Inspired by photos from my favorite photographer the late Galen Rowell, I traveled to literally the southernmost end of the Western Hemisphere to Patagonia in 1988. (I was privileged to take a 10-person photography class with Galen in California in the early 90's before his untimely death in a plane crash.)
I went with my favorite commercial outfitter at the time Mountain Travel (who has since combined with Sobek). It took us several days to get to our destination via Santiago, Chile where we overnighted and then Punta Arenas, Chile (the starting point for cruises to Antarctica). From there we drove north to Torres del Paine or the Towers of Paine National Park.
Seeing these lenticular clouds on the drive in gave me a hint as to the weather we could expect. These clouds are formed by high winds over mountains. And this was the largest lenticular I had ever seen.
These are the famous "torres" for which the park is named. As you can see, the weather is often overcast and grey. Patagonia is notorious for bad weather-frequent high winds and rain. We were actually lucky to have visibility that was this favorable.
But the clouds made for dramatic views.
Guanacos were one of the most interesting wildlife sightings-the largest in the llama family. They are somewhat rare in the wild except in the Patagonia region.
At least in 1988, this area was relatively untraveled and very wild, with frozen lakes, large glaciers and no trails. We didn't see any other trekkers.
No trails meant no bridges. But we managed fine with ropes and poles.
We didn't have the luxuries I was accustomed to in Nepal, the dining tents, etc. When the weather was bad, we sort of hovered around the fire. It has probably gotten more upscale in the last 20 years or so.
But a land of contrasts- lush flowers, plains, glaciers, mountains. etc.
Lago Grey was almost completely covered with ice. We camped near it and could hear ice calving off all night. Wonder if it has been effected by climate change.
This trek was fairly low in elevation, no more than 4000 feet at the highest pass,but due to being so low in latitude, it felt more wild than I would have thought.
After the trek, we returned to Punta Arenas and visited a penguin area. They are Magellan penguins, named after the explorer. At that time, there were no regulations about how close we could get to them or their nests. I hope that has changed.