little vegetation.
From this point a descent begins down a ravine. On either side of it is the perfect habitat for condors and you can identify their nests by their white droppings staining the rock.
In the background sits the pristine, crisp, blue Lake Pehoe beautifying the landscape.
The path continues to a CONAF (National Forestry Organisation) cabin. The Paine Grande hut sits on the right, and to the left the trail leads to the French Valley, which is your route for the next day.
The hut is situated on the shore of the Lake Pehoé, and is extensive and comfortable, and has lovely views to the lake, the Paine Grande mountain and the Cuernos. There is a common room with sofas and a fireplace, and there are plugs where you can charge a limited number of electronic devices. This is restricted to the daytime. The hut is open all year long but the camping only operates during the high season and the opening dates may vary depending on the weather conditions. The camping has a cooking area and a dining room which is quite modern, and you also have access to all the facilities of the hut.
If you are lucky with the weather here you will be able to sit and watch the beautiful colours of sunshine and of sunset on these amazing rocky formations.