Torres del Paine W Trek: Day 5
I barely slept last night. I think the anticipation of getting up for sunrise kept me up, and I last looked at my watch at 12:30 am, thinking "If I go to bed right at this second, I'll get 3 hours of sleep." I woke up to my alarm at 3:20 am, crawled out of my bunk bed as quietly as possible, and quickly chugged the cold cup of coffee I had reserved from the day before. Already dressed in my clothes for the day, I grabbed my headlamp, jacket, small daypack with food and water, and trekking poles - ready and out the door within 5 minutes of waking.
The beginning of the hike was a little spooky in complete darkness, guided by the light from my headlamp. I am so glad I did the trail the day before, so at least I had some idea of what to expect.
I was completely alone, pep talking myself out loud. I noticed that there must have been someone who left before I did, because I noticed, after stream crossings, a few wet footprints, which would have dried had they been made earlier. After about 30 minutes, I came across a group, probably the only ones other than myself who were crazy/dedicated enough to get up at 3:30 am to hike 2 hours before sunrise.
By the time we reached the campsite on the way (where my friends slept), there were a lot of people heading up the mountain of rocks. A few guys even had brought beer; I personally was still waking up, so I did not share the same desire for a celebratory cerveza at the top.
It felt like I was completing a pilgrimage. I could see a trail of headlamps along the path, some all the way at the top of the trail.
The walk went by a lot more quickly early this morning than it did the day before. Maybe because it was too dark to take pictures in the beginning, or the anticipation of the sunrise, or the fact that I was still half asleep. But the sun was coming up quickly with every step we took, and I kept turning around to catch another view of the dark valley and ablaze sky.
It was getting light really fast, and everyone began to speed up their pace, worried we might miss the best part of the sunrise.
I was speechless when I reached the top. I had seen a few pictures of the Torres in sunrise, but nothing could prepare me for what it looked like in person. The pinks and blues and oranges, all together, against the majestic towers, blew me away.
As my friend Christophe said, the Torres, just barely touched by the sunlight, looked like candles with a lit flame.
People were perched in various places all over the rocks surrounding the mirador, many with sleeping bags to ensure maximum comfort while enjoying the view.
We decided to leave after about an hour of sitting at the top, mostly because we were cold and hungry. On the way down, I stopped by to have some tea with my camping friends. The campsite was so cute and secluded!
Since the day was so short, we also stopped for an hour or so at the refugio for more tea and snacks before heading down. It only took us about 1.5 hours to make it down to the last stop on the W Trek, Hotel Las Torres, where we could catch a shuttle to the park entrance and main bus stop. After basking in the sun for a couple hours, I said goodbye to my new friends. My friends were heading back to Puerto Natales, like most people, but I had booked a bus back to El Calafate, since it worked better with my tight schedule. I was sad I was missing the celebratory pizza and beer dinner in Puerto Natales!
Anyway, I had a lot of time, since my bus didn't leave until 4 pm, so I decided to walk the extra 7 km. I actually found another American woman to walk with; we were taking the same bus back to El Calafate. The extra 1.5 hours of walking instead of taking the shuttle put me over 50 miles for the entire W Trek, and there were some nice views of the mountains, so I was definitely happy with my decision to walk!
It took about 6 hours to get to my hostel in El Calafate. I had to wash a lot of clothes for the next few days of my trip, and after a long warm shower, I snuggled up in my bed and fell fast asleep. The W Trek was the big activity on my trip, and now that it was over, I felt the end of my Patagonian adventure drawing nigh!