Mark JohnstonBREATHTAKING TORRES DEL PAINE Mark Johnston April 21 Chile, Travel 8 Comments The view from Mirador Las Torres is one of those that takes the breath away, like a welcomed punch in the gut as you crest the final rise — think Delicate Arch in Utah as you round the last corner on the trail for the great reveal, or exiting the Champ de Mars metro station in Paris to stare up at the Eiffel Tower for the first time. The spires are hidden until the last moment, to be viewed in full from a specific spot as if planned by the Divine who created Torres del Paine. Britnee and I had not expected as much when we started the four-hour hike up from Refugio Torre Central in Torres del Paine National Park. Despite weather reports of “mostly sunny,” we climbed a muddy trail with rain pattering our hoods as heavy clouds stretched far to the horizon. Wet weather might have dampened our spirits somewhat, yet we still considered ourselves lucky not to be battling howling Chilean winds or colder temperatures — it was mid-April and that’s considered shoulder season in Patagonia. In the distance we could see the jagged tips of Cerro Nido de Condor — an impressive cliff neighboring our destination — slowly get swallowed up by dull, grey clouds that had looked so colorful two hours earlier at sunrise. Meanwhile, our trail that had initially climbed steeply into the foothills, now descended one side of the narrow Valle Ascencio to Refugio Chileno. Crossing a river, we then passed a number of soggy campers rising from their tents and sipping steaming cups of tea. We were easily half way to our destination at that point, but all the elevation lost as the trail dropped to Refugio Chileno would now be climbed again — and then some — in a steep slog to the finish. Moving through a fairytale-like forest of Southern Beech trees ablaze in autumn colors, we made good time and eventually exited the woods to stand before a daunting terminal moraine. The trail’s angle and difficulty grew more challenging from there, as it wound its way up the edge of the debris field and then across it — skirting car-sized boulders and sometimes packed with snow. This turned out to be the “dangerous icy cliff” that other hikers had warned us about at the hostel, expressing their concern of our lack of mountaineering boots and trekking poles. Yet, it was nothing more than a scree slope with some well-trodden snow on the trail. Throughout the climb, Las Torres del Paine remained obscured by the steep slope and more wisps of grey clouds gathered around — threatening to envelop us and chill the sweat on our backs before we pulled on our jackets. Then suddenly they were before us — a trident of granite peaks thrusting skyward to cut the clouds and reveal blue sky above. We both stopped to catch our breath, in awe of the towers and maybe a little winded from the steep climb. At the top of the moraine, an even more impressive sight was revealed: a glacial lake stretched before us, providing a perfect reflection of the formidable landscape of rock and ice that towered above it. Britnee and I enjoyed Las Torres del Paine in solitude for a good hour, sitting on a large boulder out on the turquoise water as we ate our lunch, snapped photographs and warmed ourselves in the sun, which finally made an appearance. Each time I looked up from my sandwich, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was only our first full day in Torres del Paine National Park and we already felt completely satisfied — the long trip to Chile worthwhile just for that view — but there was still much to come. We didn’t manage to trek the entire W Circuit, feeling worn out at the end of our year-long trip, but we did take in bits and pieces of it, staying at Mountain Lodge Paine Grande and Refugio Grey on the following nights. Dramatic views of multi-colored mountains, deep-blue glaciers and soaring Andean Condors continued for days and in our short five-day visit we couldn’t get enough of these magnificent surroundings. Tired as we were by the time we boarded the bus back to Puerto Natales, Britnee and I both left the park with a great longing to return and explore deeper into Torres del Paine… and maybe climb a tower or two. 😉 8 Responses Lizzie April 21 Amazing photos! I love the contrast between the calm water and the rough, jagged rock peaks. Patagonia is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time, so I very much enjoyed reading about your time at the Torres del Paine national park! Lizzie recently posted…How the Journey Makes us Appreciate the Destination Mark Johnston April 21 Thanks Lizzie. It really is one of the most dramatic landscapes we’ve seen. Scott April 21 Maaaaaaaaaaaaaan you have no idea how jealous I am about this. You went to heaven while we stayed in Valparaiso for a solid month. Nothing against Valpo, but a month there is about 28 days too long. Mark Johnston April 21 We had heaven for five days but it came with a price. We’ve now been laying low in Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas for a couple of weeks to stay under budget and there’s nothing crazy exciting about that. Was still worth it for Torres del Paine though. Drew April 22 Truly stunning photography and scenery! That kind of landscape is why we need to head down to South America and start exploring. Was it hard to get to Torres del Paine? What city did you depart from? Drew recently posted…Asia Lite Mark Johnston April 22 Thanks Drew. The hardest part is getting all the way south. We happened across a cheap plane ticket to Punta Arenas from New Zealand months ago and jumped on it. We’ve heard of some people making the trip down from Santiago by bus which sounds miserable! Once in Punta Arenas it’s cheap and easy to catch a bus to Puerto Natales, (the jump off point for Torres del Paine), and you can plan your visit to the park from there.