Each day of the W trek in Torres del Paine National Park came with fresh challenges for us inexperienced hikers. We hiked 17 miles, the next day added a big pack and steady rain, day 3 we adjusted then the last day we decided to add the element of hiking in the dark.
We approached the trek from East to West, which meant we would end our day with the main attraction of the park, Los Torres. The best way to experience Los Torres is at sunrise, when the light strikes the mountains and illuminates them a bright orange against the light blue sky. Because our campsite the night before placed us 4 hours away, we would have to get up and start our hike at 4am. We made it all this way, why not give it a try? I'm not sure if I was more motivated by the fear of missing the sight of the towers or the fear of falling behind and becoming puma breakfast.
We trekked along with our headlamps on and music playing. Time passed quickly because we couldn't stop to take in our surroundings and we couldn't see much anyway. We continued through a sleepy campsite, along the side of a canyon and then we reached our last obstacle, a 100 meter scramble to the top. I felt my muscles starting to refuse action, we had eaten only a packet of to-go applesauce. We raced against the sunrise, seeing it across the valley, peeking above the horizon. We pushed on and on as we thought each turn, each small peak was nearing the top. Andrea and Julia sped up, proclaiming, "We're almost there!" What they thought to be a 10 minute dash was more like a 40 minute climb.
I've never been one for morning gym sessions, and I usually can't function without at least some coffee and a piece of toast, but I did get myself up that mountain, an intense, 4 hour, cardio workout. In the dark. The view of Los Torres did not disappoint. Shadows started to fall around the base of Los Torres as a few people gathered around to take it all in. Everyone was glowing, happy to greet the next few hikers emerging from below. We found boulders to sit on and watched rocks skipping, quietly disturbing the still lake.
Half way down the mountain we stopped for lunch. Tour groups passed by, looking unequipped for what was ahead. A few wore skirts, we saw one pair of flip flops making their way up the mountain. We took a moment to enjoy tortilla and peanut butter wraps, the ultimate prize in the eyes of 4 mediocre hikers who managed to plan, hike and execute a trip around Torres del Paine National Park. We reflected on the times we wanted to give up but we also started talking about making the trek again.