Part 5 in a Series: The hike across Estancia Lazo to Mirador Las Torres was easy. The mile-long descent down the slippery schist-strewn bluff beneath the million-dollar view of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park was not. Bring your trekking poles.
Estancia Lazo sits on the eastern edge of the park on the banks of Lago Verde, a day’s drive from our overnight in El Calafate, Argentina, across mostly gravel highways and one tiny international border crossing. The crossing at San Francisco Pass was uneventful and the Chilean border patrol’s fruit-sniffing Labrador Retriever was adorable. We were certified fruit-free.
Entertainment on a long drive made longer when our bus broke down as we left El Calafate included skittish guanacos …
… gawky rheas …
… pink Chilean flamingoes …
… and coral-like tufa on the beach at Lago Verde. (To its credit, our tour company quickly swapped our disabled bus for a bigger model, and we all enjoyed spreading out for the ride to Chile.)
Estancia Lazo is a working cattle ranch that sprawls across 32,000 acres in the foothills below the Paine massif in southern Chile. We bunked at Mirador Del Payne Hostería, a rustic lodge with a great view and good food that features electricity until 10 p.m. Each room comes equipped with a giant flashlight for overnight needs. No WiFi.
We gathered at sunrise the next morning to stuff breakfast into our bellies and lunch into our packs before stepping out the door for what our guide, Rob, accurately billed as an scenic nine-mile stroll to a terrific overlook that ends with a tricky mile-long descent to our bus in the valley below. We would be in no rush today.
We lollygagged much of the morning along a rolling trail that meanders across meadows dotted with tiny lakes, enjoying the camaraderie and the picturesque spires of the Paine massif in the distance. The tallest is Paine Grande, which surpasses 10,000 feet.
The gentle rise we had reveled in much of the morning grew steeper and Rob’s pace quickened as grew closer to the overlook. Apparently we had dawdled too expertly and he wanted to reach Mirador Las Torres in time to enjoy the view over lunch.
The overlook, which features a birds-eye view of a deep valley of lakes and streams with the mountains of Paine in the distance, was worth the late-morning double-time. We sat in a row at the crest of the overlook like a bunch of 4-year-olds, dangling our feet above a natural safety ledge and shyly admiring the view while we nibbled lunch and leftover morning snacks.
And then Rob got serious. He gathered us in a circle. Our bus for the ride to Hotel Lago Grey was only a mile away, but the 1,300 foot descent down a mountainside of loosely packed
bits of flaky rock would be intense. A misstep could send us sliding scores of feet before we snagged on a stable rock or bramble. This was not a time to get careless.
The hike down required trekking poles, careful heel-toe footfalls and coordinated spacing as a hedge against the domino effect should one of us tumble. Even using vegetation for handholds seemed iffy at times. But an hour later we were at the bottom, intact. No slip ‘n’ slide incidents. No scraped knees. No twisted ankles. Maybe a pebble or two in our shoes.
We would close the day with an evening of pampering at Hotel Lago Gray. The little oasis of luxury in the wilderness of Patagonia even had wifi.
This is the fifth in a series of posts on our hiking tour of Patagonia, booked through Berkeley, CA-based Wilderness Travel. We have received no compensation for writing these posts. The observations and opinions expressed are entirely our own. Your results may vary.