Breath­tak­ing Tor­res del Paine

Serve Daily - - FOSTERING INNOVATION - By Mark John­ston

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.

My wife, Brit­nee, and I had not ex­pected as much when we started the fourhour 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 the hid­den tow­ers – slowly get swal­lowed up by dull, grey clouds that had looked so col­or­ful two hours ear­lier at sun­rise. Mean­while the trail, which 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.

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. Las Tor­res del Paine re­mained ob­scured by the steep slope and more wisps of grey clouds gath­ered around, threat­en­ing to en­velop us and chill­ing the sweat on my back be­fore I pulled on my Co­topaxi Pa­caya jacket.

Then sud­denly they were there, 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. Upon crest­ing the top of the mo­raine, an even more im­pres­sive sight was re­vealed: a glacial lake stretch­ing be­fore us pro­vid­ing a per­fect re­flec­tion of the for­mi­da­ble land­scape of rock and ice tow­er­ing above it. Brit­nee and I en­joyed Las Tor­res del Paine in soli­tude for a good hour, sit­ting on a large boul­der out in the turquoise wa­ter as we ate our lunch. Each time I looked up from my sand­wich I couldn’t be­lieve my eyes.

To read more of Mark and Brit­nee’s trav­els around the world, visit their blog at

Photo by Mark John­ston

Brit­nee John­ston sits be­neath Tor­res del Paine in Chile.

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