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  • Writer's picturePaula Cooper

5 November Torres el Paine & Lago Torres, Patagonia Chile: Slippery Stunning Snowy Superb Sunnyish!

Gosh so windy in the night, comforting to hear the yurt flap (we had been warned it wouldn’t blow away!) but not necessarily sleep inducing! Extra layers donned, extra jumper packed, early to breakfast, late to make lunch, extremely late onto the minibus! (Returned a jumper, sunshine expected, but kept thermals!) Fortunately the other hikers didn’t seem to mind.

A long, pretty, picturesque, interesting, dry but cloudy journey right across the park passing the oldest hotels, one on an island and one close to the start. Now, no hotels are allowed in the park, however compulsory purchase creating the park, did not include existing hotels and hostels, so whilst surrounded by the park, they own their site so are not technically in the park!!!

Parking, we had a good view of the three granite towers, our destination, before we entered or rather left the park; via the bathroom! (I’m still grateful for Chilean plumbing! …and Patagonian water too, its fresh potable, tastes lovely and is cold and refreshing!)

We then had our group chat: stay together, one guide at front, one at the rear, ask for help or to nip to the bathroom, plenty of streams to fill up in the second half of the climb, stretching exercises in a km; the first bit flat passed the hotel. Off the guide went with the youth following at a pace most definitely from our distant pasts! Only the latter deemed to be true and it was almost 2miles before we stopped!

I managed to miss the exercises; bushes called! However I enjoyed the views across the river, steppe and mountains. The gentle up, followed as we joined the rest of the world embarking on this iconic upward climb; the bucket list of Patagonian hikes!

After traversing a scree (on a nice wide path this time) we rejoined the group at the “Chileno” refuge; toilets and chocolate! One of the guides produced a bag full. Bottles refilled we headed off through the woods. The impressive lenga forest untouched by fire; you could see the many trunks binding to support one large tree mass.

We rejoined the steady stream of hikers, our group engulfed and fragmented! Some miles later we met up again after a few waterfalls, bridges, spectacular valley views back as we neared the snow line across the river.  Something about a bit further, then the steep scramble!

The last time I saw the front guide was at the start of the steep boulder filled slopes. "Just go up and follow the orange posts to that large boulder at the top"… so follow the hikers! Initially we had “Incan” stone steps, which mutated to boulders, which became a scramble and then a tricky traverse across very steep snowy slippery slopes! That boulder receding; we could have done with moral support!

Eventually we scrambled up to the summit to find we were the second pair to arrive! Utterly worth the ~12km challenge. The frozen snowy lake setting the scene for the three granite pillars clad in mist behind; a touch of snow swirling! Also very cold, extremely windy and crowded, but nonetheless stunningly spectacular to see the iconic view. Photos a must!

The massif was formed when volcanic magma pushed up the sedimentary rock; subsequent glacial ice flows and erosion produced the three granite pillars, torre sud 2850m, torre central 2800m and torre norte 2260m.

Our guides secured a trusty massive boulder to shield us for lunch; coffee and soup gratefully accepted!

Lunch over we headed down. I dutifully slipped in behind the lead guide to make sure he got us oldies down the slippery snowy steep severe scramble in one piece. Once back within the tree line the easier long walk back commenced.

Stopping at the Chilean refuge, they’d put up platform tents for hikers to spend the night. (Made me thankful for our Incan tents) we ignored massive queue for loos and beers and headed back; straight to the minibus it turned out.

Having inadvertently stormed ahead (looking for an appropriate bush only to be told to stick to the path) I realised I’d lost everyone and no idea where to go. Doggedly following the orange poles, nearing the bottom, I stopped and waited. Eventually, thankfully Simon and I met again. Negotiating the walk passed the hotel to the park entrance and carpark was really tricky; the signs just stopped! Eventually we all, bar one, arrived safely down. (One group member ended up off piste; wrong carpark) A bit crazy really for us to have spread out so much; or a massive vote of confidence in our abilities!

The same delicious spread awaited us, before the drive back. It was a long 15+mile hike plus a long drive, but worth it.

Snooze over, I eschewed the buffet for a plate of deserts and the hot tub!

In hindsight I wished we had more days in Chilean Patagonia for hiking and less in San Pedro. We didn’t know when booking how similar Bolivia and the Atacama were or how stunning and fun walking Patagonia would be!

Early morning sunrise

Walk to the base of the towers

(Route; start; base of towers at frozen lago Torres; route up (before watch died of cold!))

Route up

(Across the land owned by hotels; our group; first views; entering park; first snow sight; lenga tree formed from many fused trees, forest unaffected by fires; geology; first snow; start of the final really steep hard scramble)

At the top base of the towers

(At steep boulder/scree scramble; base of towers with frozen lago Torres, and the rest of the park but no drones! )

(Our group; more at the top including an attempt at a selfi !)

Way down

(views across valley; strata; towers from the carpark feast; guanaco from the minibus)

We stayed at Patagonia Camp, Torres del Paine, Torres of Torres del Paine, Patagonia National Park, Chile.

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