Patagonia Hike and Kayak
Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in South America
occupying a long and narrow coastal strip wedged between the Andes
Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia
to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage at the
country's southernmost tip. The Pacific forms the country's entire
western border. Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape — 4,300 km (2,672 mi)
long and on average 175 km (109 mi) wide – has given it a hugely varied
climate, ranging from the world's driest desert – the Atacama – in the
north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a snow-prone
Alpine climate in the south, with glaciers, fjords and lakes. Southern
Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands and features a string of
volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords,
inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands. The Andes Mountains
are located on the eastern border.
Torres Del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is a Chilean National Park comprising
mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers. The Cordillera del Paine is the
centrepiece of the park. It lies in a transition area between the
Magellanic sub-polar forests and the Patagonian Steppes. The park is
located 112 km north of Puerto Natales and 312 km north of Punta Arenas.
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is its neighbour to the west, while Los
Glaciares National Park is located to the north in Argentine territory.
The landscape of the park is dominated by the Paine massif, which is an
eastern spur of the Andes located on the east side of the Grey Glacier,
rising dramatically above the Patagonian steppe. Small valleys separate
the spectacular granite spires and mountains of the massif. These are:
Valle del Francés (French Valley), Valle Bader, Valle Ascencio and Valle
del Silencio (Silence Valley).
The head of French Valley is a cirque formed by impressive cliffs. To
west rise abruptly the colossal walls of Cerro Cota 2000 and Cerro
Catedral. The former is named for its elevation (the highest contour
line is about 2,000 m) and the latter is named so because its east face
resembles a cathedral's facade. To the north stands the granite aręte
called Aleta de Tiburón (Shark's Fin). To the east, from north to south,
lie the peaks Fortaleza (Fortress), La Espada (The Sword), La Hoja (The
Blade), La Máscara (The Mummer), Cuerno Norte (North Horn) and Cuerno
Principal (Main Horn).
Silence Valley is where standing face to face the gigantic granite walls
of Cerro Fortaleza and Cerro Escudo (Shield Hill) with the western faces
of the Torres del Paine. Ascencio Valley is the normal route to reach
the Torres del Paine lookout, which is located at the bank of a milky
green tarn. The highest mountain of the group is Paine Grande, although
its elevation has not been determined with precision.
Much of the geology of the Paine Massif area consists of Cretaceous
sedimentary rocks that have been intruded by a Miocene-aged laccolith.
Subsequently, orogenic and erosional processes have shaped the
present-day topography, being the glacial erosion the main one
responsible for the sculpturing of the massif in the last tens of
thousands of years. A good example of the latter are the Cuernos del
Paine, whose central bands of nicely exposed granite strongly contrast
with the dark aspect of their tops, which are remnants of a heavily
eroded sedimentary stratum. In the case of Las Torres, what once was
their overlying sedimentary rock layer has been completely eroded away,
leaving behind the more resistant granite. Southern Patagonian Ice Field
mantles a great portion of the park. Glaciers include the Dickson, the
Grey and the Tyndall. Among the lakes are the Dickson Lake, Nordenskjöld
Lake, Pehoe Lake, Grey Lake, Sarmiento Lake and Del Toro Lake. Only a
portion of the latter is within the borders of the park. All of them
characterize vivid colors due, in most of the cases, to rock flour
suspended in their waters. The main river flowing through the park is
Paine River. Most of the rivers and lakes of the park drain into Última
Esperanza Sound via Serrano River.
Torres del Paine National Park is adorned with beautiful vegetation.
Among them are the evergreen Embothrium coccineum, which produces vivid
red flowers grouped in corymbs and the Calceolaria uniflora, of striking
shape and colors. The park has 7 documented species of Orchidaceae,
including the Chloraea magellanica.
In the park have been recorded 85 non-native plant species, of which 75
are of European origin and 31 are considered to be invasive. The park
contains four vegetation zones:
• Patagonian Steppe – The vegetation of this zone is dominated by Fescue
species (mainly Festuca gracillima), which are resistant to harsh winds
and weather conditions that are typical of the Patagonian region,
• Pre-Andean Shrubland – Some of the dominant plant species of this
biotic zone are the Mulinum spinosum (a cushion plant) and Escallonia
rubra, which are frequently associated with other species, including
Anathrophyllun desideratum and Berberis buxifolia,
• Magellanic Deciduous Forest – the forest is home to various species of
trees such as the Nothofagus pumilio and Nothofagus antarctica, and the
• Andean Desert – above tree line, Escallonia rubra, Empetrum rubrum and
Senecio skottsbergii take the place of Nothofagus pumilio trees.
Guanacos are one of the most common mammals found in the park. Other
mammals include cougars and foxes. It is also home to the endangered
Chilean Huemul. The park contains breeding populations of 15 bird of
prey species. Among them are Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle,
Rufous-tailed Hawk to name but a few. Other birds occurring in the park
include the Chilean Flamingo, Darwin's Rhea, Coscoroba Swan,
Black-necked Swan, Magellanic Woodpecker, Magellan Goose and Buff-necked