One of the great things about Chile is you can almost always see mountains when you look east, the Andes are an ever-present forming the country’s frontier with Bolivia and Argentina. It’s perhaps surprising therefore that Chile and South America’s most popular tourist destination, trekking in the Torres del Paine National Park in the far south region of Magellanes, is not actually part of that range. A grasping fist of granite thrust through the earth, it’s a stunning and startling change from the undulating faded pampas that usher you there from Puerto Natales.

We were in the Park for 4 days (3 nights) and were looking forward to some yomping about after four days cooped up in the boat. That being said, a certain amount of apprehension sat upon us, 5 weeks with good weather, there was no way this was going to last, was there?

There was not.

After an easy 7km meander from the bus drop off point to the first hostel, we glanced upwards at the sun peeking through and chuckled at our good fortune. Which of course was when hubris whacked us in the head. The next section was a similar distance, but far more uphill. We started off, hairpinning our way up the slope towards Refugio Chileno (on the first arm of the ‘W’ walk) as the clouds slowly gathered and the wind began a-whispering. As we continued up, reached Chileno and deposited our packs for the day the was a hint of rain in the air, but our optimism got the better of us and we decided to try for the Base del Torres to see the famous towers themselves. The hint became a spit, a sprinkle, a shower, then a constant drizzle. We reached the next campsite and steadied ourselves for a scramble up rocks, streams and boulders.

The next section was definitely a killer on the knees, even more so for my inflexible unfit self. As the wind began to howl and the rain turned to hail and sleet, this was beginning to seriously lose its fun value. Nevertheless, we pressed on, reassured that it would all be worth it at the top.  Every postcard seller in Chile had been tempting us with this view for 5 weeks and we would make it! And so we slogged on through the gale, over the rocks, soaked through and then finally we reached the top, where there it was, awaiting us, our reward… an awful lot of fog. We could see about 20 metres, no sign of the Torres. Bugger.

So, cold, wet and a bit disheartened we sloped our way back down to Chileno. Fortunately the refugios in TdP are well set up and will happily sell you overpriced alcohol.

First day then? This was old-school trekking that Skip would be proud of, cold and rain, wind and snow with nothing to see once you reached the top… but a hot shower, a warm meal and sufficient red wine to ease the damp and pain.

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