800m elevation change
Enough fooling around, its finally time to get to Torres Del Paine! I’ve been waiting to visit this trip for years, always trying to target winter break time but finding it increasingly difficult (practically impossible) to book even when availability opens up 6 months in advance. It was with good timing that Ingrid came to make the trip more enjoyable and safe.
Turns out every bus company really did run their own buses. Either they all set a floor price, or they are running on razor thin margins. Our bus was half full, so we were able to spread out a bit and enjoy our own row. I was a bit disappointed when I saw the scenery of flat dry brush plains around Puerto Natales, thinking maybe I hyped up this trip too much. But within 30 minutes of reaching the ranger station, the environment changed as out of nowhere we approach snowcapped mountains, turquoise blue lagoons, and green rolling hills. What a drastic change in environment.
All the buses arrived at the Laguna Amarga Ranger Station around the same time, which caused a lot of long queues. But even then the registration was efficient and only took about 30 minutes. From there you can hike 6.5km to the actual welcome center, or pay 3000CLP ($5 USD) for a 10 minutes shuttle ride. Obviously we took the shuttle, there will be plenty of hiking inside the park! Still there was others who decided to walk…
We set up camp just a few minutes past the visitor center at Campamento Central (Fantastico Sur). Being my frugal self, I noticed a stove fuel disposal bin and found several canisters that were still half full. Now we could make as many cups of tea without having to worry about fuel! After a hot lunch of ramen noodles (last night’s dinner provided enough nutrients for me to eat some empty calories), we embarked on the 8 hour roundtrip hike to the mirador of the famous Torres.
It started out like a normal chill hiking trip with a rich scenery of mountains, hills, lagoons, rivers, and forests. Then the last 2 kilometers the terrain turned steep and rocky. I was wearing a t shirt most of the time, but then had to break out the windbreaker. The view at the top was spectacular, and just what I imagined from the post cards.
I went crazy with the photos, time lapses, and managed to even sit and enjoy the view for a bit. I brought my drone, but it was a bit too windy and there was a park ranger sitting there. Despite the amount of people on the trail, the lagoon was huge and everyone was spread out. That was a blessing as a photographer to get clean shots without other people.
On the way back, we relaxed at the Chileno Refugio (Fantastico Sur) and saw a wild fox. This would have been a great place to stay for the night, but it was the one campsite we couldn’t book because it was too crowded. Rightfully so, as it was only about 1.5 hours to the mirador and people make the pilgrimage to see the Torres “on fire” during sunrise. We also checked out the only hotel in the entire park. Everyone in the lobby looked cozy with their drinks looking out at the scenery behind floor and ceiling windows. That’ll be me next time I visit.
I learned quickly from this hike that I definitely don’t need to carry more than a liter of water. I was surrounded by water and the temperature was perfect that you don’t drink that much water. I recall only drinking an entire bottle during that entire hike. I already used up half of my first battery banks (2 on hand), and there was still 6 more days to go. I better be more efficient, or be ready to pony up some cash to pay for charging at the Refugio’s.