90 Photos

The Towers Hike
Elusive Patagonia

Happy hiking couple in Torres del Paine Happy hiking couple in Torres del Paine (George Sloan)
Our hike today was a 13-mile round trip, 3,000 feet in elevation gain trek that would take us to the base of The Towers, the iconic symbol of Torres del Paine Park. It was, or should have been, the highlight of our trip, on paper at least. But The Towers had something different in store for us -- an equally iconic Patagonian weather day, complete with swirling clouds, high winds, rain, and sleet. Despite the fact that our view of The Towers was obscured by fog and mist, somehow that made the day more authentic. Suzanne even experienced being blown off her feet by the winds at the base of The Towers. What could be more ''Patagonian'' than that? The day started out promising as at sunrise The Towers and Almirante Nieto were aglow in a surreal rose-colored hue. The rose color gave way to a spotlight of sun on Nido de Condor as menacing clouds gathered overhead. The trail to The Towers followed the Rio Asceneto. We passed through the ''wind field'' where the trail contoured along the edge of a slope, subjecting us to the Patagonia winds whipping down the valley. We had to squat down at times to avoid winding up in the valley below. The final pitch up to the base of The Towers was a 1,200-foot ascent in three-quarters of a mile along the glacial moraine. A cold rain changed to sleet and the winds were vicious. Our guide, Chalo, emailed us a photo of The Towers in bright sunshine that he had taken the week before so we could see what we missed. Oh well, maybe next time... A quote by Darwin seemed to fit the situation: ''What a difference does climate make in the enjoyment of life! How opposite are the sensations when viewing black mountains half enveloped in clouds, and seeing another range through the light blue haze of a fine day! The one for a time may be very sublime; the other is all gaiety and happy life.'' On our way back to EcoCamp it just poured. We escaped underneath the tent platforms at the Chileno camps for a snack. Finally dry and warm at EcoCamp we enjoyed dinner with our hiking companions. (see Day 4 photos)

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