Nov 13 Sunday – Hike: Chileno to Towers to Central

Alli’s journal:

Kyu’s ponderings:

Tetsu’s jibber jabber:

Our day started at 2am this day.

…And what a day it was.

I first headed up to Kyu’s tent to get him up and he was already awake.

For the climb up to the Towers, we knew we’d be back at Chileno before official checkout at 9am, so we all decided to leave our main gear inside our tents, and only bring what we needed. Kyu and I met at the dining hall, and grabbed a quick bite to eat. The staff had kindly laid out breakfast before 2am, with plenty of hot water to help us keep warm.

Around 2:30am, I went to wake Alli up, and then we all gathered back at the dining hall, ready for a night hike.

Below is Kyu’s selfie, and you can see the weirdness of the mood we were in.

The hike began northward along the gorge on the same side as the campsite.

Much of this is gradual uphill dirt road.

The trail crossed the gorge multiple times along this early part of the hike.

Fairly quickly, we saw signs put up by the park rangers about their strike. The signs also mentioned that there were no emergency services available. Injuries are apparently relatively common during this hike up from Chileno to the Three Towers, especially since many hike in the dark and the trail becomes very rocky, steep, and somewhat difficult to navigate. The signs mentioned that rescues would not be possible.

One of the things we had heard was that the guards would yell at you about these issues, stating that the trail was closed. While we hadn’t heard stories of rangers physically blocking people, one of the reasons we left 15 minutes earlier than most folks recommended was to try and avoid any confrontation altogether. This also meant were alone for most of the trail. Folks caught up and passed us during the steeper tail end of the climb.

The hike then transitioned to a much steeper climb, and the path was laid with vertical planks to “dam” up the dirt and create natural “steps”.

We saw multiple large banners saying guards were on strike, and that doing three towers was too dangerous. 

They had knocked trees down onto the path, tied a number of ropes, large metal bars across some small bridges, removed walkway planks across another bridge, all to make traversing steep areas difficult.  The further along the dirt path, the more obstacles there were. But everyone passed through. 

Above is a photo from the hike back down

Eventually the steep dirt path rock became more heavily rock strewn.  Larger rocks became increasingly prevalent. And the path got steeper and steeper until finally it was all rocks.  It was so steep that every step required full bending of the knee (my weakest type of hiking). 

Right around here, as the path narrowed at this very steep part of the trail, we started to see more detail as the sky started to brighten. Still before false dawn, I started to panic and kept pushing without breaks, despite my heart pounding. I was a little worried about a heart attack, but my brain wasn’t functioning logically and all I thought about was how more and more people were passing me, and the brightening light might mean I’d miss the sunrise.

Above is a photo from the hike back down

And then suddenly, the trees ended.  The path opened up to a steep skree landscape with a brutal climb where the path wound left and right across large rocks, switchbacking a route that was difficult to tell.  The rocks required jumping from rock to rock in some places, with some boulders larger in diameter than a person.

Above is a photo from the hike back down

Once here, we began to see the very tops of the Three Towers off in the distance.

And finally, the trail leveled off. There were still a number of large rocks to navigate, but the lake water became visible at the base of the Towers and it was clear the hike was done.

Once there, the view was stunning.  It’s such a hard climb to get there that it’s easy to see why so many tourists take pictures of themselves at the top.  It really is something that resonates with anyone who’s done the climb.

As the sun continues to rise, we got a much clearer view of the Towers, but the magical sunrise colors hadn’t hit yet.

We met Alexi, New York.

While there, i took a good number of pictures but was having trouble getting warm.  In fact, the chill started to get bone deep, and my mind started to obsess with thoughts of how to get warm.

Kyu got a great time laps video.

As I was getting ready to leave, Kyu convinced me to stay an extra 10 minutes to see the sun hitting the three towers, and it was well worth it.

The cold was getting to be a bit much, though, and it was definitely time for me to head down. I did catch a few good photos of the incredible colors though.

On the way back down, I looked back up several times to take pictures, and got some more from Kyu and Alli later to better show the hike.

I hiked down with another lady, didn’t get her name, but she was hiking alone as her husband and other friends got some kind of stomach virus.  Seems like it was pretty rough. A couple of days later, we were talking with some folks as we were leaving the park, and were told it was apparently the tap water.

By the time i got to Chileno, the sun’s warmth was in full swing. At this point, I could finally sit down and relax. I was in a weakened state from doing both the Los Cuernos to Chileno hike and the Chileno to Three Towers hike and back without any sleep in between.

I repacked and headed to the picnic table area. With the burning thought that once Kyu and Alli arrived, we’d be doing the last hike of the entire trip, it gave me the energy to try and chat up a few more folks.

Here are Paulo, Breno, and Vlontra who I’d chatted with a bit the night before. They also did the sunrise hike and were among the many who passed me on the way up the steeper parts of the climb.

Once Alli and Kyu got down to Chileno, we grabbed our things and headed out.

The hike from Chileno to Central started with a short 20 minute gradual uphill climb we’d done the day before to get to the fork. The uphill climb was warming, and the cool breeze balanced the sun’s heat perfectly.

Once at the junction split, we took the left fork at the Y-split junction towards Central. 

As the waters of the gorge became too steep to see, the land opened up, so we took the opportunity to grab some quick photos overlooking the gorge, with Torres Hotel and the eastern edge of Lago Nordenskjöld far off in the distance.

It was a long, gradual downhill from here and we enjoyed the wide open expanse during much of the hike.

I was feeling a bit under the weather. Mostly thought I was just tired. The melancholy of this final hiking day, and my desire to savour every minute gave me that extra bit of energy.

We continued to see people on our way down. Some were pushing hard to try to get from Central up to the Three Towers, but many were just heading up to Chileno as they prepared to do the Three Towers the following day in their plan to do the “W” from East to West.

We met Jerome partway down and hiked the rest of the way with him.  Alli had met Jerome the night before as he was in the Chileno tent next to her’s. Jerome is a Fench Canadian and an engineer working with hospitals and large industrial complexes. He took some time off for sabbatical, hence the trail name Alli gave him: “el sabbatico!”

We met a number of folks on the trail and chatted a bit here and there on our way down.

One such couple we met were Will and Jenna

They’re from Berkeley California and this was their first day as they were doing the “W” trek from east to west. You can just see the excitement and anticipation, so similar to our’s barely over a week ago. They have long since finished their trek as I write this, and I hope Torres del Paine was all they hoped it would be.

We later met Jan. Jan is from Seattle Washington and has a truly impressive adventure resume. She has done some incredible hikes, including

Whitney to canada, many parts of the State of Colorado, 225 miles in northern Mexico, 250 miles of Wyoming trails, a good portion of the PCT from Canada to Eureka, and even experienced some insane weather traveling to Antarctica.

It was exhausting just hearing about all her adventures!

As we started to get much closer to the base, we looked back up for our final view at the inclined trail. Our travels through Torres del Paine were well and truly coming to its end.

And then, as the ground started to flatten and we neared the base of the downhill, we came upon the network of trails that connected various parts of the base, from Torres Hotel to Camp Central, the refugio, and further out to the Visitor’s Center.

We found the sign post showing the split from Camp Central towards either Chileno or Los Cuernos and snapped a quick photo.

We went to Torres Hotel first.  Forgot to take a photo of the outside or the interior of the hotel, but it was quite impressive. The checkin counter inside was staffed by very professional looking staff, the front area was beautiful, and it was clear this hotel catered to a very wealthy class of guest. With our dirty clothes and sweat stained gear, we were a tad out of place here.

Further down was Camp Central, and it was much more in line with the other sites we stayed at during our time here.

The larger building on the left is the showers, and the smaller booth on the right is both the camp checkin and minimarket

Our tent area was just off to the left of the photo above. You can see the same background mountain in the photo below of the tent area.

The stone lined pathway in the photo below leads to Refugio Central, where there is a dining hall/restobar, additional bathrooms and showers, and other facilities. There must be a wide yet shallow stream that runs through here at the beginning of the season.

After checking in at Camp Central and getting our gear all situated, we went over to the refugio Camp Central and enjoyed some beers.

I missed catching a good photo of the front of the building, but it’s an impressive sight. The interior even more so.

Jerome joined us for drinks and Kyu bought him a round,  jerome bought the next round.

At dinner, I sat next to a wonderful engaged couple, and learned a little about their interesting lives.

Kim and Becca are their names. Becca is short for rebecca

They are engaged to be married in sep 2023.  Becca is from the UK, and also lived in Japan and Hong Kong and even Tanzania.  Now lives in france.  Kim is french.  Loves whisky.  They shared a number of rather incredible stories. She apparently headed over to France just prior to Brexit. Making decisions and taking action in response to an uncertain geopolitical landscape is courageous, adventurous, and inspiring.

At the time of the dinner, they were at the beginning of their Torres del Paine journey, doing the “W” trek from east to west.

After dinner, perhaps it was all the adrenaline finally dissipating, but i was pretty exhausted, so took a hot shower after dinner and then headed to the tent.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but I fell asleep quickly and soundly.

Patagonia Map Routes W-Trek

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