Saturday 5 February

During the night the wind tears ferociously at our tent. But when I poke my head outside in the early hours it proves to be somewhat less strong than I thought. I crawl out to answer the call, pausing to admire the jewel-like stars in the inky sky above.

Don and John were making plans last night to get up early to photograph the sunrise on the horns across the lake. I wake up just as it is getting light, briefly consider my options, and go back to sleep.

The weather is clear today so we are going to make the most of it and do the trek to the base of the towers. Our bus carries us to a pickup point just before Lago Amarga, where we transfer onto a smaller minibus to cross a narrow bridge and drive up to the start of the trail at the Hosteria Las Torres.

(magnify) Ascencio Valley
(magnify) Rock strata

A steady climb into a strong head-wind brings us around to the start of the Ascencio Valley where the trail drops down again. The strong wind has sculpted clouds in the east into the shapes of flying saucers, a common phenomena in Patagonia. The valley side is a mixture of scree and vegetation and the path is fairly easy-going as it hugs the valley side with the river down to our right. We pass the Chileno campsite and hostel just in time for an early lunch. But not as far as Luqui is concerned – he is adamant that we should reach the towers before eating.

We continue through trees, which gradually become smaller in stature as we gain height and finally emerge onto a moraine slope where those trees that still grow are mere bonsais. The lake lies at the top of that slope and it looks steep. It is hard work clambering over boulders, made harder by the fact that breakfast is now over five hours ago. Shortly above there is a boulder the size of a small house, seemingly poised to topple down the slope on top of us.

It is with a final super-human effort that I haul myself up over the last few rocks. I’m rewarded with a fine view of the lake and the towers behind. Three colossal rock pillars rise up from the rim on the opposite side of the lake, and a thin hanging glacier clings precariously below the left-most tower. Luqui mentions that only a few decades ago the glacier extended much further down; it’s rapid demise is blamed on climate change.

(magnify) The Towers

We eat lunch on the boulder-strewn area above the lake, slowly taking in the awesomeness of the place.

There are a lot of people still arriving as we make our way down the moraine slope. Many of them must be staying tonight at the campsite in the valley.

The sea food paella that Theo rustles up for us back at the campsite fills the gaping void in my stomach nicely after the day’s exertions. I shower in the dark and then retire to bed.