The Cordillera Paine is a cluster of mountain ranges on the edge of the South Patagonia Ice Cap. A small extension of the Andes way down in the far south of Chile. Bounded to the west by Grey glacier, Lago (lake) Nordenskjol to the south and Lagos Dickenson and Paine to the north, the cordillera lies almost completely with the Torres del Paine National Park, 1,800 square kilometres of breathtaking wilderness. The centrepeice of the park are three immense granite towers that dominate the landscape, Los Cuernos del Paine. The name literally translates as the blue horns: cuernos the Spanish for horns and Paine (pronounced pie-nay) meaning blue in the language of the indigenous Tehuelche peoples. The Tehuelche (also known as Aónikenk) is a collective name for the indigenous peoples inhabiting Patagonia prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The few remaining are now mostly found close to the southern Argentina-Chile borders.
The three towers, torre sud, torres central and torre norte, have drawn many climbers over the years. In the austral summer of 1962-63, an Italian team and a British raced to be the first to climb the central tower. The seven man British team, lead by Barry Paige, had already been climbing there for several weeks when the Italian team arrived . The Italian team included the great alpinist Armando Aste, while while the British team was a mix of experience and then rising stars. A race to reach the top first ensued; a race won by the brits, in part through Don Whillans idea to erect a temporary hut high on the mountain, sheltering them from the ferocious wind. The tower was first summited by Chris Bonington and Don Whillans, then both still in their 20s, and famously barely on speaking terms at the beginning of the climb, after a fall-out on an earlier expedition.
The classic route to the top of torre central is known as the Bonington-Whillans Route. Armando Aste went on to complete the first climb of the South Tower (Torre Sur) shortly after.
The Cordillera Paine is itself merely a spur of the Andes, the longest continental mountain range on Earth (the, underwater, mid-Atlantic ridge is longer). The Paine Massif that dominates the skyline within the park is formed from a huge laccolith (a subterranean sheet or dome of magma) which cooled to form granite. The ‘horns’ are composed of older, country rock metamorphosed by the heat from the underlying laccolith. In geological terms they are known as ‘roof pendants’. The highest peak, Cerro Paine Grande, is now believed to be 2,884 metres high, following an expedition in 2011 (Expedición Paine Grande Reloaded) by Camilo Rada Giacaman, Maria Paz Ibarra Letelier and Sebastián Irarrázabal, where the height was measured by GPS.
It is not simply climbers that are attracted to Torres del Paine. It is estimated that over 250,000 people visit the national park each year (this year of course being an exception). There are numerous day hikes along with the famous multi-day ‘W’ and ‘O’ route treks, and 120ok respectively. The park is also fantastic for wildlife. Andean condors, flightless Darwin’s rheas, and guanacos, the wild relatives of llamas, are frequently seen. Present, but harder to spot, are pichi (or pigmy armadillos), mara (large rodents belonging to the cavy family) pumas, South American grey fox and the endangered south andean deer. The plant life of the Torres del Paine region is normally divided into four distinct zones: Patagonian Steppe; Pre-Andean shrubland; Deciduous Magellanic forest and Andean Desert. Patagonian steppe lands are mostly covered in low shrubs and grasslands, Deciduous Magellanic forest are mostly dominated by lenga beech (Nothofagus pumilio).
Fine Art Prints individually produced to your specifications
I have recently started producing fine art prints of a selection of my photographs. These are currently available as acrylic facemount prints and giclee fine art prints. These are only available from me, through my websites. You will not find them mass produced or in high street stores. These include the top photograph of Cuernos del Paine. In the near future the image of Torres del Paine and the guanaco photograph directly above are also likely to become available. These photographs are individually printed to order, using carefully selected professional photography printers, on a range of archival quality art papers. The printing processes uses some of the best pigment inks available, ensuring maximum fidelity of colour, durability and longevity. If you are interested in purchasing a print of one of these photographs, check out the fine art prints section on my www.colinmunrophotography.com website here. Alternatively, you can order the print directly below. Selecting the paper and mount, and clicking ‘add to back’ will take you to the ordering and checkout process on my website.