March 11. Today was our last hike, the one reserved for poorer weather, since clouds won't obscure the views as easily. We were headed up the large, Lago Grey to the Grey Glacier, a huge glacier that rolls directly out of the South Patagonian Ice Field.
Breakfast was cafeteria style, but with the usual ingredients – toast, jam, cold cuts, juice, instant coffee – and a couple of new things, like poorly scrambled eggs. Still, its pretty amazing how they can feed so many people in so little time.
While yesterday started calm and developed wind, today was different. It was windy and rainy all night, but the day dawned clear – and windy. We set out a little after 9:00 and began a climb through “Windy Canyon.” (This may be a local name; it's not on any maps. It's not hard to see where the name came from.) It was windy this morning and very windy this afternoon, on the return trip.
We passed out of Windy Canyon and entered another windy place, undulating over ridges of rock left by the glaciers, overlooking a small lake and then, after an hour or so, Lago Grey. This lake is very large and hosts many icebergs, most of which tend to gather at the south end, pushed by the prevailing winds. About two hours up, we reached the first viewpoint, from which you can see both sides of the glacier's snout, the peaks flanking it, and – in better weather – onto the great Ice Field itself.
Half of the group turned around there, and the rest of us hiked up more undulating ground to Refugio Grey and its viewpoint. While the first viewpoint is better for the big picture, this one gets you closer to the snout of the glacier. It was worth the trip, but we didn't want to miss the boat back to our first camp on Lago Pehoe, so we took our pictures and turned around quickly.
The return trip was even windier. So windy, in fact, that the boat that was to take us back to our first camp didn't arrive. It had turned back due to the winds. Juan says that this is the first time in five years. So, we're back in these tents, here, at Paine Grande.
A great day, a fitting end to the hiking portion, and a bit of excitement, between the wind and the boat.