Camp Los Cuernos – Camp Central

The Facts

Short Outline of Hike

  • Distance: 12km
  • Duration: 4.5h, including a small break after a very windy section, due to exhaustion fighting the winds and being hurt from falling.
  • There’s a slight elevation gain within the first couple of kilometers. After that it is a steady up and down with little elevation gains and losses.
  • Stick to the well marked-path. Don’t choose the shortcut along the edges of the lake.
  • Camp Central is fully equipped with hot showers, bathrooms, a kitchen shelter. There’s a restaurant at the Las Torres hotel and a shop at the Welcome Center. Both within reach of a few minutes walking from the Central camp. Prices are very high though.

Grading

Following is my personal grading of the hike including some key points. If you have no idea what the SB scale is, have a quick look here.

The overall grade regarding difficulty is SB-4.2. The grade is made up of the following categories:

Category A – General – SB-4

  • Distance: 12km, duration: 4.5h
  • Elevation gain/loss: After a slight elevation gain at the beginning it’s a moderate up and down until the camp.

Category B – Terrain – SB-4

During the very windy part we walked over some nasty sharp rocky parts. Some parts of the path were flooded from the rain. Other than that, it was forest ground, mostly muddy.

Category C – Weather – SB-6

My very short notes for this day say “rainy, fucking windy” and that is exactly how I would describe it. We took a shortcut over a very set out section. I was blown off my feet 3 times. When I say blown off I’m not exaggerating. I mean literally blown off my feet. The wind was constantly changing directions. I had to use force just to keep standing, so each time it changed direction, I lost my balance. For a few times this resulted in complete loss of balance, flying for a couple meters, landing on hands, knees, or on my side, with the full weight of my backpack pushing at me. There were some pretty sharp rocks I got a bit too friendly with during these landings. I had some large bruises for a couple weeks afterwards. But luckily the wind condition was like this for only a short amount of time.

Category D – Special Conditions – SB-3

My backpack being half of my body weight is probably one of the reasons why the winds were able to push me around like they did. I’m pretty sure I could’ve handled that particular section a lot better with a smaller bag.

Category E – Individual Conditions – SB-4

I was fully motivated and fit. We were ending an experience of a life time and all the energy from that was fueling me. And then there was the windy section. That part was so exhausting to me that I arrived at camp completely tired and hurt from the pain. We had a quick stop at the Hotel Las Torres before camp, so I could clean my wounds.

The Story behind the hike

Today is the day we return to the start of the trek. So exciting. The weather is not the best, rain, cold temperatures and, of course, wind. I start the walk with a big fat smile on my face. My butt has been kicked more than once during this trek. I’ve come to develop a major respect for weather. Gone is my naive and innocent “Let’s just start walking and see what happens” – mentality. Well, not gone but I question it more often now 😉

Yet, it’s not the last day of hiking as we’re going to hike up to the mirador Base de las Torres tomorrow. For some it might be the major reason to do trekking in Torres del Paine National Park. Frankly, to me it’s just a tiny part of the trek. But you might find out yourself what I mean by that if you decide to do the O-Circuit.

This part of the trek is also a bit crowded. Every now and then we pass groups of people. More often than not. Christian is full of energy today. He has left us behind by a bit when Darryn and I arrive at an intersection of paths. “This looks like a shortcut on the map. Maybe we’ll even catch up with Christian again.” I remember him saying something like that.

Yes, shortcut it is. We will eventually even somehow get ahead of Christian. But before this happens, I have another experience of how nasty wind can get. Really nasty.

We walk along the outer edges of Lake Nordernskjöld. For most of the time we follow something that could be a path. It leads across very rough and spiky rock fields. The wind is getting stronger and stronger. Water particles from the surface of the lake are picked up and thrown in the air. It’s an interesting thing to see.

During this section I don’t have much time to soak in the beautiful landscape though. I’m busy keeping my feet on the ground. Trying to not fall or even “fly”. I need all my strength to fight the winds. They constantly change direction. This makes me loose my balance more than once.

So, basically what happens is something like this: Wind is coming from the side. I lean my body towards it because if I don’t, I fall with the wind. Within seconds the wind changes direction. I am either strong enough to keep my balance. Or I fall towards the direction I pushed my body to. The tricky wind coming from just anywhere now picks me up and throws me for a couple meters. I fly, one could say. Not kidding. I loose complete control and concentrate on falling somewhat without being hurt. Out of the 3 times I can recount this happening, my attempts never work.

It’s just not possible to land without being hurt on the spiky rocks I mention above. I land on my knees, hips, arms, elbows, some parts bleeding. My backpack is clearly taking the side of the wind. The weight of it on me while falling to the ground is just another treat. After this happens for the third time, I’m so exhausted and tired that I just stay on the ground. My hands and knees to keep me where I am. I start screaming at the wind.

For a second I don’t know how to continue. It took me all my energy to not even get as far as a couple hundred meters, at the most. I’m bleeding. Every inch of my body seems to hurt. I watch Darryn, who’s about a hundred meters ahead of me, also fighting it. He keeps on pushing it, every now and then doing a lunge to keep balance. I get up and use the bit of anger to push through.

We find something that serves as a shelter, enough to get some rest and energy for the rest of the trek. Once we return from the fabulous shortcut back to the standard path, we see Christian. Behind us. Still, I cannot recommend this shortcut, as you can imagine.

We have a stop at the Las Torres hotel, so I can clean up my wounds. And to have a snack. I’m still exhausted from that section.

The closer we get to the campground the more nervous I get about Murphy, my car. I remember how it was rocking back and forth during the night before we started the O-Circuit. Considering the heavy winds we’ve experienced since then I was expecting the car to be crashed into the fence of the parking lot. But nothing happened and all was fine 😛

The start of the trek is right next to the Camp Central where we are staying for our last night. A comfortable and warm feeling hits me when we arrive at the campground. I’m not fully aware in that moment yet of how much I’ve learned, especially about myself, during the past few days. But it’ll hit me in the upcoming rest days.

We go to bed early this night because our plan is to be at the viewpoint by sunrise the next morning. In theory. But more about that on the next and last page.