Located in Southern Chile, Torres del Paine National Park is a top destination for hikers and climbers in Patagonia. The End of the Earth tour offered us 3 days and 2 nights of hiking and camping in the park.
My G Adventures group was in high spirits as we spent a day repositioning ourselves from El Calafate, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile.
Upon arrival at a warm and comfortable hostel in Puerto Natales, Christian, our CEO, briefed us on everything we’d need, and not need, for our time in the park.
Earlier in the trip, Christian had already arranged for sleeping bags to be rented, at a cost of $20, for those of us who needed them.
Once again, I rented water-resistant pants just in case the weather was wet. And we all bought bottles of Chilean wine, which were available for as little as $3 apiece in the supermarket.
We left the hostel in a private van before dawn the following day. A few hours later, we were starting our hike up to the three Towers del Paine (known simply as the Three Towers).
These granite monoliths act as a symbol for the entire park, and we were all excited to lay eyes on them in person.
The Three Towers hike was to be our most difficult of the trip. Due to inclement weather, we’d skipped the hardest part of the Fitz Roy hike.
In other words, we’d had it pretty easy up until then. The good news was the altitudes were so low, acclimatization and mountain sickness wouldn’t be factors.
The start of the hike was straight up, as so often is the case. The group began to splinter as people walked at their own comfortable pace. Christian lead in the front, and for safety reasons, a local Chilean guide followed up in the back.
After an hour of walking, we’d reached a turning point, where the trail began winding up a valley. Christian indicated that at a rocky moraine in the distance, we’d be turning left for the final push up to the Towers.
A half hour after our turn up the valley, we arrived at a campsite, where we enjoyed our pack lunches, and relaxed by the river. Thirty minutes later, we began to walk again, this time through a forest.
Throughout the hike, the landscape and views around us were constantly changing. This was no more apparent then when we reached the steep and rocky moraine.
Leaving the cover of the forest, we were once again exposed to the strength of the mid-day sun. We began walking up the trail, which bordered the forest to our left, and the rocks to our right. People on their way down would encourage us, saying we were close.
It took everyone in our group 30 to 45 minutes to reach the top. The skies had been gradually clearing throughout the day, so by the time we finally saw the Three Towers, it was against a backdrop of pure blue.
It was mid-afternoon, and the sun’s glow was already on the opposite side of the mountains, but we were just happy to see the tops of all three towers. According to Christian, the weather was only as nice as we had it 10% of the time.
The remnants of the once massive glacier that filled the valley slowly melted into the turquoise lagoon below. The snow was so dirty, it was hard to even distinguish it from the surrounding rock.
An avid rock climber, Christian told us of his plans to organize a climb of Torre Norte (2,260 meters) within a few days of the end of our tour. He said the North Tower takes a minimum of 20 hours to climb, making it an all day affair.
I stared up at the sheer granite walls, and tried to imagine what it’d be like for climbers like Christian to reach the top.