Camp Central – Camp Chileno – Mirador Base de las Torres – Camp Chileno – Camp Central

< O-Circuit: Day 8

The Facts

Short Outline of Hike

  • Distance: 20km
  • Duration: 9h, including a very long break of at least 2h at the Chileno Lodge
  • There’s an elevation gain of about 750m from Camp Central Sur up to the Base de las Torres lookout. This stretches over a distance of 10km one way.
  • The trip up to the Torres mirador was a round trip for us.
  • From Central to Chileno it is 5.5km with an elevation gain of 360m.
  • This section is well-marked.
  • If you’re not good with orientation, don’t do this at night.

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-4.8. The grade is made up of the following categories:

Category A – General – SB-8

  • Distance: 20km, duration: 9h
  • Elevation gain/loss: There’s an elevation gain of about 750m from Camp Central Sur up to the Base de las Torres lookout over a distance of 10km.

Category B – Terrain – SB-6

You have a bit of everything between Camp Central up to the mirador. Gravel, nice pathways, very muddy bits, forest ground, small river crossings, steep and big rocks to climb over. The rocky parts had to be taken with extra care due to being covered with snow. The closer we came to the top the more everything was covered in snow. It looked like a winter wonderland.

Category C – Weather – SB-6

Again, a bit of everything. We started in the middle of the night at 5am with nasty fall weather, rain and cold. We arrived at the Chileno Refugio when it was still dark. Trying to get somewhat dry and warm again. A couple hours later, we went on to the top. Rain had changed into nasty snow. The closer we came to the top, the snow would turn more and more into the big fluffy nice kind of snow. It was really cold. We stayed at the top for quite a while, considering there wasn’t much to see of the three Torres. It was freezing and, of course, windy. The odd thing about the weather conditions on the way up is that once we reached the snow part, the three of us enjoyed it a lot. All of the people that we met on our way up that were already descending were unhappy because there were no views. But we had the time of our lives. Opened up our summit beers at the top and enjoyed these while our hands started to freeze.

Category D – Special Conditions – SB-3

No heavy backpack. Special conditions were the rocky parts. Due to everything being completely covered in snow plus the heavy snow fall we had to be extra careful on the way to the mirador.

Category E – Individual Conditions – SB-1

The first few hours were kind of shitty regarding weather. But we had a really nice break and once we realized there might be no views at all at the top, we simply took it easy. So, from then on happy and full of energy is the best description for the 3 of us. Plus, we hiked all of it with just a small day bag. That’s what heavy backpack training is all about…Walks like this are becoming really easy 🙂

The Story behind the hike

It takes something for me to get up and ready this morning. My whole body aches from the involuntary flying lessons yesterday. The early morning and the pitch black night don’t help either. It’s raining and really cold. But we’re aiming for a nice sunrise at the Torres del Paine towers. So, we put on our headlights and get going.

Despite the nasty weather we arrive at the Chileno Lodge within the estimated time schedule. But the three of us are soaked from the rain. We decide to take a break, have a coffee and dry our clothes for a bit.

We are cold and decide to have a maté to warm up. The break gets longer and longer. As we talk and look at the weather outside, we begin to get a glimpse of the possibility that there might not even be a view at the top. It gets brighter outside. We even consider to skip going up to the top entirely since there might not be any views. I don’t want to miss out on the last day’s hike though. Who knows if I ever get the chance to come here again? Darryn agrees. Christian is contemplating but decides to wait at the lodge for our return.

Still waiting for the clothes to get drier, we’re having another maté session. Christian eventually decides to give it a go and come with us. He will be more than happy about his decision later on 🙂

We won’t have any views of the three torres when we arrive at the top. Still, this is one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve had. Just before the treeline everything turns white. Big fluffy snowflakes are coming from the sky. We walk through a winter wonderland all the way to the top. Again, I have a big fat smile on my face but this time it stays 🙂

We brought ourselves some “summit” beers that we enjoy at the top. We see a little bit of the famous laguna and a tiny bit of the bottom of the mountain range, no Torres in sight. But we don’t care. We keep joking about the awesome sunrise we’re witnessing. I put up our empty beer cans, so we can have our own Torres del Paine viewpoint picture.

It sounds odd but even if I had a choice, I wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s millions and millions of pictures being taken from this viewpoint. If I want to look at something pretty, I have a look at them online. But none of them will give me the experience that I went through.

When I look at some of the beautiful pictures I’ve taken throughout the hike, I think to myself “Nice, beautiful shot.” Yet, it’s videos and images like the ones from crossing John Gardner Pass or this final day that bring back all the emotions. When it’s not only “Nice shot” but “Wow, that was tough!” The memory of that experience floating through the entire body. I still feel how cold my hands got the first day. How much it hurt to fall on those sharp rocks on day 8. I can even still feel the bruises I’ve had from it for weeks after the trek. I also feel how much easier everything became after these experiences. How appreciation and gratitude for simple things has grown much stronger.

On our way back down we’re so psyched that we run for most parts, racing each other like kids.

The O-Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park still holds a special place in my heart. It’s April 13th, 2019 when we pack our stuff inside Murphy and head back to Puerto Natales. Christian will leave South America in a couple days. This trek was one of the last experiences together for a while. Darryn and I eventually end up traveling together.

< O-Circuit: Day 8