Patagonia - Torres del Paine - Los Torres! / by Mark Boyd

It was 4am.... I was awake far too early... The morning was still holding on to it's dreams.  I fired up the stove for coffee and breakfast and relaxed.  I needed a hint of light before leaving the warmth and relative comfort of my tent and by 5.15am the landscape became visible amongst the blue shadows.  I headed off....


I was told it would take between 3.5 and 4.5 hours to walk from the camp to Los Torres.... It would take the same to walk back down depending on the terrain.  I walked quietly and quickly, frequently stopping to view the hillsides with my binoculars.... Come pumas.... Show yourselves....


At 6.10am the sun glimpsed over the distant hils, casting a the most beautiful golden highlights upon everything it touched.... The blue shadows began to take on a deep pink hue... The snowy peaks blushed pink... This next few minutes was going to be stunning.  I stood still in the silence and watched the golden highlights trickle gently in to the ever diminishing shadows....


I was enjoying this section of the trail, there was plenty of hillside to scope out.  If felt like puma country (I'm not obsessed... honestly!).  I seemed to be covering ground at a good pace reaching the expensive camp and restaurant only an hour and half from Los Torres.  I had seen no one.  Setting off at 5.15am meant that hopefully the sunrise crew would be on their way back down from the top and the 'normal' folks and guided groups would set off no earlier than 7am and as late as 10am.

The last half hour of the Torres trail is notoriously steep.... it's notoriety should cover more aspects of trekking.... Such as the roughness of variety of surfaces.... From huge, slippery boulders to clamber over to soft, traction-less energy sapping shale.  It's a good push.  

A chap and his lady were sitting off the side of the streamy, boulder section.  'Do you have any painkillers?' they asked..... I inquired what the matter was.... He'd only gone and broken his leg... Eeeeesh.  I offered him my jacket and some cookies, which they politely declined.  He informed me that two others were on their way down to inform the rangers.  I informed the remainder of the sunrise crew who were on their way back down, to have any medication at the ready for the 'broken American guy' at the side of the trail.  It was 7.45am.... I had a feeling he was in for a painful descent.

As I drew closer to the top the trail seemed to disappear amongst the sandy coloured boulders.... A few little wrong turns whilst looking for tiny wooden markers ate two or three minutes.  I was still feeling strong.


The last group of four were grabbing a few selfies and group portraits before they departed..... Before I knew it I was alone.  I perched myself upon a big flat boulder and stared across the small lake towards the infamous Towers.... They were indeed beautiful.... But I have to say I was more impressed with Britanico, which probably isn't as famous because there'd be at least one night camping and two days trekking involved in visiting.


An Andean Condor leaned out from one of the peaks to the right, opened it's wings and soared across the azulean backdrop.  This wasn't a bad place to spend an hour or so.  I cracked open my Thermos and enjoyed my second breakfast of the day.  It had taken only three hours to reach The Towers, and at 10am I decided to make my way back down.  I was hoping to bump in to young Derek as we'd missed one another at the camp the evening before.  We had walked together for an hour the day before on the trail, before I told him to plough on as I was taking it slowly.  We agreed to meet at the camp in the evening, but neither of us realised how many tents would be there and how big the area was!  Sure enough I bumped in to the big fella only twenty minutes in to my decent, we chatted for a few minutes and then went out own ways, once again agreeing to meet up in the evening (which we didn't manage again!  Hahahaha!).

The broken American had been carried by one ranger and a group of male trekkers down to the next open area.  I assumed from here there'd be a helicopter coming in.  Perfect weather and a big open space.  I chatted to his girlfriend who was pretty teary by now, the broken American was covered with a foil blanket, face and all, and wasn't in a chatty mood at all.... Poor guy was in agony and had no pain killers.... He'd been broken now for 4 hours.... I hung around but was told there were more rangers on the way.  They had a huge wheel barrow type contraption with a stretcher fitted to it.  Rather him than me.... Good heavens.... Feeling surplus to requirements I continued down.

Every now and again I'd hear an English fella chatting to folks on their way up.... He was just behind me.  We were both going at a fast pace.  I could hear him singing to the tracks on his iPhone, but couldn't quite work out what I was hearing.  He chatted to another small group telling them about the Broken American, I slowed a bit to allow our gap to close.  He was from the North.  Manchester by the sounds of it..... Manchester?  I said to him as he closed the distance.  How'd you know?  He said.... Because I'm listening to Oasis?  I laughed.... Jake was fast becoming the finest example of a Mancunian Stereotype I had ever encountered.... We walked together for around an hour together, then he marched on ahead.... Jake was shifting, and by now my feet were a tad sore.  He said I'd probably catch him up as he began to slow down.  I thought to myself it's more likely that his knowing everyone on the trail will slow him down.  

Sure as anything I spotted Jake in the distance, he was on the final steep descent, chatting to a group of well spoken and well aged English folks.  He joined me as I passed.  By now we were both feeling it in the feet and legs.... It was a long steep descent.... and we knew we had at least another half hour walk on the flat once we were down.  Jake had a bus to catch.  I accompanied him to the Torres Hotel where he'd left his main bag.  From here he'd be catching his bus onwards.  I'd been off line for almost 6 days and was aware that I'd told Hem I'd be back in touch within 5 or 6 days.... I asked about the wifi in reception.  HOW MUCH??!!!  Ten pounds for an hour.... Good Golly Miss Molly.... I told the girl on reception I needed to send one email.  She kindly allowed me to use her laptop.... I asked Hem if she could also let my folks know that I was safe and sound.  With that done I walked with tired legs back in the direction of the camp.  My feet were aching.  I kicked off my boots and collapsed on to the warm grass outside my tent.  I then rummaged around inside and discovered the last of the sweaty cheese and 'on the turn' salami.... I bolted down both.... I was ravenous.  I needed a shower.... and so did my socks.... Once I'd showered in my socks I decided I needed something to go with my pasta tonight.  I had nothing.  This necessitated yet another walk of around 45 minutes to a tiny hut style shop which sold overpriced necessities which shared counter top space with overpriced luxury goods such as cans of beer.  I had the equivalent of five pounds on me.  This would get me three eggs, a tin of tuna, a sachet of preserved tomatoes.... The can of beer was almost four quid and was staying on the counter!  

Dinner was amaaaaaaaaazing!  Obviously!  I was asleep by 8.30pm.