Torres del Paine (W: Las Torres), Chile Nov. 29, 2011
The Paine Towers are illuminated by the rising sun, so some people get up in the dark to get to the viewpoint before dawn. We didn't like the odds of that after seeing 9 days of Patagonian weather. But I did get up at 5:30AM just in case to take pictures from Chileno. This was a day that the dawn hikers were rewarded.
Today was 1,700 feet of climbing from Refugio Chileno to the Las Torres viewpoint, then 3,000 feet down to Hosteria Las Torres, about 9 miles total. Topo map included again; click on it and use the magnifying glass to see full resolution.
We started up from Chileno (elevation 1,300) at 8:30AM. soon crossing Rio Ascencio again.
We're in the forest for awhile.
Soon the trail climbs steeply out of the forest.
However the trail is much smoother than in the French Valley. The namesake towers are accessible as a day hike from the Hosteria Las Torres so this trail probably gets the most foot traffic of the W or circuit trails. Only a short traverse and the last 100 vertical feet (I'm on the way down here) are over boulders.
We arrived at the 2,900 foot viewpoint at 10:40AM and were lucky to have the place to ourselves for the first 10 minutes there.
Zoom of towers
The central and south towers are about 9,200 feet, but the view is as impressive as Fitzroy because we're closer to the peaks here.
Wide angle views north
Farther south is Monte Almirante Nieto.
Here there is still sedimentary rock atop a jagged granite layer.
Eventually a large group arrived so we got our picture before leaving around 11AM.
It was cold, not much over 40F up there with some wind, so we're bundled up.
On the descent we see a long ribbon cascade on the east side of Rio Ascenscio.
And a couple of interesting couloirs on the other side
We got down to Chileno by 1PM, ate lunch and put gear we hadn't needed in the morning in our packs. We hiked very briskly down to Hosteria Las Torres, arriving just after 3PM.
This was the loose end in our schedule. Our bus back to El Calafate left Laguna Amarga at 5PM, 5 miles by dirt road from Hosteria Las Torres and we had not been able to find any scheduled transport. Fortunately there was a van leaving at 4PM, so we got to relax in the bar with Calafate sours (flavored with the local Patagonian blueberry relative).
If the weather is clear enough the towers are visible when the bus tours stop at Laguna Amarga.
The tourists on Nov. 29 were luckier than those on Nov. 25.
Liz had new hiking boots and the left one needed some breaking in.
Ankle abrasion was relieved with the duct-taped moleskin after the first day of the W. The toe bandages were added the next 2 days.
We did not get back to El Calafate until nearly 10PM. The next morning we had perhaps our most unusual wildlife sighting outside our hotel window.
These are black-faced ibises. Thanks to http://www.planetscott.com for the identification. Scott is a serious birder and eclipse chaser whom I met on Rangiroa in 2010.
The end of an amazing trip. Patagonia Sur is a long way from anywhere.