Words & Visuals on Torres & Tourism
Back again! Here we are, 9 days later, 150 km later, 25 meals later, beat up from the feet up but still boogying on down south. Torres, baby, TORRES! The Towers of Paine, a sinister name for a park, is in the bank and we are back in Puerto Natales, eying up the last leg of Patagonia Soul like a hungry man might eye up a juicy steak. We are moving towards the end, or, if you prefer to think of things as a line in which we’ve been cued, towards the beginning. Dientes is on the horizon. But we’ll get there. The stage will be set. But first, well, first, Torres.
A Brief and Tragic History of Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine is on the tongue of all tourists traveling through Chile. If you go to Chile you have heard of, at minimum, two places: Santiago and Torres del Paine. There is a reason you have heard of Torres – it is stunning. Huge and savage and wonderfully difficult to fathom. Jagged, snow-covered peaks beswirled in cloud seen across the horizon, beckoning.
Torres is divided into two hikes: the ‘O’ Loop, and the ‘W’. Here’s a map for context:
The vast, vast majority of tourists do some portion of the W. Much as tourists experiencing the Great Smokies National Park satisfy themselves with a scenic drive through the park’s heart, so too do most travelers spend one to two nights in the park for the famed day-hike up to the Towers. For the more adventurous seeking a 4-5 day experience, many will take a ferry to Paine Grande and hike the W. Then there is the O, which starts and ends at Las Torrres Serviceo Campsite, and goes counter-clockwise up and around the backside of the mountain range, the first campsite Seron.
Torres, established in 1959 as a national tourist site, has only grown in popularity as Chile has pushed to become the world’s adventure travel destination, an award it won in December 2016. With that distinction comes an influx of travelers, people who seek the outdoors in some digestible format, whether spending 150 kilometers camping around the O-Loop or doing a day hike up to the Towers while staying at the Las Torres Hotel. With more travelers came the need for more facilities, and with more facilities came the opportunity to privatize the camping experiences. Thus companies like Fantastico Sur and Vertice, the two companies that work with Chile’s National Park Sevice CONAF, have created 10 campsites along the ‘O’ and ‘W’ paths for visitors to pay for camping, a refugio, or a hotel experience. Since 2016 it has become mandatory for travelers to reserve their camping, issues with infrastructure (a common theme in these growing tourists destinations) driving the change in policy. Now CONAF will turn away visitors within the park if there are no reservations. With this new policy, coupled with the remote location of Torres and current pricing within the park makes it prohibitive for many Chileans to visit. Thus, of the 150,000 annual park visitors, 60% are foreign travelers.
Learning this statistic, Tyler and I recognized our privilege to experience this park. We remain extremely grateful and humbled by your continued support of our trip. Thank you.
Patagonia Soul Does Torres
We rolled into the park with 25 meals worth of food. It was a bit excessive: eight onions, eight avocados, five peppers, a bag of potatoes, a bag of carrots, a kilogram of rice, three kilograms of varied beans, four pasta packs, a handful of soup packets, two kilograms of cheese, ten packs of cookies and crackers, thirty tortillas, eight cans of tuna, and oh, oh … so much more. The sun was shining, surprisingly, my back was sweating, and little did I realize what we were about to get ourselves into …
This video is what happens when I spend two hours writing out the update and then it gets mysteriously deleted by the gremlin living in my iPad. So enjoy – if you’re curious, there was no script involved. FLYING BY THE SEAT OF MY PANTS! (Which, incidentally, are ripped. In the crotch.)
And Next …
So, that was Torres. If you want to see all the pictures from these 9 days check out our website. Some are pretty epic, most you can get by going to Google Images and typing in some combination of ‘Torres’ & ‘del’ & ‘Paine.’ This is the world we live in now. It was an amazing 9 days, and originally we’d thought to end our trip with this experience. But, a month ago, we learned about this coming circuit, our final bout of hiking, and are very excited (and quite nervous) to take on the Dientes Circuit, which is a 45 mile hike south of Tierra del Fuego, in Puerto Williams, the farthest south one can reasonably get to in South America. The trail is mostly unmarked – we will follow a series of cairns around the island. The weather is unpredictable – they received a great deal of snowfall last week. The passes have 90+ mph winds, the valleys are bogs, there are no amenities within the park.
This experience is what Tyler and I have been training for, moving towards, for the past 3 months. It will be a brutal, amazing opportunity to witness Patagonia in all its wonderful savagery one last time before returning back to Santiago, back to the amenities and comforts of everyday life. Our hike begins next Wednesday with our Bromance Buddy Andy from El Chalten, who will be joining us as an honorary Patagonian Soul Third for the week. Remember Andy?
(Still holding hands)
We’re excited, nervous, and ready. Wish us luck! And, as always, thank you so much for reading (and, today, watching!) this update. Missing you all, loving you from afar.
Reese & Tyler
Nacho y Tigre