114 Photos

French Valley
Torres del Paine

(Mary Curry)
Again today I was tempted to hike to the Towers, but swayed by our guide´s description of the French Valley hike as a trek that has a bit of everything. How true that was!

We took a catamaran across a small lake to the start of the hiking trail. The beginning of the trail was a bit sad, winding for the first couple miles through the recently burnt forests - a fire started by a camper had swept through approx 10% of the park in December. The smell of charred wood still hung in the air, but the trail brightened as we passed by another lake and walked parallel to the stunning blue water for the next couple of miles. Finally we entered unburned forest and we could appreciate what has been temporarily lost to the fires. The air cooled and small flowers dotted the trail edges. We crossed a hanging bridge and then started the steeper climb to the French Glacier. Ultimately, we finished at a stunning viewpoint of the glacier and a 360 degree view with higher peaks on all sides. We heard something that sounded like thunder and Rafa, our guide, pointed to an avalanche at the top of one of the peaks were snow from one of the hanging glaciers cascaded down onto French glacier. As I looked at the mountain more closely, I found it was difficult to tell the waterfalls apart from the avalanches that happened with surprising frequency. The warm temperatures combined with the rains of the previous days created the perfect conditions for these snow falls. We were far enough away that they posed no danger at all, but it was marvelous to watch. The only way I could tell the avalanches from the waterfalls was to wait and see if they stopped as the waterfalls would continue at the same pace while the avalanche would start as a heavy burst that subsided. It was a beautiful setting and the weather was the best yet with clear skies and warm temperatures.

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