The unforgettable hike to the flagship “Torres” del Paine.

Via on Jan 27, 2012
~Nicole Melancon (an original post series on thirdeyemom). This piece is number seven in a series on thirdeyemom’s trip to Pantagonia.

 

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

Today was it. The final leg of the “W” trek to the infamous, mysterious las torres, the towers, which are the trademark of this incredible park. It was going to be a long, tiring hike taking over 8 hours of our day. But I was ready for the challenge as I always am. We prayed that we would have a clear day so that we would be able to actually see the towers and the Gods must have been watching us from above. When we woke up in the morning, the sun was shining brilliantly against an azure blue sky. It was a postcard perfect day, a rarity in Patagonia.

Morning view outside our Eco Tent. A few fluffy clouds floated graciously against my favorite colored sky: Blue.

We felt so incredibly lucky. Cristian told us that a group of Irish travelers had attempted the trek to the towers three times over two days and had never seen a thing. Since the towers are the most famous and unique feature in the park, we really wanted to do the hike and more importantly, have decent enough weather so we could make it to the top and see las torres unhidden by the clouds. The thought of such dedication, persistence and perseverance of the Irish trekkers intrigued me. What a pity, I thought reflectively yet secretly hoped we would not be faced with a similar fate.

After another large breakfast of an all-you-can-eat-yet-not-feel-the-slightest-bit-guilty buffet, we headed out for our big hike to las torres. The first forty-five minutes were relatively tiring, knee-breaking work as we ascended from 0 to 1,500 feet rather quickly.

A few more clouds trespassed into the sky. Yet so far so good. The view was still promising.

The hike was a lot of ups and downs through a huge river valley that afforded spectacular panoramic views of the park. The pure air was so fresh that my lungs were overjoyed and at ease. I tried to enjoy each and every step with my eye on the prize.

Here is a picture of the heavenly Valle Ascencio beneath our feet.

I was amazed how well my body was doing given all this hiking. No major aches or pains. I felt like I was on top of the world both physically and mentally, nothing like how I felt healing my old battle wounds for six months after completing my first marathon a year before while working a job that required a ton of tedious travel and unwanted stress. I could feel each part of my body as it worked to move me forward, methodically and purposefully, towards my goal.

There were lots hills in the hike. At times it felt like hiking over a rollercoaster track.

The hike was gorgeous. Our views of the surrounding mountains and the massive glacial valley were phenomenal. I took it all in as best as I could, knowing that today was our last day in the park. We also hiked through a beautiful Patagonian rainforest that had patches of snow on the ground leftover from the previous day’s storm. Thankfully the storm was yesterday and not today as I would have been extremely disappointed to miss this hike.

The blossoming red flowers within the Patagonian snow-covered rainforest. Somehow, Spring had managed to arrive.

The windswept trail showed years and years of trees that had faced the wild forces of Mother Nature in Patagonia.

Cristian pointed out a tree that was recently damaged by the wind. There were remnants of snow scattered across the ground from the previous day’s storm.

The last hour of the hike was the most difficult. We hiked one hour up on terrain peppered with large, slippery rocks left over from the glacial age.

Going up and hitting the glacier Moreno. (No…I’m not falling over with exhaustion or tripping….just bending down to tie my shoe! Thought this picture demonstrated the difficult trekking conditions. I’m seriously not that clumsy!).

At this point, the snow was up to our knees so it was quite exhausting work, taking up all our energy and effort to continue up. We also had to be extremely careful because the rocks had become slippery and we didn’t want an accident to happen hours away from camp.

As we got closer to the top, I had a surge in anticipation. The sky was still clear and we had an excellent chance at seeing all three towers. We knew that this was a rare opportunity so we hurried up as fast as we could. We finally reached a huge boulder, which marked the last ten minutes of the hike to the top. We still couldn’t see anything and were forced to keep our heads down the remainder of the way due to the treacherously slippery and steep conditions.

Almost there!

We continued up and then all of the sudden they appeared, three stunning blue granite towers soaring majestically up in the sky. The sight was so extraordinary that we felt like we were on another planet.

And finally….here they are, all three of las torres, in all their glory jetting up to the sky.

We hiked up to a flat plateau with a superb view of the towers and admired their spectacular height. At almost 10,000 feet high, the towers rose above us in an intimidating manner and it was hard to grasp their true magnitude.

I made it! Yeah!!!!

Paul and I, thankful that we reached the top, got to see the three towers before they disappeared into the clouds.

Getting windier and colder. It was time to put on more layers.

After taking several pictures, we found a perfect spot for our last Patagonian picnic lunch with arguably one of the best views Torres del Paine National Park has to offer. As we admired the view, we felt truly lucky to have seen all three towers uncovered by the clouds, knowing quite well that this rare opportunity was truly a special gift. We stayed for over an hour despite the strong, cold winds that were penetrating our multiple layers of clothes. It was hard to leave knowing that this would be our final trek of the journey.

Me marveling at the towers and reflecting on what this week meant to me. It is amazing how utterly relaxed I felt. It was if my body, mind and soul became one for a last fleeting moment in time. Soon, regretfully, I’d have to go home and face reality.

The knee breaking descent…

As we hiked back to the camp, I took in each awe-inspiring view as much as possible, trying to seal it into my memory as best I could. Despite my fatigue at this point in the trek, I somehow felt a bit lighter with each step as if all the stress in my life had finally been released, up into the sky, chasing after las torres and dissolving into the heavens.

As we made our final approach to the Eco Camp, I at last understood what utter freedom truly meant. When the only thing that matters in life is life itself. I felt so happy and at peace with myself that I didn’t want this trip to end. I wondered why we need so much in today’s world and why our lives are so stressful. It didn’t make any sense to me. In nature, none of that stuff matters.

Almost there…

We arrived at the camp filled with a glorious feeling of accomplishment and deep satisfaction. We had reached our goal and even surpassed it beyond expectations.

Photo of Paul, me and our wonderful guide, Cristian.

That night, we celebrated the end of our journey with our guide Cristian and all the other members of the fabulous Cascada team. We indulged in a fantastic send off dinner and this time the three of us split two bottles of wine. We shared stories of our trip and laughed a lot more freely with our Chilean friends. It was quite a memorable evening despite my lingering headache the next day.

View of the towers from the Eco Camp.

One last look before we went to sleep.

Stay tuned…next post is my last one of Torres del Paine National Park.

 


About Nicole Melancon

Nicole is a stay-at-home mom who also happens to be an avid writer and traveler. She studied French and International Relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lived in France, and has wandered to over 30 countries. She resides in Minneapolis, MN with her husband and two young children. / Nicole currently writes three blogs: thirdeyemom.com, thethirdeyeworld.com and diaryofahappymom.wordpress.com and is a frequent contributor to worldmomsblog.com.

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