Breathtaking Torres del Paine
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 www.OneWorldOneYear.com.
Britnee Johnston sits beneath Torres del Paine in Chile.