Torres Del Paine is a National Park in the southernmost end of Chile. Because of the rugged mountainous terrain, massive glaciers, waterfalls, and crystalline lakes, this park has been designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It was also the start of our four-day hike on the world-renowned W Trek.
On the first day, we hiked four strenuous hours up a steep, narrow, rocky trail to the base of Las Torres (The Towers), three granite pillars that soar 9,350 feet above a blue-green lake. The view of the Towers was breath taking. After another fours hours descending the mountain, we stumbled into camp, ate a delicious meal, and settled into our tents.
The next day we trekked for five hours through grasslands, alongside luminescent tuquiose lakes, and crossed over raging rivers on narrow, wooden bridges. The view of the mountains and the deep blue glaciers in the distance was stunning. This was the famous Patagonia Flats—not flat at all, but rolling hills with some steep climbs and descents. Fortunately, we only had to pack a light daypack as gauchos on horses transferred our tents and sleeping bags. We ended the day at a small refugio (a type of hostel) where we celebrated the day’s hike with local wine and beer…for a hefty price, but worth every peso.
On Day 3, we hiked through the French Valley and up into the mountains to a view of Los Cuernos (The Horns), an outcropping of granite peaks that actually look like giant horns. The beauty of these black and gray-streaked rocks, and the roar of calving glaciers made the hike worth the struggle. We spent the night at another refugio and nursed our blistered feet with more wine and beer.
Our final day of hiking was a short trek into Grey Lake with its incredible view of Grey Glacier, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. At more than 187 miles long, the Ice Cap is the third source of fresh water on the planet. The weather is temperamental here with winds gusting in excess of 62 miles per hour. The first skill you learn is to hunker down when a gust blasts, so you don’t get blown over.
The glacier was stunning, but the winds were so fierce, it was almost impossible to hold still long enough to take photos. Tired and footsore, but energized by the sheer beauty of what we’d seen, we ended the trek with a catamaran ride across Lake Pehoe with its vibrant glacial-milk water.