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Day 3 (20.3 km, 9 h):
We woke up early in the morning and it was raining. We decided to sleep a bit more, because due to the rain the views would have been very bad. To our surprise, the rain stopped and we could pack our tent relatively dry. During the morning it was drizzling, but we luckily did not had to wear our full rain gear. We hiked alongside a blue lake with snow clad mountains in the back.
Heading to Mirador Francés
After reaching camp Italiano the weather started to clear up, we ditched our backpacks and decided to hike towards the first viewing point; Mirador Francés. The climb started very easy, but rapidly became harder because of loose rocks. However, without the weight of our backpacks it did not feel as bad on our knees. We crossed many streams and walked in beautiful green forests inhabited by many birds. Now and then we heard loud noises of avalanches, but did not see them, as the mountains were very far away.
When we reached Mirador Francés the view was amazing; we were surrounded by grand mountains that were covered by many glaciers. While we enjoyed the sun and the views, we even saw an avalanche that looked like an instant river forming on the mountains.
Continuing to the Mirador Británico
We did not plan to visit Mirador Británico, but the weather was incredible and decided to further ascent the mountain for another hour. This part of the trek was very variable, open landscapes, wetlands, green forests, and many coloured mountains.
The view of Mirador Británico was superb; almost completely surrounded by mountains we felt like tiny human beings. Hundred pictures later we really had to go down and make it to camp Francés.
The way down was doable, but hard on the knees. When we reached the camp, they had no spot for our tent, which we actually reserved. Instead they gave us a pre-setup tent; not bad after such a long day.
Day 4 (16.6 km, 6.5 h):
Day four started dry, but we were quite tired. Luckily, we thought, the day was going to be easy. We were never so wrong. All previous days we had goals to reach: the glacier, the hanging bridges, Mirador Francés and Británico, but none this day.
The never ending valley
We first started our hike in dense forests alongside a very large lake. While the previous day was characterized by continuously climbing a mountain, today we went up and down, up and down, up and down. When reaching the top of a hill, we instantly saw people hiking in the valley below and on the next hill. This never-ending cycle completely broke us and we could not truly enjoy the beautiful landscapes. Ralph was so “happy” about this, he spontaneously started singing the great tune from the Witcher: “Toss a coin to your Witcher, Oh valley of plenty, Oh valley of plenty, ohohohoh…”.
Particularly during our many breaks we enjoyed the lake and the landscapes. Finally, we saw the first sign of civilization and thought: yes, we made it. When we reached the buildings, we were completely disappointed because our campsite was another kilometre or so away.
At the campsite our struggles were not over, because we had to decide if we wanted to view the Torres del Paine during sunrise. Because the closer campsite was booked out, we had to walk 4.5 hours in the dark to reach the summit around 7 o’clock in the morning. This would mean that we had to start walking about 3 o’clock at night. Our legs were tired, the knee of Janice was injured, and we were unmotivated to ascent an 800 m high lookout in the dark. We decided to start our hike after sunrise. For the record, the landscape was amazing and the route truly great.
Day 5 (9h hike, 18.8 km):
In the morning we woke up very happy: such a great decision to not wake up around 2 o’clock. If we would have been staying at the closer camp site (Chileno), we most likely would have tried to see the towers at sunrise, because the trek from here is 2.5 hours shorter. Today started out very cold and part of the tent was frozen. In the morning Ralph was in his element; all kinds of exotic birds were roaming around the campsite. The first part of the trek to the Chileno Lodge started with a climb. Luckily the paths were even and the climb was easy. The view over the valley was amazing with the fast-flowing river that was surrounded by a forest.
At the Chileno Lodge we met some of our hiking buddies who went to view the Torres during sunrise and told us it was spectacular. This gave us excitment and motivation to start the steepest part of the climb.
It is very hard to describe such a path; a picture says more than a thousand words. While Janice slowly made her way up (just like other hikers), Ralph got some kind of super power originating from his primal instincts, which allowed him to run up the hill without breaking a sweat. While nearly everyone arrived completely exhausted, he didn’t even remember the steepness of the track until going down again when he asked Janice “did we really walk up all this?”. Maybe his power boost came from the Condors we saw cycling above our heads (for those who don’t know – it is the largest flying bird based on its weight and wingspan and is very rare).
Reaching “Las Torres”
When we finally reached the top, the view was more than worth it. The Towers overlooked a blue lake and were surrounded by glaciers; WOW! It was definitely worth the long climb. We had some lunch and enjoyed the marvellous view of “las Torres”. Meanwhile we had to an eye on afox that was strolling around looking for food or bags to steal.
On our way down, busloads of tourists where climbing up the hill. As “las Torres” is suitable for a day hike and you can get there by car or by bus, it makes this area particularly busy compared to the other places of the park. We were happy that we were already on our way back down when all the tourists arrived. Keep in mind that you should start the hike early in case you’re also planning to do a multiple day hike in the Torres del Paine National Park. After arriving at the Welcome Center, we booked our Shuttle bus to the bus station (which saved us a hike of 2 hours next to a boring road). To end this perfect trip, we bought some Austral Patagonian “post-trekking” beers.