Torres del Paine W Trek: Day 4
With two glasses of wine the previous night, I woke up on my fourth day from a deep, restful sleep. The sun was shining when I stepped outside of my dome tent, and had melted away the fog that yesterday had enshrouded the mountain beside us. I was really looking forward to today, as it was our penultimate day and we were approaching the prize of our multi-day trek: the famous Torres. The iconic Torres, three majestic standalone rock towers, have become the celebrity face of the Torres del Paine National Park and its treks. Many people visit the park on a day trip just to hike to the Torres.
After a quick breakfast (just cheese and bread), I set off before my camping friends to walk alone. "Alone" meaning without the intention of walking with anyone else, but as I had already learned over the past couple days, it's nearly impossible to be alone on the trail.
On this side of the park, I noticed that there were a lot of signs reminding us not to burn trash, specifically toilet paper. The fire in 2011 was started because an Israeli backpacker lit his toilet paper on fire, and with the strong winds, the flame flew and brush caught on fire.
I had passed a few other people before catching up with Jess, a girl from Fort Collins, Colorado (a place that I have a soft spot for, from Bike and Build) that I had met the prior evening. We, along with another German guy, Conrad, walked together for about an hour.
We stopped to take a snack break with a few other trekkers when we saw the shortcut to the Torres, and by the time we got going again, my camping friends had caught up.
Our now larger group continued onto the top of our third and last point of the W. The scenery was much different as we made our way higher; instead of hiking through trees and shrubbery, we were in a wide open space where we could see quite far in all directions.
This day was almost entirely uphill. We quickly started to strip layers as our muscles warmed up!
I had read that the berriesthat I had seen lining all the trails are edible, but didn't want to try them alone. However, Jess had eaten a bunch before, and another girl informed us that berries with a star are usually edible, so we went ahead and tried them. They were pretty sweet, like a crispier and less juicy blueberry. I think these were the native calafate berries, after which the town El Calafate is named.
We passed a gaucho and horses carrying trash from the refugio. They make the trip daily to take food and supplies to the refugio, and trash out of the park.
The last part of the hike to the refugio was really cool, along the edge of the mountain face, with the valley and river running parallel, and with a view of the mountains ahead of us.
We made it to my refugio, Refugio Chileno, which was 2 hours from the Torres. My camping friends were staying in Campamento Torres, which was about an hour closer to the Torres, so they weren't yet finished.
The widespread recommendation amongst trekkers, which my group of friends all decided to follow, was to hike up to the Torres early the next morning to catch the sunrise. The tops of the Torres are often covered in clouds, and given the notoriously unpredictable weather, I wanted to increase my odds of seeing the Torres in ideal conditions. Since we arrived at the refugio about 2 hours earlier than the map estimated, I decided that I had plenty of time to hike to the Torres and back to my refugio. We had a snack and coffee in the warmth of the refugio lodge before setting off again.
After about an hour, we reached my friends' campsite and I continued up the steep path alone, but of course amongst other hikers. It wasn't too bad, but the latter half of the ascent was essentially scrambling up a mountain of rocks. The "trail" was designated by orange marker sticks, but the intended path between each marker was pretty unclear in the pile of rocks.
I got pretty winded by the end; it felt like I was walking up stairs for an hour. But, as with every ascent on this trek, the hard work is rewarded by two incredible views: one of the valley below, where the elevation gain my legs made happen was visible, and another of the sight that I was working so hard to see/ the Torres.
The clouds that were covering the rock towers only a couple hours prior were gone, and I had an incredibly clear view of the laguna and Torres. I walked down closer to the lake and sat on a rock alone, thinking about how on earth something so incredibly beautiful was formed, and about how much money I would need to be paid to jump in the ice cold water.
After spending almost an hour soaking in the pure beauty of it all, I almost jumped into the lake just to say I did, but then I realized the walk back to my refugio would be a little miserable in ice cold, wet clothes. I was also really hungry, and practically jogged back to my refugio on the way down thinking about the bread and instant soup sitting in my backpack. After eating a lot of bread and soup, showering, and packing my bag for the next morning, I got in bed, around 8:30 pm to get as much sleep as possible before my early 3:30 am alarm. As I lay in bed, I just kept sending positive energy to the sun gods, praying for no rain and minimal clouds. This sunrise better be worth the early wakeup!