Chile, Patagonia, South America, The W Trek, Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine, Day 3: Frances – Las Torres 15 km

I manage to sleep until 8, despite dreams of my propane tank exploding and our whole camp being kidnapped ?? It’s chilly and we’re camping on wooden pallets in a dense forest, but I’ve learned that there’s a pull cord on my sleeping bag and I can actually cocoon myself in there. I wrap the top of the sleeping bag around my head and pull the cord as tight as I can, so that only my nose pokes through. This way, I can still breathe!

I’ve also learned that trash bags are a great conductor of heat, as long as I don’t get too warm and start sweating, so last night I climbed into a big black trash bag, and then into my sleeping bag.

It was close to 9 this morning when I finally gathered the courage to brave the cold and change from my camp clothes to my hiking gear. And then came the cruel downward climb to the bathrooms (but they did have hot running water).


The morning scenic walk from Frances to Cuernos


Super Simon – On Top of the World

We had a nice leisurely breakfast – oatmeal and two coffees this morning and I felt rested and energized and took some confidence in knowing that today would be a somewhat easier day – only about 15km, so about 6 1/2 hours.

By the time everything was broken down, Simon and I set off just after 10:30. Once out of the dense forest, I could feel the sun’s warmth and shed my jacket and lathered on sunscreen.


Taking a little time to reflect on the trekking path

For the most part of the morning, we trekked next to a large lake on our right with a pebble beach. To the left were sheer granite rock faces, the backside of Cuernos. We left the snow and glacier capped Paine Grande behind us.

I felt strong and the so-say 2-hour hike from Frances to Cuernos took only 1 1/2 Рwhich was encouraging. We continued on ascending 280 meters where a large rock protruded out over the lake, making it a perfect viewpoint and place for a photo opp.mariposa

We felt strong enough to keep ascending before stopping for a snack. This came about 30 minutes later after passing butterflies and small streams – flowing just enough to refill our water bottles. We stopped for a quick snack, but decided to try to get past the day’s half way marker before stopping for lunch. I wanted less than 3 hours to go after lunch, and I didn’t want to rely too heavily on the 30 minutes we may have gained on the first part of the morning’s trek between Frances and Cuernos.


The back side of Los Cuernos

Between a snack and lunch, most of our hike felt like a descent. Although it was a lot of ups and downs, I felt like our ascents were easier than those ascents people were tackling from the other direction, so we spent the afternoon encouraging others coming from the other way – telling them the fantastic views in Valle des Frances were waiting for them.

We stopped for lunch after a long climb, and two sandwiches later, we calculated we had just over two hours to go. I felt strong throughout the afternoon, and spent more time being present on the hike than being concerned over the time. I think this peace of mind came from knowing that we would arrive at Las Torres with plenty of time to set up camp and relax in daylight.

I practiced my Spanish with Simon – colors, days, months and later conjugating verbs – it took my mind off the hills. At the 5-hr mark, the trail led us away from the large lake and into rolling green hills that reminded me more of parts of Northern Scotland than Patagonia.


Afternoon clouds roll in


The view nearing Torres campsite

Clouds were gathering and I remembered that the forecast for Thursday (when I had checked in Puerto Natales) had called for rain. It didn’t look like the rain would wait til Thursday though.

Now, on our left was a smaller lake and as we climbed one last small hill, we could see Torres Hotel in the distance. Relief set in, seeing where we would stop for the night and this must have triggered something in my stomach. Maybe it was the idea of a clean toilet ahead, but I wouldn’t make it to Torres. Instead, I would quickly hand Simon the camera from around my neck and run down the side of a hill to seek the shelter of trees. As I undid my pants, Simon quickly fished out a roll of toilet paper from the top of his pack. And in what looked to be some football maneuver, he would toss the the roll to me and I would (thankfully) catch it while still running half way down the hill. (You’ve hiked, you know what it’s like!)

Relief overshadowed any embarrassment I may have had… but the embarrassment would come next, as I climbed back up the hill, swung my pack back on and began the downhill climb on a relatively steep gravel path to where Simon was waiting for me. As I took a step, my foot slipped out from under me, and I fell backwards on my ass. Luckily, the pack was there to break my fall, but unluckily, I couldn’t stand up again. The weight of my pack paired with being on a gravel incline… well, gravity was against me. And Simon sat at the bottom of the hill, with my camera in his hands, laughing and capturing it all. It took me four or five attempts to stand back up, but it provided us with a couple of good laughs!


Down for the count



Attempting to get up


Almost there!!






When I finally got on my feet again, we crossed a suspension bridge and arrived at Las Torres hotel, which looked as expensive as I heard it is. We continued on another 10 minutes to the campsite and finally arrived around 6pm.


Crossing the suspension bridge to Torres

I was impressed with how quickly Simon and I set up our tents, and we both positioned the zipper openings towards Torres, which sat looming over the campground. Then I proceeded to face plant on to my sleeping pad and lay there for a few minutes, feeling every bone and muscle relax. I could’ve stayed like this for a lot longer, but we managed to get changed and got water to prepare dinner. We also checked the weather and the following day called for p.m. rain. I still wasn’t convinced it would wait til the p.m.


Which way to Torres?

Simon found a free picnic table and we cooked up the remaining pasta. Despite not feeling hungry, I devoured every bite. It was cooling off by the time we finished dinner, and by the time I walked back from the bathroom to get into my tent, it was dark. Simon and I discussed our plans for the morning – to wake early and climb to Torres, weather permitting – and I crawled into my tent to cocoon myself for another night’s sleep. I hoped a grassy campsite and a windless night would be conducive to sleep, and it was for a few hours, but in the wee morning hours I was unfortunately awoken by the sound of rain on my tent… And this is the one day we needed good weather…It was our day to hike to the towers.

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