Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia offers a number of world-class hikes to travellers keen to brave the elements. The most famous (and challenging) walk in the national park, the Base de las Torres (Base of the Towers) offers spectacular views amongst some of the most incredible natural scenery in the world. We took up the challenge and were rewarded a hundred times over for our efforts.
Setting off bright and early from EcoCamp, we were literally the first group on the trail, allowing us to set a comfortable pace and really soak up the morning air.
Thanks to its handy location at the start of the hike, visitors can maximise their time cuddled up in bed whilst still getting a big headstart on those coming from Puerto Natales for the day – a double bonus for our glamping crew.
“Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning” – Proverb
I must admit, in the days leading up to this hike I was incredibly nervous and the pink-tinged sunrise didn’t do much to set our minds at ease. Though I try my best, I’m not the fittest wahine around and even on a fair-weather day, the Towers were to present a massive challenge – both in body and mind.
Summoning a positive attitude, we began putting the kilometres behind us – something that was easily done on the flat but not so much so on the first major incline of the day.
The hike to the Towers can be divided into a few key sections, each unique from the other.
What Can You Expect on the Base of the Towers Hike?
The First Climb
After an easy warm-up on the flat (where you’ve got a reasonable chance of spotting some incredible Patagonian animals, so keep your eyes peeled), hikers are greeted with their first big climb. Though there are small breaks where it evens out, for the most part it’s all uphill for a solid hour or so. We took our time and made it up surprisingly easily but it was hard work, without doubt!
At the crest of the first incline, hikers are treated to a (gratefully received) rest. The track heads downhill towards the El Chileno campsite where, during the season, toilets are available (as is accommodation should you wish to break the hike into two days).
Not Your Average Walk in the Park
For the next two hours, the trails weaves through the forest. After the initial climb, this is an easy hike over undulating land. You’ll continue to gain elevation (so don’t get too excited about taking it easy), but in the big scheme of things, it’s a pretty cruisey part of the track; even if you’ve never hiked before, you’ll manage this section fine.
The Final Push
Just after the forest clears, you’ll be greeted with the final climb to the Base of the Towers. This hike will certainly make you earn that amazing view you’ve come for – saving the best (or worst) ’till last.
Starting with a 30-minute climb through the last of the forest, hikers approach the moraine, where the scramble begins. On the day of our hike, there was significant snowfall in the area which meant the path that would normally be made up of rocks and boulders was practically unrecognisable. Instead, we tentatively made up way along the line of the moraine, skirting our way over to the Towers. Though the snow resulted in a few minor slips, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually easier on our knees as we didn’t have to pick our way up and over rocks (but we’d love to hear from anyone who’s completed the hike without snow).
Though the snow resulted in a few minor slips, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually easier on our knees as we didn’t have to pick our way up and over rocks.
Have you completed the hike without snow? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts on tackling the last of the moraine!
With aching muscles but an unmistakable electricity in the air, we rounded the last bend and finally caught sight of the three towers right in front of us. Peeking out through a veil of cloud, we couldn’t believe our luck – we’d been warned that on days like ours, hikers sometimes miss out altogether on seeing these granite monsters!
Honestly, we could not have asked for more.
Not only were we treated to the most amazing Winter-Wonderland scenery all the way up, but with a touch of blue sky, we stood marvelling at the infamous icons of Torres del Paine.
Though we were very fortunate to have the towers practically to ourselves (a privilege that would be absolutely unheard of during peak season), we had followed a set of little footprints all the way to the top. Crossing our fingers, we’d hoped that it was a sign that we might get a glimpse of the resident fox and continuing on our lucky streak, that’s exactly what happened.
Standing under the towers, it was hard to believe that with all of our planning, dreaming and hoping, we were finally there in person.
We’d made it!
Do You Need a Guide to Climb the Towers?
Though it is physically possible to make it to the summit of the hike without the assistance of a guide, we would certainly recommend one.
Just days earlier, we’d been told about a pair of hikers who had made it almost to the end of the moraine just to have to turn back – with heavy snowfall they couldn’t find the track to continue safely through the maze of snow and under-cover boulders. I couldn’t imagine the disappointment in getting that far only to turn away at the last hurdle.
Throughout the day our guides coaxed us along, sharing encouragement when it was needed and leading the celebrations when we’d pushed ourselves that little further than we thought possible. They each shared a great deal of knowledge with us and knew exactly when we each needed that extra little boost.
Without our guides, I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have made it to the top.
They encouraged us to walk at our own pace and step by step, we slowly chipped away at the challenge ahead of us. We certainly didn’t break any speed records for our ascent but their patience, persistence and belief in us was invaluable.
In the middle of summer, when the path is well-worn and the snow we experienced is nowhere to be found, it would be possible to complete the hike successfully without the assistance of a guide but even then, I’d suggest booking one in.
This hike is anything but easy so why trust it to anyone but a pro?
We decided to spend our evenings relaxing in luxury at EcoCamp so booked into their ‘Patagonia Wildlife Tour‘ – this allowed us to choose our own activities each day which included their own amazing guides.
If there’s one hike you do in Torres del Paine, make it this one!
Though the hike was difficult, with the mantra ‘slow and steady’ our whole group managed to make it up to the summit together.
Without doubt, the hike to the Towers was difficult but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.
If you have the opportunity, absolutely go!
Thinking about hiking to Base de las Torres? Pin this post for future reference!
Thank you to EcoCamp for hosting us on this hike. Without doubt, we’ll never forget our experience! As always, all thoughts are our own.