What a treat! Following the two running races, the Torres del Paine Ultra Trail (42k, 67k, and 109k ultramarathons) on Sept. 26th, 2014, and then the Patagonia International Marathon (10k, 21k, 42k and 63k) on Sept. 27th, 2014, NIGSA, the race organizers, invited runners on a hike up to the Mirador las Torres for the following day, Sept. 28th. The races took place in southern Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Because of the steep and technical nature of this narrow hiking trail, it could not form part of any of the race routes – so it was a real treat to have the time to hike it, and view the Torres (granite towers) for which this park is named.
I had run the 42k trail race two days before. I was really pleased that I felt great – beyond merely recovered from my race, I didn’t even need to recover! My recent dietary changes (no dairy, eating less carb) have really done me well. I headed up the “hill” (net elevation gain around 700 m, so total cumulative elevation gain was probably approaching 1000 m) with some world-class racers: Matt Flaherty of USA, who had won the 63k race the day before; Tegyn Angel of Australia, who was leading the 67k the day before that but ended up officially placing 3rd because of a race course “technicality;” Ryan Scott of South Africa, who
placed 4th in the trail 42k two days earlier; Leonardo Soresi of Italy, who had placed 3rd in the 109k two days earlier, and Martin Kalverkamp of Germany, who had run the marathon the day before.
As we departed from the lovely Hotel Las Torres, I pulled out my camera to snap a pic – and realized I had left my memory card behind. So many thanks to Matt, Tegyn and Martin for sending me the pix that grace this blog post, since I couldn’t take any!
Our route was about 9 km each way – but, as I said, with substantial elevation gain. We ascended from the hotel (elevation 175 m) heading up the valley to a high point around 500 m, then back down into the valley to the Refugio Chileno at 409 m. Then we continued along a gradual ascent up the valley towards the camping spot Campamento las Torres, where we veered off the left, straight up the valley side, to the lookout or Mirador las Torres, at the edge of a frozen lake at an elevation of 886 m, with incredible views across the lake of the spectacular name-sake towers.
I was amazed how strong my legs felt. I hiked up with these world-class runners (who are younger than me!) and I just felt great. We went at a brisk, but not crazy pace. It was no race, or opportunity to show off – when I wanted to stop to grab a snack, the guys didn’t zoom ahead without me, they
stopped and waited. And we had some really nice chats on the way up. Honestly, I really love ultramarathon runners: they tend to be really amazing overachievers who still have a low-key and balanced approach to life!
The last part of the final climb was over boulder-scree, and through patches of snow (September is the end of winter here). We found a spot behind the boulders, sheltered from the wind and with great views to the towers, to eat aquick lunch and snap some pix, and then headed back down. Tegyn and Ryan went down more quickly, running sections and stopping to film. Matt hung back to go with some of the other groups who were hiking. And Martin and Leonardo and I descended together, mostly hiking but running some of the downhill sections – in total taking 5:15 to go up, have lunch, and come back down.
What a great day! We were so lucky with the weather! It was windy, but nowhere near as windy as it had been the previous days. It was sunny, and the sky was clear and blue – as you can see from the pix, perfect for viewing the Torres. The weather here is so changeable – many people travel from all over the world to see the Torres, and end up not seeing them at all because of cloud and fog. This is my second time viewing them – I first came to Torres del Paine National Park sixteen years ago, and my friends and I camped at the Campamento below for two days before the clouds finally opened to offer us a glimpse of the fabled Torres. And here they were this time, in plain view all day! The gem of Chilean Patagonia… what a treat!