Hidden towers

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CHILE

“MIRADOR LAS TORRES”
DAY TREK

March 2014 • Canon 60D camera


Hike stats

18km (11mi)

Distance (round trip)

891m

Highest point

7–9 hrs

Duration (round trip)

It was a cold morning at the Las Tores campsite. My tent was pitched at a downward gradient so I found myself slipping down every hour in my sleeping bag. It was also raining last night so I really did not get much sleep. This was the 9th day of my adventure in the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile. After a nice big breakfast with the guys, we made some sandwiches for lunch and headed out to the start of our day trek behind the Hotel Torres. The hike was to go see the famous 3 granite towers the Torres del Paine, arriving at the base of the towers. As famous as Fitz Roy in the Argentinian side of Patagonia, it is a must for everyone that comes to this area. The weather this morning was cloudy which our guide said was not a good sign.

There was a high probability the towers could still be covered by clouds when we get up there, our guide, Antonio, cautiously said to us. From behind the hotel we crossed a large rope bridge over a wide river to the starting point of the hike. From here we walked up a gentle gradient up hill and reached a valley. With all the clouds you could not see the river to the side but you could hear it as you walked at the side of the mountain. It was really cold and as we walked up it kept us warm. I was still feeling tired with my lack of sleep. And together with the cold I decided to just enjoy the hike up and not worry to much about taking photos. To be honest the first part of the trek was so cloudy there was not much to see in any case...


From the side of the mountain we went further inland. Crossing a wooden bridge we made our way through forests to a small campsite, Refugio Chileno. Here we took a short break to rest and buy some coffee, tea or snacks. As coffee addicts, Athena and I went for some coffee but it was not very good (instant coffee). We both said that when we would finish the hike we would make sure to treat ourselves to a nice espresso at the big hotel before going back to the campsite. From here we went deeper into the forest. It was damp and muddy because of the rain last night. The forest seem to be much healthier than the ones on the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado hike that we did in Argentina.

Weaving through the forest up and down, crossing small streams on small rope bridges we met other fellow hikers as we walked up. The path led us out of the forest and we had a fairly steep climb up the mountain face. To the side of us was thick clouds. We could hear the river below us but could not see anything. We stopped at one point to take a rest. It was a strange experience as I sat down and stared into the white clouds. It felt like I was wrapped inside a white box. For a brief second the clouds would be patchy to reveal a quick glimpse of the rock face of the mountain on the other side.






The final stage of this hike is pretty steep. As you go up hill, you will be using your hands and knees to climb over large boulder rocks at various points. The path up is marked by orange poles so you can easily find the way up through the clouds. Once at the top I was surprised not to find an edge of a cliff or similar. Instead a large lake greeted us. In the distance nothing but clouds. Antonio explained that above the lake was the Torres de Paine, three towers hidden in the clouds. It was a real shame that we were not rewarded with seeing the towers after the hike up.

But did not take away the excitement I had of hiking up. I enjoyed the physical nature of the last part and climbed up as fast as I could. Hence no photos of the last part as I raced with myself to the top. We sat here to have our packed lunch and take a rest. We were all hoping that miraculously the clouds would disappear to reveal the towers. Apart from a few seconds at the base of the mountain the clouds would show what was hidden behind. But above, it stayed as thick as it could. Other hikers would slowly come up and had the same disappointed reaction like us. And as we made our way back down the hikers coming up was asking us in the towers were visible... I felt sad to let them know that they would not see the towers.


The weather in the Patagonian region can never be predicted. You can have all four seasons in one day. As we walked down to the valley out of the forest, the weather had become really hot. Stripping off layers and putting on sunblock and sunglasses, we could finally see the valley that was covered in clouds this morning. The mountain on the other side had a black, lava like surface covered from time to time with trees. The sun was shining bright and we could now see the river that ran in the middle of the valley. A complete contrast to what we saw this morning.

After stopping to admire the beauty of the valley and take photos, Athena, Sara and I broke up from the rest of the group to head back quickly to Hotel Torres. We were hoping to get some espresso and cake before the kitchen closes. Arriving at round 6pm there was no cake but we got our espresso coffees! That night at the campsite it was freezing cold. After dinner we played the card game UNO for a while and relaxed and shared stories with each other. It was a nice end to the day.


Final thoughts

It was a bit of a disappointment not to see the Torres de Paine. The famous towers are one of the main draws of the national park but you can never predict what weather you will have. However, it did not spoil my day as I thoroughly enjoyed the hike up and down. A mixture of environments and weather made the day feel like an adventure.

Come prepared with layers that you can strip off and put back on again. Have a wind proof rain jacket and keep the sun block and sunglasses close at hand. The trek is long so pack snacks and drinks for along the way. You do have an opportunity to by some snacks at the campsite Refugio Chileno if you forget or run out along the way. More importantly take your time to enjoy the scenery.


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