Trekking the Legendary Torres del Paine
A legend always needs some specific elements: one or several heroes, an environment who’s against them, a glorious battle and a final victory for the hero. So when we were put in front of a truly legendary trek for a truly legendary mountain, we ought to write our own legend… it goes like this:
In a land far far away, over 7 seas, over 7 mountains, over 7 rivers, over 7 lakes and over 7 glaciers lies a Mountain whose reputation has circled the globe. Its crown composed of 3 summits often lie in the clouds. Its base is surrounded by a white carpet of snow and a myriad of cascades, all flowing graciously into a green lake. It is the pride of the Chilean Andes and to climb it to the top one has to be one of the best climbers in the world. But even that is not enough. The valleys surrounding it are so windy and the waters so powerful, that all the refugees around are powered only by the forces of nature. The prices for the 3 levels bunk beds in these refuges are so high that if you haven’t won the lottery, or had inherited a big fortune recently you shouldn’t start training for the trek yet.
But then there is the beauty. The multiple layers of the Earth’s crust formed in millions of years are easily visible here. The glaciers on top of the mountains melt slowly, the green water coming down with a roar. All the rivers meet at the base in one calm, green water mirror. The big and small granite blocks are witnesses of ancient landslides. The trees are small, trying to hide from the ferocious wind and root themselves deeply into the soil.
And on top of all this there is a small path made by the thousands of people that came here to admire it. It goes up through rough terrain, but the view at every corner is worth it.
Our starting point for the 22km long battle with the nature and our physical limits was the charming city of Puerto Natales. Located in the Chilean Southern Patagonia, it’s surrounded by fiords, mountains and the long arid Patagonian plains. Once here, the adventurer has two options if he wants to reach Torres del Paine. Either a one day ascent and descent, or a 5 day trek that takes you through valleys, mountains, rivers and glaciers – the glorious “W trek”. BUT the access to those deciding to do the W trek is restricted by the National Park guards to people who have reservations in advance for all the lodges along the way. And, as we prepared for this trip only a few days in advance, some of the essentials stopping points along our way were already full.
We were left with the only option of tackling the mountain in one day. So we left towards the National Park at sunrise, knowing that Torres del Paine could be the only mountain to beat Cerro Torre or Fitz Roy as our favorite peak in the world. The battle was on as soon as we started. A chilly and tremendous wind was our most fearsome adversary. And it got stronger and stronger the further we went up through narrow valleys, as its power was concentrated in a smaller space. I had to hold Zeb tightly a few times to keep her on her feet. But once we passed through a forest and arrived to the upper limit of the vegetation the wind gave up. Only to find that the ascent gets even more abrupt … But at the end of another hour the reward was worth it completely: in front of us, at no more than 300m the 3 towers of Paine were dominating the landscape behind a glacial lake. Just the perfect spot to have lunch and celebrate!
In the end both Zeb and I put Torres del Paine on the 3rd place in our top of the most beautiful peaks we’ve ever visited. This whole week was incredible with some of the best landscapes we’ve encountered during our journey. After all this walking and climbing we left the area with an even bigger desire to discover similar places, wherever they are …