A silent trek in the Valley of Silence

Torres Del Paine Travel Blog

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Negotiating the boulder fields in the Ascencio Valley

The Valle del Silencio is one of the last virgin areas in the Torres del Paine National Park. It is a spectacular valley hidden around the back of the granite walls of the Las Torres Towers and begins just right after Campamento Japones (a campsite only for climbers) in the Ascencio Valley. Almost overlooked by most visitors, it is a popular destination for climbers who came to this spot to climb the west face of the Torres Towers and the lesser known Escudo Mountain (the Shield).

The day was much cooler than previous days with temperature of about 10 deg C. We followed the same trail through the Lenga forest towards the Campamento Torres. The entire Ascencio Valley was covered in clouds and the first passing snow shower came as we were halfway on the trail to the Torres campsite.

Reaching Compamento Japones, the campsite for climbers only, which is the end of the trail for trekkers
As quickly as it had snowed, the clouds passed and the sun came out again. For almost the entire day, the weather alternated between being sunny and snow showers.

We arrived at the campsite at about 10.30am and asked the guard about the trail to Compamento Japones. In stammering English, the guard explained that the trail goes through fields of rock boulders and we should look out for the orange signs and rock cairns that marked the trail. And hikers were not allowed to go beyond the Campamento Japones due to the falling rocks.

We had our break at the first moraine field about 5mins after the campsite where the view of the three towers could be seen, although they were again partially hidden behind the clouds. We followed the almost unknown trail to the source of the Ascencio River.

On the boulder trail in Valley of Silence
Despite the several moraine fields where we had to negotiate the rocky path, as well as the dense forests and streams of glacial water that we had to cross, it was a really pleasant trek through and to the end of the Ascencio Valley. There were some Prickly Heath bushes and plenty of Capachitos (Lady’s Slippers) on the trail in between the rock boulders. Except for one other trekker, we did not meet anyone on the trail.

We reached Campamento Japones at noon where there was a sign saying the end of trail. At the campsite, two English brothers were just packing up their tent after coming back from a successful climb of Torre Norte a few days before. Bravo! We asked about the trail to the Valley of Silence and were told that the trail still goes on for a short distance through the forest, followed by an upwards trek on the rocks and boulders to above the tree line.

Many beautiful Capachitos (Lady's Slippers) seen here
Thereafter, the trail continues over scree and talus towards the next moraine field where the views of mythical granite spires of Cerro Escudo (the Shield), Cerro Fortaleza (the Fortress) and the Towers of Paine could be seen.

So excitedly, we continued through the forest and up the boulder trail to finally come up above the tree line. We were surrounded by mountains and had a nice view of the narrow Ascencio Valley down below. Along the trail, we saw more Capachitos as well as the pretty red Waterfall plant that practically grow next to the waterfalls. As we ascended, the trail got narrower, steeper and rockier.

Then we came to the trickiest part of the narrow trail that goes across the dark basalt scree and talus with a steep dropoff of a few hundred metres into the valley on the right.

Approaching the trickiest part of the trail comprising of scree and talus with a steep dropoff of a few hundred metres on the right
We could see that after crossing this tricky part and around the bend, the alternative view of the mountains at the back of the French Valley would be visible. We were so near to the goal and would so much love to see that view with our own eyes ……. but yet we were sure if that part of the trail is safe enough to cross. We were not willing to risk slipping down the steep dropoff over the scree, after having a previous bad experience in Spitzbergen.

So, we sadly decided to turn back. But safety is more important!

We descended the same way that we came up. Another snow shower came and gone and we were finally back at Campamento Japones at about 2pm where we took our well deserved lunch. The rain clouds seemed to have all gone and it was sunny on the way back through the Ascencio Valley.

I would so love to see the mythical granite spires of Cerro Escudo, Cerro Fortaleza and the Towers of Paine just around the bend .... but safety is more important!

However, we were not so careful at the last boulder field and missed the signs completely. We had wandered a bit too far away from the trail in an attempt to cross the streams safely without getting wet. We knew we were not “lost” as we could see Cerro Nido de Condor and part of the towers on our right and we could even see the trail leading up to the Mirador Las Torres. Looking harder, we could even see the people on the trail, although they looked really tiny from where we were.

By then, we were a bit tired from negotiating all the rock boulders. As ascending up the rock boulders was easier than descending, we continued upwards which was a wrong choice as distances in the nature look shorter than they actually are. We knew we had to cross the forest next to the boulder field and thought that we could just walk through the Lenga forests but the beech trees up there were short and dense and it was nearly impossible to see where one was stepping.

Turning back and making the descent

Frustrated, we finally decided to back trek and descend since we remembered walking pretty close to River Ascencio after the campsite in the morning. We descended down the rock boulders next to the forest and were elated on seeing that the trees were finally high enough and we could walk into the forest.  Following the instinct, we continued the descent towards the river and suddenly an orange sign on one tree trunk caught my eyes. I was elated and relieved as we were back on the trail again!

After ten minutes of walking, we came to the open area where we had a break in the morning looking up at the boulder field with the three towers above. We had a long break before continuing the final two hours of trek down the valley back to Refugio Chileno. It was 7pm by the time we arrived back at the Refugio. What a “memorable” day to end our trekking in Torres Del Paine!!

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Negotiating the boulder fields in …
Negotiating the boulder fields in…
Reaching Compamento Japones, the c…
Reaching Compamento Japones, the …
On the boulder trail in Valley of …
On the boulder trail in Valley of…
Many beautiful Capachitos (Ladys …
Many beautiful Capachitos (Lady's…
Approaching the trickiest part of …
Approaching the trickiest part of…
I would so love to see the mythica…
I would so love to see the mythic…
Turning back and making the descent
Turning back and making the descent
Approaching Compamento Torres
Approaching Compamento Torres
The cute guard house at Compamento…
The cute guard house at Compament…
Crossing a stream on the trail
Crossing a stream on the trail
What else but picking some berries
What else but picking some berries
Lying on a bed of rocks :-)
Lying on a bed of rocks :-)
An interesting and hardy looking p…
An interesting and hardy looking …
Then it started snowing for a whil…
Then it started snowing for a whi…
View of the mountains at the end o…
View of the mountains at the end …
Of course we went beyond into the …
Of course we went beyond into the…
A close up of the Capachitos
A close up of the Capachitos
Waterfall plant
Waterfall plant
Waterfall plant ... and they pract…
Waterfall plant ... and they prac…
From the Valley of Silence looking…
From the Valley of Silence lookin…
Ascending up the boulder trail in …
Ascending up the boulder trail in…
Stopping just before the steep dro…
Stopping just before the steep dr…
Descending down the rocky trail
Descending down the rocky trail
The majestic Cerro Nido de Condor
The majestic Cerro Nido de Condor
Rio Ascencio
Rio Ascencio
Walking through Valle Ascencio
Walking through Valle Ascencio
Cerro Nido de Condor with one of i…
Cerro Nido de Condor with one of …
Walking through Ascencio Valley
Walking through Ascencio Valley
Approaching another boulder field
Approaching another boulder field
Fossils on the rocks
Fossils on the rocks
Missed the signs on the trails and…
Missed the signs on the trails an…
We went completely off track and t…
We went completely off track and …
Finally made it back to the trail.…
Finally made it back to the trail…
Torres Del Paine
photo by: Vlindeke