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January 22, 2010 in Outdoors
Rich Landers photo

The Landers family scans the scenery upon arriving via boat shuttle across Lake Pehoe at the Paine Grande campground and trailhead. The next day they would begin their backpacking trip on The W, an internationally known 46-mile trek in Torres del Paine National Park. The Horns of Paine and French Valley are in the distance.

Rich Landers photo

The Paine Grande campground and lodge is a private inholding in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park on the shore of Lake Pehoe. It is one of the most comfortable refuges in the park, with a full lodge facility. Campers have their own wind-proof cooking shelter, picnic tables and showers. Campers pay about $8 a night per person here. Other concessionaire-operated campgrounds and refugios are scattered around The W and Circuit routes in the park.

Rich Landers photo

Few places on earth offer such dramatic cloudwatching opportunities as Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile.

Rich Landers photo

An Andean condor uses its 11-foot wingspan to soar near Lake Pehoe in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Backpackers head up the “western prong” of The W route along Lake (Lago) Grey in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Blooming fire bush (notro) lights up foothills portions of The W route during the summer months of December and January in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Hillary Landers and her mom, Meredith Heick, trek through one of many stretches of The W route that are lined with blooming fire bush (notro) during the summer months of December and January in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

The Grey Glacier sprawls down from the Patagonian ice cap into Lake Grey in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Ice that thunders off the Grey Glacier chokes portions of Grey Lake in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Hikers congregate along the river flowing out of the French Valley, which is the “middle prong” of The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Brook Landers hikes cross the bridge into Italiano Camp (a free campground) after a long day of hiking from Paine Grande and Lake Grey on The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Italiano Camp is on the busy junction on the “center prong” of The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. It’s a free campground in trees that make the area dark but provide welcome shelter from the notorious Patagonian winds.

Rich Landers photo

An ampitheater of granite peaks greets backpackers who hike up the French Valley — the central prong of The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Hillary Landers and her Chileno friend, Philippe Laroze Prehn, soak in the view from high in “the French Valley” of Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile.

Rich Landers photo

Edible golf-ball-size funji are commonly found attached to trees along The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Meredith Heick treks along a Lake Nordeskjold beach of stones polished by the wave action from high winds in Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile.

Rich Landers photo

Backpackers prepare breakfast at Los Cuernos Camp on The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Mate is a popular tea drink in Chile, brewed and shared communally as the cup is passed person to person for sips out of the metal “straw.”

Rich Landers photo

Backpackers trek the up-and-down stretch between Los Cuernos and Las Torres on The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. This stretch occasionally can be windy enough to force hikers to hole up and wait.

Rich Landers photo

Backpackers take care in crossing a stream, one of several with no bridges or structures on The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Backpackers arrive at Torres Central, a grassy town-park-like campground at the road and trailhead on the “east prong” of The W route in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

This is the view one-third of the way up the trail for the “eastern prong” of The W route headed toward the “torres” or towers of granite in Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile. The Chileno Refugio and Camp is in the valley below.

Rich Landers photo

When rain falls in the windy Patagonia region of Chile, rain shadows often are to the SIDE of trees rather than underneath them, as seen in this photo near Chileno Camp in Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

Chileno Camp on the “eastern prong” of The W route is a small concessionaire campground next to a refugio. It’s often crowded. Reservations recommended in peak summer season of late December and January.

Rich Landers photo

A hiker pauses at a classic scene of the “towers” in Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile

Rich Landers photo

Llama-like guanacos range wild in Chile, as seen here from the van shuttle out of Las Torres to the boundary of Torres del Paine National Park.

Rich Landers photo

This illustrated map at the park entrance station shows the stunning topography of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. On left is Lake (Lago) Grey and the “western prong” of The W route. In the center is the French Valley and the “center prong” of The W. The “eastern prong” of The W to the towers (torres) is just off the map on the right.

Rich Landers photo

Otway Sound penguins congregate for nesting on the shoreline of southern Patagonia region of Chile off the Strait of Magellan near Punta Arenas. This is a must-see attraction before or after a hiking trip in nearby Torres del Paine National Park, especially in December and early January when the penguins are tending their young.

Rich Landers photo

Hikers ride the boat shuttle across Lake Pehoe to Grande Paine campground, one of two entrance trailheads for backpacking trips in southern Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.