Torres del Paine – Day 5 through 7

After a restful day at our campsite, we headed toward the next leg of the W, called Valle del Ascencio (Valley of the Ascent).  We started off the morning with a gorgeous sunrise on the Cuernos and stopped multiple times throughout the morning to admire the horns.

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From the trail we could still see the glaciers of Paine Grande and could hear the rumblings as large avalanches fell from the peaks to the valley below.  Here is Bonnie pointing out one of the avalanches…

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It looked something like this…

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The trail undulated up and down and led us across various streams and bridges…

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It was a hot day, so it would have been nice to jump in one of those glacially fed lakes, but fortunately there was a shortcut that shortened our trek into Valle del Ascencio.

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Here is the valley…

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The Valley of the Ascent was justly named and we had to climb quite a bit just to get to our campsite.    But that’s not all.  The main sight in the  valley is the three granite towers that proudly just up above the valley.  The next morning we awoke at 5am and headed up the nothing-but-up trail to get to the base of the towers for sunrise.  It was a chilly morning so we layered up…two pair of pants, longsleeves, two jackets, scarf, hat, mittens…but by the time we reached the top I was down to one pair of pants and a tank top.   We couldn’t see but that which our headlamps lit on the way up, but we did stop for a bit to admire the amazing stars in the sky of the Southern Hemisphere.  The sky was perfectly clear and we could see the Magellanic clouds, the southern cross, and Orion upside down. It was still dark and cool and there we waited for sunrise.

It was an awesome sight to see the towers in the dark.  The deep blue of the sky looked amazing silhouetting the towers…DSC03434

And then the sun rose and we were able to more clearly see the striations on the rock and the pattern in the granite.  Unfortunately that cloudless sky we admired on the way up was entirely clouded over by the time the sun came out, so we didn’t get to see the golden rays of sun illuminating the faces of the towers.  However, it was awesome to see the colors of the towers change with the morning.  It felt like something special seeing the mountains reveal themselves from under the cover of darkness.

The towers reflecting their immensity in the still and frigid lake below…

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Lewis bravely jumping on a precariously positioned rock…

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Cool water marks created below the towers as the snow melts into the lake below…

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Following our early morning, we headed off towards the back side of the mountain range.  The days prior we had been doing part of the W trek, but after the towers we began an additional trek called the Circuit.  The back side was rumored to not be as crowded and have some awesome views of the mountains from another angle.

We were excited, but pretty tired after 2 big days of hiking.  It was much less crowded on the back side and we didn’t see anyone, so instead of exhausting ourselves further, we did a somewhat illegal maneuver and we camped off in the woods.  (In the park you are asked to only camp in the group campsites, most of which you have to pay for.)  We set up in a nice spot that was almost mystical in it’s appearance  with moss covered trees and due to the fact that there was a storm coming mist filled air.   After a dehydrated meal of lasagna and tea, we went straight to bed.

We awoke to the sound of rain hitting our tent and were greeted with a soggy wet day.    Here is Lewis at our campsite…

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The rain didn’t let up all day, but luckily we were prepared with all the gear we needed.  Waterproof jackets, pants, and boots, and rain covers for our packs.  And thank goodness for the waterproof gators that Lewis bought to keep the mud and water out of our boots, because this is what we walked through all day…

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Some places were even worse, basically a swamp that we had to navigate our way around or through.  Due to the weather that day, we didn’t get and views or photos, but it was a record hike…16 miles in one day, and in the pouring rain!  We were happy when we reached our refugio.  The sight reminded us of a Thomas Kinkade painting, a warm and inviting cabin with smoke billowing from the chimney surrounded by a beautiful lake and the high peaks of snow covered mountains.   We were able to warm up inside and hand our clothes from the beams above our heads…

We went to bed tired and warmer than we were before, hoping for better weather in the morning.

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