Memory Monday: A South American Tour… Torres del Paine

Left to right, Torre de Agostini (2,850 m), Torre Central (2,800 m), and Torre Monzino (2,600 m)

In trying to prepare this post I’ve been learning quite a lot about the breathtakingly beautiful region of Chile, almost 700 square miles, that forms the Torres del Paine National Park. Most of the images here are from postcards; but I’ve found that, while descriptions of the views are provided in both English and Spanish, they don’t always provide the same information. And some words are missing, as our South American traveler trimmed the edges to allow them to fit into the photo album. For example, on the reverse of the photo above, the Spanish told me the names of the three torres (towers) and their height; and the English told me only that “the highest tower, named South Tower, was [climb]ed for the first time in February 1963 by an Italian expedition.”

The Torre de Agostini seems to have been named in honor of Father Alberto de Agostini (1883-1960), although I can’t find anything definitely stating this. Father de Agostini was not only a hard-working priest but an avid mountain climber and explorer, and in fact there is a national park further south, in Tierra del Fuego, which bears his name. Similarly, the Torre Monzino was perhaps named for Count Guido Monzino (1928-1988), an Italian climber/explorer who led the first Italian expedition up Mt Everest in 1973. In 1977, Count Monzino donated 30,000 acres to the creation of the Torres del Paine National Park.

Translating what I can see of the Spanish for the above postcard: “Courses of crystalline waters, lakes, glaciers, and mountains. From the John Garner [Pass] (1,241 m), there is a splendid view of the Gray Glacier. This circuit is considered one of the [missing] three treks in the world.” In English: ‘Unique physical formations of the Park — crowded with fantastic [missing] numerous glaciers, multicolored lakes, and gnarled magellanic [missing] — offer the hikers some of the most exciting walks in the world. 250 [miles?] of well-marked hiking trails are available.”

One of the pillars of the regional economy is livestock, which is traditionally carried out on ranches. One of them, Estancia Lazo, [located] on the shores of the Laguna Verde, has an impressive view of the Cordillera del Paine, which gives a privileged location to those who visit its inn, an ideal place for rest and relaxation.

The upper right image shows a carancho (Poliborus plancas), also known as the Southern caracara. These large raptors are primarily carrion eaters; according to one site I consulted, they are the most common bird of prey seen in the park. “Although it can be up to 65 centimetres long, the carancho will look tiny next to a condor and has a less triangular silhouette than an eagle” — from Cascada Expediciones. If the bird on the lower left reminds you of an ostrich, that’s because these flightless birds are distantly related to both ostriches and emus. All rheas are native to South America; the bird pictured, the Lesser or Darwin’s rhea (Rhea pennata) is found in the Andean plateau and Patagonia.

I especially like these last two images because, while the first is a postcard and the second is a photograph taken by our South American traveler, they both offer the same scene, each with a unique mood, shot from nearly the same spot — a lovely view of Lake Pehoe and the massive granite horns (cuernos) looming in the background.

From Hosteria Pehoe, located on a small island, you can enjoy a place rich in impressive panoramas. It is one of the most beautiful excursions that can be made to Paine, because it reaches the very heart of the Massif, which shows there, in all its magnificence, the sharp Cuernos del Paine and the majestic Paine Grande, covered by eternal ice.

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