The French Valley ~ an amphitheatre of granite spires
Torres Del Paine Travel Blog› entry 5 of 10 › view all entries
Having read that the French Valley is the most beautiful valley in the entire national park and that some travelers would have preferred to spend more time here because of its scenic beauty, we were quite excited about the trek. Up by 5.30am, we shared the breakfast that was already prepared for us the night before together with a German girl who wanted to be on the trail early too.
We left the lodge at 6.15am. Despite being sunny and bright by then, there was a still a sort of peacefulness in the surroundings in the early hours. It was a nice feeling to be the only ones on the trail and having the whole nature to ourselves.
We have scheduled about two and half hours to complete the trek from the shores of Lago Nordenskjold up the slopes and all the way to Campamento Italiano.
After a small break, we continued the next part of the ascent to Campamento Britanico.
The view down to Lago Nordenskjold with the reflection and the mountains in the distance horizon was equally beautiful. We ascended through the forest next to the river with rushing glacier water for about an hour before reaching the open moraine with the most spectacular and grand mountain formation, one of the finest in Patagonia!
The majestic Cerro Paine Grande with its hanging glaciers on one side, the Los Cuernos, Cerro Mascara (Mask – 2,300m), Cerro Hoja (Leaf – 2,200m), Cerro Espada (Sword – 2,500m), Cerro Forteleza (2,680m) and many more interesting mountains lay right before our eyes .
We met a couple coming down from the trail and asked how long it would take to reach Campamento Britanico. They said they did not go that far and were turning back due to the lack of time. Amazing how some people could have so little time to enjoy such beauty and were rushing through the park!
The trail continued for a while in the open area before entering the forest again with a lot of the usual ups and downs. We took a break next to the rushing river and refilled our bottles with the cold and refreshing glacial water. We continued and came to the next moraine where those magnificent mountains were just right before our eyes. However, it was not the end of the trail yet.
Entering the forest again, we finally reached Campamento Britanico at 1pm. Hurray, at least from here, we knew that the Mirador Valle del Frances was about half an hour away. We had our lunch of the delicious chicken sandwich and took a good rest before the last assault, while watching the trekkers passing by. Two trekkers going towards the Mirador asked two Italian trekkers coming down whether it was worthwhile to go up to the Mirador. Coolly, they replied, “You are already here, go up and take a look!”
Indeed, worthwhile or not is subjective and since one had come all the way, what is the last half an hour of trek! Replenished with energy, we continued the last half an hour of ascent which was strenuous at times.
Finally, finally, we reached the Mirador Valle del Frances! It was a fantastic amphitheatre of huge granite walls and spires, mountains with curious appearances shaped by the winds and natural elements, hanging glaciers and forests. 300 degrees of surrounding mountains with the valley and Lago Nordenskjold making up the remaining 60 degrees of view, gosh, the scenery was magnificent!!!
We took time to enjoy every angle of this beautiful scenery and stayed there for about an hour. Slowly, the winds became gustier and dark clouds covered the skies. Shortly before 3pm, we decided to make our long trek back to Refugio Cuernos. The descent was harder as it was more strenuous on my knees.
We took a break on the rock boulders and before us across the trail was a fallen tree trunk about a metre above the ground. It was interesting to see how the other trekkers coming on the path first try to find a way around it rather than bending and crossing under the hurdle. One young guy with camping stuff making his way up the valley did the same and as he passed us by, we told him that he looked sporty and we had expected him to jump across it. With a tired small, he replied, “No, not at this hour.” Loved his humour!
By the time we reached Campamento Italiano, it had started to drizzle. Heaven was really kind to us. Firstly, the day was not as warm as the previous two days.
We were still about two and half hours away from Refugio Cuernos and we were already tired. As a consolation, we picked many Chaura (Prickly Health) berries along the way and munched on them. These red berries tasted like sour apples and the locals hardly eat them. As we turned and looked back, Cerro Paine Grande was already in the clouds and the drizzle was catching up with us.
We finally reached the lodge at 8.30pm, after being 14 hours on the trail. By then, the drizzle became heavy rain and we just barely made it back to the lodge without being soaked through.
It poured and the winds howled as we went to bed at 10.30pm. We were so glad that we were not camping!