Thursday, 21 April 2011

Walking Torres Del Paine: The W Trek, Day 4

Day 4: Hotel Las Torres up to Torres Del Paine and back

3 hours up, 2 hours down and 1.5 hours back to the main road, 26km approx.

Today could not have started better!  We set off at 8am with Venus brightly visible above a faint glow of the sun beneath the horizon.  There was a ground frost and the air was cold and exceptionally clear, with no trace of a cloud.  The snow on the mountains stood out brightly from the dark ground beneath.
Venus
We were so excited at the view and the prospect of reaching Las Torres Del Paine that we were almost jogging as we departed.  As the sun, still beneath the horizon, crept higher, the snow began to glow pink, then redder.  I like the way that things slowly push into consciousness as the steadily increasingly light gradually makes them visible.
Glowing snow

Show me the way
Forty five minutes into the walk, and a lot higher than when we started, the sun rose and, with our shadows rapidly shortening, the immediate warmth was most welcome.  We passed the turn off for the shortcut path back to Los Cuernos, finished the first section of climbing and began descending quickly towards Campamento Chileno.  Here the path cuts across a very steep scree slope with a precipitous drop to the loud, white water of the river far below.

The trail was no longer wet, instead it was frozen for much of today's route, and the descent back into the valley was chilly as we passed back into shadow.  We crossed yet another wobbly footbridge into Campamento Chileno after just 70 minutes of walking.  This consisted of a boarded up wooden building, a few picnic tables and a couple of tents.



Bridge antics

Showing the way
 For the next hour we ascended gently through woods, over more icy, slippery wooden bridges and rocky river crossings, with the occasional glimpse of the towers through the trees.  At the next campsite, Campamento Torres, the sign informed us it was a further 45 minutes to the top, and this indeed proved accurate.  It became much steeper from now on, as we clambered up icy and slippery rocks.  We were soon back in direct sun, warming up again and quickly removing several layers.  Moving out of the trees, we crossed an open slope of large boulders for the final push to the end of the path which finishes on a steep, narrow ridge (think Crib Goch if you know Snowdonia).

A sheer cliff of rock rises out of the lake, with the three towers of Torres Del Paine looming far above the cliff.  We had perfect weather, with a bright blue, cloudless sky, no wind and brilliant sunshine.  The lake was surrounded by steep scree slopes and there was the ever present low rumble of distant rocks rolling down into the lake.
Torres Del Paine

Boulders could be heard rolling down the slope
Holding up the world
 After a long rest enjoying the view, and a short walk down to the lake (where the path officially ends), we chose to run back down to the Hotel.  This was much fun and took just two hours.  We ran the downhills, walking slowly on the brief uphill stints and enjoyed the view as we went.

The end of the W
We finished the day with a 7km gentle walk back to the "main" road.  This walk was along a fairly dull hard packed road, but with yet more breathtaking views of snow capped mountains in front, and ever increasing views of the towers behind as we walked further from them.  At the end we were surrounded by guanacos while waiting for our truck to pick us up.

All in all, an amazing four day trek which I wouldn't hesitate to walk again.

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