Day 6 - Paine Grande to Domos Francés
Be sure to leave early to catch the first rays of sun on the massif of Paine Grande and the Cuernos. Inspired by this view you will want to start walking as soon as possible!
Today is a fairly long day of around six to seven hours with 20.7kms of walking.
The trail passes initially across a flat plain bordering the Lake but after a few minutes the way heads north along slightly ascending steps. Looking back, the view is like a beautiful postcard of the hut beside the Lake.
Continue along the slopes of Cerro Paine Grande with fantastic views of the Cerro to your left and the Cuernos on the right.
About half an hour from the start, you reach the border of Lake Skottsberg and once again sadly you will see the ravages of fire, predominantly black trees and occasionally green bushes.
After going over several boardwalks, which are helping to save the marshlands, you will find another small lagoon, and two hours after leaving the hut you will cross the Río Francés by a suspension bridge. From this bridge, you have an excellent view of the glaciers of the massif and the beginning of the Valle del Francés.
We hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.
On the other bank of the river is the Campamento Italiano, an area of free camping. It offers essential services and a shed for cooking. It is a rather cold and wet area, so it is better to continue to Domos Francés if you want a bit more comfort. You can leave backpacks here though if you'd rather be a bit more lightweight for a while, as the next part of the route is up to a viewpoint and then you will be returning here before carrying on with the route.
Continue along the path, which steadily rises on the east bank of the Río Francés, through wooded and rocky terrain. Along the way, can see the Glacier that hangs from the Cerro Paine Grande.
Half an hour after the Campamento Italiano there is a clear area where you can see, on the horizon, the Nordenskjold Lake. The trail continues on to a steeper rocky area. There are some fixed ropes in place here in case the path is slippy.
Once you have got over this, the path then goes through a forest of Lengas; to your left there is a drop down into the valley and to the right Los Cuernos del Paine. About an hour and a half after the Campamento Italiano you will arrive at another viewpoint. This viewpoint offers spectacular views in all directions - the Valley, the Lake, Los Cuernos del Paine, the Glacier and there is a possibility of seeing some ice seracs falling down from the glacier.
Many people stop here, but there is a viewpoint higher up if you have the energy - the British viewpoint, another 1km uphill. The trail continues along the river in a dense forest of Lengas with orange markings that indicate a path with no steep slopes.
At the British viewpoint you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the powerful granite walls surrounding the valley. It is truly magnificent and a reward for all your effort of today.
Descend carefully as it is quite steep and can be slippy. When you get back to Campamento Italiano, continue another 2kms to the southeast downhill to reach the French Domos.
The Domos and Camping El Francés overlook Lake Nordenskjöld, Los Cuernos and Paine Grande. There is a shop, restaurant, equipment rental, toilets and showers with hot water.
We hope you enjoy the day as much as we did.