The day that I spent driving from El Chalten to Torres del Paine was one of the more difficult drives I’ve done. Not because of traffic – there was none of that. Not because of the weather – it was a beautiful clear day. Only because of the endless hours of being concerned that I would miss a gas station and run out of gas. I made three stops to make sure that I had enough gas over a 250 mile trip. It took me 6 hours to make it to the Chilean border and another two-and-a-half to get to Torres del Paine National Park.
As I got close to Torres Del Paine, I began to understand why this national park is so popular. Its like the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone put together (without the volcanic features). I checked in at the Ranger station and made sure all of my paper work was in order. I should have taken this opportunity to go deeper into the park and take some photos. I was so tired from the drive that I just wanted to get to the hotel.
I spent my two nights in the park at the Hotel Las Torres. It was the most affordable of the hotels in the park. It was a good jumping off point for all the moving around the park that I did, but I would have preferred to stay in one of the other hotels closer to the main hiking areas.
I woke up on my first morning to find everything socked in. Low, grey clouds obscured the mountains directly behind the hotel. I headed out to explore around the park and get the lay of the land, hoping that the clouds might break during the day. The immediate drive out from the hotel took me across a single lane bridge and then up the dirt switchbacks to get higher into the mountains south of the Paine Massif.
As the road leveled off, I found myself driving in the clouds. sometimes the road felt like it was falling away into the clouds, with only a hit of mountain peaks beyond. The local wildlife – mostly Guanacos – darted along the road as I passed and at one point I did catch a glimpse of Andean Condors.
Later in the day, the clouds broke and gave me a view of the iconic Cuernos through the broken clouds. None of the iconic views of the mountain were made clear that day. As a result of the weather, I had to look for more interesting compositions and find the beauty among the clouds and the peaks.
Searching among the peaks, I was able to find some beautiful compositions. The craggy nature and the transitions of the ice and snow to stone made for some beautiful moments.
Aside from the challenging weather, It was a huge disappointment to leave the national park. After the beautiful weather I experienced in El Chalten, it could not have been more opposite. Torres Del Paine left me wanting more and is begging for me to return one day.