The beautiful shortcut to Chileno

Torres Del Paine Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 10 › view all entries
Looking out of the window at 6am and seeing the most vivid rainbow forming across the sky

Before we continued on the final leg of the W Trek, we spent a day lazing around at Los Cuernos and enjoying the grand views of the Los Cuernos mountains and the lake. We did a short hike, picked some berries and had the pleasure of seeing the majestic flights of three large Condors soaring high above Lago Nordenskjold into the clouds. These birds have a wingspan of as large as 3 metres.

Dinner that evening was fantastic as we were served a huge drumstick on a huge bed of cooked potatoes mashed with broccoli, peas and carrots. It was so nicely presented that we joked with the staff whether that was a Christmas meal. The excellent Chilean wine Ciabello de Diablo went well with it. We checked the weather forecast for the next day and it was forecasted to be rainy and windy.

Not only a single but a double rainbow!
It was not really good news as the next day was a hiking day to Las Torres.

After a restless night with the strong winds rattling the building, I woke up at 6am and went to draw the blinds. What a glorious and unexpected sight met my eyes! Across the dark skies right before the Los Cuernos mountains was a vivid rainbow forming across the sky. I grabbed my camera and without even putting on a jacket, I dashed out to witness this beautiful sight.

This rainbow was the most vivid rainbow I have ever seen. It was so brilliant that you could almost distinguish the seven colours. Not only was the beautiful and perfect arch being formed with each passing moment, a second but fainter rainbow had also developed. I stood outside for about ten minutes, until I became too cold in the cool morning of 8 deg C.

A different angle and view of Cuernos del Paine while on the way to Las Torres
A couple came out of the refugio and started on the trek without even giving the rainbow a second look. Strange people …. or was I the strange one to be so fascinated by rainbows??!!

Anyway, it started to pour after that. Like the saying goes, “No rain, no rainbow”. Since it was pouring, there was no rush to start on the trek and so we had a leisurely breakfast. We were finally able to start on the trek at about 7.30am without getting wet. The drizzle slowly stopped and the sun came out. As we were hiking eastwards, it was really pleasant to walk towards the sunshine. And it turned out to be another perfect sunny day with the occasional strong gusts of winds.

Again, because we started early, there was hardly anyone on the trail except three other trekkers whom we met and were able to enjoy the beautiful nature in serenity.

The Bader Valley between Los Cuernos and Mount Almirante Nieto
It was a very pleasant trek on the undulating trail along Lago Nordenskjold towards Las Torres. We could not resist but to have several berries breaks as the Prickly Heath berries growing along the trail were just too big and succulent to be ignored. Looking back, the view of Los Cuernos del Paine from that angle was very interesting.

At one point, we passed by a valley and saw an interesting sight that captured our attention. We were mesmerized by the icy blue sight of the glaciers and mist between the mountains which look so beautiful but yet forbidden!

Doing some post trip research, I am pretty sure that must have been the Bader Valley which is one of the last virgin areas of the Paine Massif. Located between Los Cuernos and Mount Almirante Nieto, it is a place where one could appreciate the immense proximity of exposed granite walls that characterise the mountains.

On the beautiful hike next to Lago Nordenskjold to Las Torres
From what I have read, the trekkers who had been there raved about the huge surrounding walls, glacial lagoons and a unique and wild experience.

If I would have come across those readings earlier when planning the trip, I would have scheduled a day trek into the Bader Valley!!! How wonderful it is to explore a lesser known trail in the world famous W-Trek and seeing something that is oblivious to the other trekkers!!

Continuing on the trail, we passed by a sign showing “Shortcut to Chileno”. Well, why not, since Refugio Chileno was the destination for the day. We walked towards Rio Ascencio and through a field with lots of the thorny “Mother-in-law’s Mattress” bushes. It was a really beautiful sight, especially with the snow covered Monte Almirante Nieto looming majestically in the background.

Although it was a shortcut, it was still a long but beautiful walk to Refugio Chileno. Passing by lots of "Mother-in-law's Mattress"

We stopped for lunch next to the river. As it was out in the open and there was hardly any shade, it was a lunch in the sun and winds but we could not complain since it was such a beautiful day. Apparently, it must have been a good spot as we were joined by a few other trekkers all heading towards Las Torres. That was a good rest after walking 11km with another 2 hours of hike more to go before reaching the Refugio.

The trail ascends gradually thereafter and we could see the huge Hosteria Las Torres on the opposite side Rio Ascencio as well as the vast Patagonian steppe and the two beautiful lakes, Laguna Amarga and a small part of Lago Sarmiento further away on the horizon. It was here on this sunny trail that we found the biggest Prickly Heath (Chaura) berries.

Munching away happily ....
Of course, we could not resist another berry break. Two trekkers from Spain were curious to see us up on the slope and munching away. We invited them to join in and one of them did. They were pleasantly surprised that those berries could be eaten. Then came a Russian mother and daughter team who looked at us in disbelief and said we might die from eating them. Well, of course we were prudent and had checked first with the park rangers if these berries were edible.

 

As we approached the Ascencio Valley on the last half an hour to Refugio Chileno, we were also walking into an approaching storm from far behind in the valley. The winds blowing from the valley were so strong at that time that I was a bit worried about losing my balance, especially on the part of the trail across the shaley slope at a 45 degree angle.

The route on steep grounds on the way to Refugio Chileno

Finally we saw Refugio Chileno some distance away on the other side next to the river. With a burst of energy, we walked quickly against the wind, crossed the bridge and arrived at the Refugio in good time. It was a nice Refugio and more spacious in comparison to Refugio Los Cuernos. Most importantly, the floorboards were not squeaking from every movement. We were in comfortable 8 person dormitory and thick sleeping bags were also provided. But I chose to use my own.

From the dining room, one could see the three Las Torres towers dancing in and out of the clouds. It was sunny again in the evening and we caught our first sight of the famous towers. Dinner was served at 7pm and consisted of beef and potatoes with soup and very tasty fresh breads.

Zorro, the Andean fox lurking into the campground at about 9pm
Dessert was custard caramel but the best dessert came after 9pm!

We were still in the dining room chatting with the other trekkers when I suddenly saw the Andean fox lurking outside of the Refugio. It must have come to the campsite looking for food.  I took my camera and went quietly outside to snap some pictures of it. By then, the attention of the others was aroused and several other people also came out with their cameras, which of course scared the fox away. But at least we have seen the fox. The staff at the Refugio named the fox “The Bad Boy” because he came to steal food from the campers. But he looked so sweet with the bushy tail!

At quarter past 11pm, we finally went to sleep as the staff of the Refugio was also preparing for the lights out.

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Looking out of the window at 6am a…
Looking out of the window at 6am …
Not only a single but a double rai…
Not only a single but a double ra…
A different angle and view of Cuer…
A different angle and view of Cue…
The Bader Valley between Los Cuern…
The Bader Valley between Los Cuer…
On the beautiful hike next to Lago…
On the beautiful hike next to Lag…
Although it was a shortcut, it was…
Although it was a shortcut, it wa…
Munching away happily ....
Munching away happily ....
The route on steep grounds on the …
The route on steep grounds on the…
Zorro, the Andean fox lurking into…
Zorro, the Andean fox lurking int…
Double rainbow
Double rainbow
The calm and turquoise Lago Norden…
The calm and turquoise Lago Norde…
Looking back at Cuernos del Paine …
Looking back at Cuernos del Paine…
The calm Lago Nordenskjold reflect…
The calm Lago Nordenskjold reflec…
Picking and munching the Prickly H…
Picking and munching the Prickly …
The view of the icy blue glaciers …
The view of the icy blue glaciers…
Shortcut to Chileno ... why not??!
Shortcut to Chileno ... why not??!
The majestic Monte Almirante Nieto…
The majestic Monte Almirante Niet…
The biggest and most succulent Pri…
The biggest and most succulent Pr…
Laguna Amarga and the Patagonian S…
Laguna Amarga and the Patagonian …
The glaciers on Monte Almirante Ni…
The glaciers on Monte Almirante N…
The road through the Patagonian St…
The road through the Patagonian S…
Laguna Amarga and the turquoise bl…
Laguna Amarga and the turquoise b…
Walking into the narrow ā€œVā€ sh…
Walking into the narrow ā€œVā€ s…
Refugio Chileno in the evening aft…
Refugio Chileno in the evening af…
The shy fox running away when a fe…
The shy fox running away when a f…
Torres Del Paine
photo by: Vlindeke