Los Cuernos: The Horns of Patagonia

Greg Snell September 4, 2014 9

Patagonia is a mythical place; one of our world’s last true wildernesses. It is a vast windswept plain, a jagged mountain peak, a lake silently reflecting the timeless dance of clouds in the sky. It is a place that inspires and one that continues to draw travellers blessed with a sense of adventure.

For those who travel, Torres del Paine probably rings a bell. It is one of the most infamous natural landscapes in South America and photos of “los Cuernos” have circulated around the globe for years. But why? What makes this place so cool, so special? The short answer is you’ll have to go there yourself to figure it out. But life sometimes just isn’t that easy, so I’ll attempt to tell you why.

photo of los cuernos

The Horns are about halfway along the famed W Trek Circuit.

Los Cuernos, or “the Horns,” is part of the Paine Massif, an outcropping of granite peaks nestled comfortably within the heart of the southern Andes and Patagonia. It is a spectacle of erosion and a probe into the depths of time. The Horns are about halfway along the famed 60km (37 mi) W Trek Circuit, seated between the neighbouring peaks of Los Torres and Paine Grande. They are a particular spectacle mostly due to their shape and colouring. They instantly call to mind a set of rocky horns, and their jaggedness really does strike even the most well-travelled adventurer to awe-inspiring silence. The colour is something more scientific and brings out the amateur geologist nerd in those of us who really like rocks.

Bienvenido to the famous Torres del Paine National Park.

Bienvenido to the famous Torres del Paine National Park.

Paine Massif is the result of a centuries-old volcanic eruption in which the magma never reached the surface of the earth. Instead, it got just close enough to eventually harden into a large circular granite shape just underneath. Over the course of millions of years, the earth’s tectonic plates shifted creating the South American Andes. The giant ball of granite was ever so slowly pushed upwards, and over hundreds of thousands of years the earth’s climate shifted and changed and, thanks to the ever-powerful force of erosion, the mountains began to take shape.

Los Cuernos standing with pride.

Los Cuernos standing with pride.

tree growing off the rock face

The W Trek circuit offers amazing views at each turn.

Granite is a very hard rock and often outlives most other types of rock. The surface layer of that ancient eruption was almost completely washed away over the Massif, and through centuries of ice ages and relentless winds, one would not think any differently. However, there is still a tiny section that holds on and can still be seen to this day, hence the curious colouring of los Cuernos. At the very top of the rocky horns lie three capped peaks marked by their stark contrasting colours of black (sedimentary stratum) and greyish white (granite). It is truly a sight to behold and a wonder of geology and erosion.

Awe inspiring. View of los Cuernos from the W Trek circuit.

Awe inspiring. View of los Cuernos from the W Trek circuit.

The sun high above the peaks of los Cuernos.

The sun high above the peaks of los Cuernos.

Patagonia is indeed a mythical place. Los Cuernos hold a spirit that matches the beginning of time and holds a presence like that of God’s sentinel to our beautiful home. A place of stunning natural splendour and childlike wonderment, Patagonia holds true to its everlasting reputation, and the Horns will be there for you to admire.

Buen viaje.


Getting There

Have you ever trekked the W Circuit? Want these landscapes burned into your memory? Get Active with G Adventures and head out to Patagonia on one of our small group trips.

9 Comments »

  1. Ranil Mendis September 15, 2014 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Greg,
    Fascinating travel facts, enjoyed reading! I understand that you in Sri Lanka now – very keen to know what your impressions are from that island!

    By the way I met Barbara this morning at the school board meeting – that’s how I heard of your achievements. Congrats!

  2. sang lee September 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    I would like to get the information, so we can visit next year.

  3. Sacha Mlynek September 16, 2014 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Sang,

    Sure thing. Have a look at this link to our trekking in Patagonia, and happy planning!

    https://www.gadventures.com/travel-styles/active/hiking-trekking/patagonia/

  4. Greg Snell September 17, 2014 at 5:14 am - Reply

    Hi Ranil, thanks for the comment. Barbara is forever great at spreading the word. Thank you for the kind words.

    Sri Lanka is a wonderful place. Very different from Patagonia, but amazing all the same. I highly suggest a visit.

  5. Nikki October 9, 2014 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Hi Greg!
    I’ve been looking into the Patagonia Dreaming active tour and found your blogs. I was wondering if you had any suggestions and if you would recommend this tour? Also, I understand it is active, but how hardcore? Is it okay if I don’t speak Spanish?
    Thanks!

  6. Greg Snell October 9, 2014 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Hi Nikki, thanks for the comment and the great questions. The Patagonia Dreaming trip was one of my favourites as a G CEO.

    The trip includes a good amount of hiking throughout some of the most stunning scenery. It is not too demanding yet does require a basic fitness level. Most of the people I travelled with on this tour were in good shape for their ages and were keen to get outside and experience nature.

    Speaking Spanish is not necessary as your G CEO is bi-lingual and can translate for you and also help you learn while there :)

    I would highly recommend the trip.

    Cheers,

    Greg

  7. LENI HAMILTON November 1, 2014 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    PLEASE KEEP ME INFORMED ABOUT PATAGONIA !! THIS IS ONE OF THE MUST VISIT PLACES.

    COSTS INVOLVED ?

  8. Gill January 29, 2015 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Gregg, Great photos! They really do inspire me to want to get one of these tours booked!! … Im currently torn between Patagonia Dreaming and End of the Earth tours. Would you not experience a significant amount of the W circuit with the End of the Earth? This had been the one I was leaning towards but didnt want it to be minimal hiking as it isn’t classified as Active. Wondering is there alot of time wasted rewalking trails each day from base camp?

    Thanks for any advice.

    Also – would one of the tours attract more of a younger crowd (20s-30s) or are they much the same?

    • Sacha Mlynek January 30, 2015 at 12:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Gill,

      We’re really excited to see you’re thinking of travelling to Patagonia with G Adventures! I think the best way to help you determine which of these tours are for you is decide if you’d like your trip to be very much active based. Patagonia Dreaming will have hiking, biking, and multi-sport activities and will hike a portion of the W-circuit. The End of the Earth will, as you have mentioned, have a centre-based hiking in the area and will have an overall focus of travelling through the Patagonia region. Check out this trip comparison for some clarity and do feel free to connect with our reservations team to ask any further questions.

      Happy Planning!

      Sacha

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