Glacial lakes inside the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. Patagonia, Chile 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.com
The Cordillera del Paine is a small but spectacular mountain group in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. It is located 280 km (170 mi) north of Punta Arenas, and about 1,960 km south of the Chilean capital Santiago. It belongs to the Commune of Torres del Paine in Última Esperanza Province of Magallanes y Antártica Chilena Region.
The best-known and most spectacular summits are the three Towers of Paine. They are gigantic granite monoliths shaped by the forces of glacial ice.
The South Tower of Paine (about 2,500 m) is now thought to be the highest of the three, although this has not been definitely established. It was first climbed by Armando Aste. The Central Tower of Paine (about 2,460 m or 8,100 feet) was first climbed in 1963 by Chris Bonington and Don Whillans, and the North Tower of Paine (about 2,260 m) was first climbed by Guido Monzino.
The radiometric age for the quartz diorite at Cerro Payne is 12 ± 2 million years. by the rubidium-strontium method and 13 ± 1 million years by the potassium-argon method.
The Torres del Paine National Park—an area of 2,400 km²—was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1978 and is a popular hiking destination. There are clearly marked and well maintained paths and many refugios which provide shelter and basic services. Views are breathtaking.
Valle del Francés ("Frenchman's Valley"), often rated as the best scenery in the whole park. The path leads up into a snowy dead-end, where several small glaciers are visible.
PARQUE NACIONAL LOS GLACIARES
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Spanish: The Glaciers) is a national park in the Santa Cruz Province, in Argentine Patagonia. It comprises an area of 4459 km². In 1981 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The national park, created in 1937, is the second largest in Argentina. Its name refers to the giant ice cap in the Andes range that feeds 47 large glaciers, of which only 13 flow towards the Atlantic Ocean. The ice cap is the largest outside of Antarctica and Greenland. In other parts of the world, glaciers start at a height of at least 2,500 meters above mean sea level, but due to the size of the ice cap, these glaciers begin at only 1,500m, sliding down to 200m AMSL, eroding the surface of the mountains that support them.
Los Glaciares, of which 30% is covered by ice, can be divided in two parts, each corresponding with one of the two elongated big lakes partially contained by the Park. Lake Argentino, 1,466 km² and the largest in Argentina, is in the south, while Lake Viedma, 1,100 km², is in the north. Both lakes feed the Santa Cruz River that flows down to Puerto Santa Cruz on the Atlantic. Between the two halves is a non-touristic zone without lakes called Zona Centro.
The northern half consists of part of Viedma Lake, the Viedma Glacier and a few minor glaciers, and a number of mountains very popular among fans of climbing and trekking, including Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
The southern part has, as well as a number of smaller ones, the major glaciers which flow into Lake Argentino: Perito Moreno Glacier, Upsala Glacier, and Spegazzini Glacier. Typical excursion boats travel between icebergs to visit Bahía Onelli, and the otherwise inaccessible Spegazzini and Upsala. The Perito Moreno is reachable by land.