Patagonia in the southern part of Chile was one of the more difficult places to get to, especially from Asia. I flew from the States to Santiago and connected to Punta Arenas and then it was another 5 hour drive into Torres del Paine national park where my hotel, Explora, is located. It is an all inclusive hotel taking you on 2 half-day or 1 full-day excursion each day. There are 50 guided explorations on foot and horseback to the remotest areas inside Torres del Paine to choose from.
The weather in Patagonia is very fickle and can change from sun to rain without much notice. Torres del Paine is well known for its strong winds because there isn’t any other landmass at this latitude, so basically there is nothing out there to slow down the wind as it blows around the globe. The summer season when we visited is the high season and the wind gusts can reach up to 200 km per hour at the higher altitudes. When I did my hike to the Mirador Condor on the first day, the wind was so strong I could barely stand up straight as I ascended the mountain. I was so glad I had both of my trekking poles which I pounded into the dirt to prevent being blown away!
The famous hike to do in Torres del Paine is the W circuit consisting of Grey Glacier, French Valley, and Base of the Towers. Since I will be visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier later, the guide suggested that I skip the Grey Glacier hike. Instead, I went to Sarmiento Lake and Pingo los Salomes.
I though the 15 km roundtrip hike to French Valley was not too hard. We had to pass through much of the forest that was burned by the fires in 2012. The white trees that remain have an eery but also magical feel like the setting of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. We arrived at the lookout a little above the Italian Camp where we had our picnic while watching a series of mini avalanches.
The following day I did the 18 km roundtrip hike to the Base of the Towers which is what the national park is named after. Most of the first section was uphill with the hardest being the last hour or so where it was almost vertical climb over very rocky terrain consisting of large boulders. But the view of the granite towers and the turquoise glacial lake made it all worth it.