Torres Del Pain National Park, Chile
22.12.2009 - 27.12.2009
Sister park to Yosemite National Park in the United States, Torres del Paine is hard to comprehend. It´s constantly changing weather and immense landscape make it one of the coolest places that I have ever been. My goal was to complete what is known as ¨the W¨ circuit. The trek is 68.2 kilometers up and down some very grueling hills. I paid the price in blisters and muscle aches, but the views that I was awarded are still unfathomable and priceless. As a warning, these pictures do not capture the true essence of the beauty of this park. I have only put them here as a humble offering for what awaits you should you decide to embark on this magnificient adventure.
Getting to the park was a process. We had to drive out of Argentina and into Chile. I started to get a little worried at the Chilean border when they said that meat products were prohibited from entering the country. I had 4 MREs that I had planned on using as food for camping, and I knew that I would be out of luck if they confiscated them. I was honest and said that I had meat when they asked and showed them. The customs agent asked,¨Conocido?¨
I didn´t quite understand him at first and then I realized he was asking ¨Is the meat cooked?¨ I laughed due to the highly processed nature of this particular food (my military friends and family know exactly what I´m talking about here) and he let me into the country with them. Once we arrived in the park, the bus took us around to a couple of scenic view points (pictures below) before letting us off to start our trek. Since it was so late by the time we got to the first camp, I set up shop and got to bed early.
Indiginous animal of the area related to the llama
This is a flower that I absolutely loved. I first saw it in El Calafate, but it is more prominent in Torres Del Paine. Most do not look this nice, but I was fascinated by it each time I saw it.
The guide on the bus told me that if you look hard enough, you can see the shape of South America between the two peaks.
I woke up around 5 AM the first day in the park to catch the sunrise. As you can see, it didn´t disappoint. Punta Bariloche is in the foreground and Los Cuernos (or ¨The Horns¨ can be seen in the background). Since it is often cloudy, the sunrise rarely affords these amazing colors.
The first day´s hike was tough. I, stupidly, decided to bring my pack on this 22 km trek instead of leaving it at base camp - don´t ask. The scenary was beautiful, but I was hurting getting up and down these hills on the account that it was my first trek, I was out of shape (keyword = was) and the pack weighs about 50 pounds. Plus, I was spoiled after seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier. So the glacier was impressive but not spectacular. Suffice it to say, I learned a lot about what NOT to do the first day.
My second full day covered the middle fork, known as the French Valley, of the W trek. On the way to the second leg, I got a great shot that captured the color of Lago Pehoe (below). The way the clouds change the scenery constantly is very evident in this photo. The sediment of Lago Pehoe has a mineral composition that makes it a fantastic Carribbean blue. This was the only picture that I took the whole time of this lake that really captured the true hue of the lake.
The French Valley really makes you feel insignificant and small. Since it is the middle leg of the trek, you are surrounded on all sides by the massive peaks. This forrest is a point you walk through just before the very end, and there is something very erie about it. I loved the picture though because it is again evidence of the park´s ever-changing climate, especially when compared to coming out of the valley the next morning (2nd photo below).
When I got to about the halfway point, it was Christmas day. I had been eating the aforementioned MREs the whole trip and drinking glacier water (recommended), but I decided that I needed to treat myself with a hot meal at one of the lodges. The meal was $22 USD but worth every penny.
The last campground I stayed out, there were a bunch of horses just roaming around grazing. I woke up at 11 PM because one of them was eating right next to my tent. It was kind of cool in a bucolic sort of way, but nonetheless startling. The climate was also the most consistent at this last campground, the previous camping spot experienced winds that were over 60 mph during the evening.
The picture below is the final point of the circuit with the three spires in the background known as ¨The Towers.¨ These peaks are the feature where the park derives its name, ¨Torres del Paine,¨which literally translates to ¨Towers of Blue.¨ The photo is almost an optical illusion because they look a lot smaller than they actually are. When I reached the summit, it was snowing and very peaceful. Supposedly, it is very rare to see the towers when they are not shrouded in clouds. I considered myself very lucky that I actually got to see them.
You know that you are in an amazing place when you feel completely insignificant but simultaneously at peace. I am still trying to comprehend everything that I was priviledged to see at the park. The clouds and weather made it seem like a new place each and every minute. There were a couple times were I literally started to tear up because of the immense beauty that I was witnessing. I wish I could convey my feelings in a way that made sense, but alas I know words will never suffice for a place as amazing as this. Instead, I´ll leave you with this: