The W-Trek, Refugio Torre Central to Refugio El Chileno

After sleeping soundly and taking breakfast at our appointed time we gathered up our gear and headed off from Refugio Torre Central towards El Chileno. Straight away we felt and knew the wind was going to be a factor. Have a look at Karen’s hair in this photo.Within about fifteen minutes we came to our first water crossing, this one came with a very sturdy bridge.Not more than twenty minutes later we turned right up the Ascencio valley, behind a few others, towards El Chileno and further on the Torres lookout.Cloud shrouded mountains could be seen to the left.As we climbed we stopped to catch our breath and turned to take in the view of Lake Nordenskjöld and the trail we had already walked.The climb was already worth it. The climb continued for about thirty minutes more until we reached a peak where we could see deeper into the valley. Our eyes viewed the trail ahead.The going was a bit easier, although at times we found ourselves walking into a fierce headwind, so strong we had to stop and dig our walking poles in to keep our balance. Less than half an hour later we were at the bottom of the valley crossing a fast flowing stream.Within minutes we had arrived at El Chileno refuge and camp. Check in time was after 16:00 but we decided to ask if we could leave our main backpacks and continue on to the Torres with only a small backpack. The staff readily agreed and by the look of the stack of gear we weren’t the only ones doing this. The walk continued along the side of the river for a while then we crossed a series of bridges It was very pleasant hearing the water as we walked, spotting the odd cascade of rapidly tumbling water.From time to time the view ahead opened up and we could see the mountains aboveand glaciers in the distance.We now started to climb above the tree line, still working into a headwind at times.It became a steep rock scramble in places.As we climbed the temperature definitely dropped so we put on our coats to try and beat the cold wind.Along the way we started to meet other trekkers descending. We presumed they had stayed overnight at either El Chileno or at the camping area at the Torres Ranger Station. I guess they had aimed to see the Torres at dawn.Finally we crested a rock pile to have our first close-up view of the Torres and lake below them. It had taken us just over four and half hours from Refugio Torre Central which we were pretty pleased with.It was a long held dream of mine to see the Torres up close and I was really elated to achieve it. We continued our rock scramble to edge closer to the lake and to seek respite down out of the weather. The view was fantastic, even with the wind moving the clouds quickly across whatever blue sky there had been.We found a spot each on a large rock aiming to recharge our energy levels by eating our lunch. A nearby lone hiker approached us and asked if we could take his photo which we duly did. He was a businessman from Japan on a a brief three day trip to hike in the area. He took our photos too.As we sat chatting the wind continued to blow the clouds past the Torres, occasionally allowing some sunlight through to highlight a part of the incredible view in front of us. More and more hikers arrived and it became difficult to take a photo without someone inadvertently photobombing it so we decided to begin our descent to return to El Chileno. It was quite slow going as we rock scrambled down, passing many others on their way up. We also passed this sign which we had clearly missed on the way but showing that it is only 875 at the Torres lookout but that you climb 495m over a distance of only 4kms from El Chileno.At one point we came to a fallen tree whose upturned roots had become the framework for a stone sculpture.It was an hour and a quarter after leaving the Torres viewpoint we had found ourselves below the tree line again, walking in a peaceful forest.We crossed the occasional streamas we continued our descent, reaching El Chileno about 16:30. We checked in and grabbed our bags. El Chileno is a much smaller lodge and we hadn’t managed to book a room but had secured one of their tents. The tents are on platforms, which then are nailed to due to the strong winds.Inside there are mattresses, sleeping bags and enough room to store gear in the entry area. There is a shower and toilet block adjacent to the refugio. After leaving our gear we made our way into the dining area and had hot drinks accompanied by lots of conversation with fellow hikers, many whom we had met the previous night at Refugio Torre Central. Next we took a shower before returning for dinner. Most on our table were in their 20s but we had one Aussie father and son combo too.

Yes, this is me, making myself comfortable for a well earnt rest in our tent after one of the most spectacular days we have experienced in our travelling/hiking lives.

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