Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. A five hour journey from Punta Arenas, three by bus reaches Puerto Natales, two hours more by van to Lago Grey, across corrugated dirt tracks.
The rough ride melts away as soon as you enter the park. The scenery beyond is spectacular; the remoteness immediately evident and towering snow capped mountains bear down on all sides.
Arriving to views better than we’ve seen anywhere at Lago Grey Hotel lobby we knew we were in for something special. Being greeted with 40kph winds was quietly discomforting! Apparently the weather here is ‘unpredictable’, but our guide for the next day assures us we’ll be fine to head for the towers. A short afternoon trek to the Lago Grey sand bank and icebergs didn’t ease any tensions as spray from the lake whipped our faces.
Beach and Icebergs near our hotel
View from Hotel
Day1, trek day. 7.30am departure. Winds reached 50kph over night. We arrive to meet our guide:
Pablo: “I’ve never seen winds so strong, it might not be safe, but if you’d still like to go we can.”
Kaz: “that’s fine, lets just go”.
Pablo: (with a look of genuine concern that we might actually go) “We can, but its quite rocky and unstable at the top, I wouldn’t want anything to happen”.
Kaz: “ok, I’m happy to go today”
Pablo: “Our driver who’s worked here 30 years told me we probably shouldn’t go unless you are very experienced”.
Realising Kaz had come down with a case of temporary insanity I suggested we postpone.
Half an hour later we’re on the boat to see a glacier instead. Rather than get swept off a mountain we swap it for sinking in a glacial lake.
After watching many of the passengers vomit their way through an hour, we reach the glacier. Shimmering deep blue in colour, an amazing sight, all washed down with a pisco sour (the national cocktail) at 10.30am!
Rainbow over Glacier Grey
Day 2, trek day. We’ve been joined by a couple from Holland, one of whom is ex-navy marine, little nervous about expectations! Wind speed, 2kph, conditions are perfect. Torres round trip, 18km, 7-8hrs. Truly the highlight of the park. Stunning scenery, from mountain top views across the valley, forest rapids as you trek to the final climb, and finally, a 1hr scramble across rocky terrain. The sight upon reaching the top is stunning.
Crossing the final rise the scene that unfolds beneath, in front and above stops you in your tracks. The boulders drop away to a lagoon below while the three towers reach into the clouds above, mountains on both sides wrap the scene into one. No photograph can do it justice. The perfect reward.
The trek itself was tough, our guide certainly maintained the pace. Up and down in 7hrs. After the previous two days of high winds and cold temperatures the 20+ degrees caught us by surprise, it was hot! Despite her earlier enthusiasm for 50kph winds, Kaz was more than relieved we did it on a calm, sunny day, though on the initial ascent she almost collapsed, at which point I gained an additional backpack to carry… for the remaining 3hrs up.
Finally sharing a beer at the bottom with our new companions was a great finish to a brilliant day.
Departing the park on our final morning we were in for one final treat. The sun rising over the peaks. Even our driver stopped to take a photo… few places we’ve seen compare to the natural beauty found here.