Patagonia is a mythical place; one of our world’s last true wildernesses. It is a vast windswept plain, a jagged mountain peak, a lake silently reflecting the timeless dance of clouds in the sky. It is a place that inspires and one that continues to draw travellers blessed with a sense of adventure.
For those who travel, Torres del Paine probably rings a bell. It is one of the most infamous natural landscapes in South America and photos of “los Cuernos” have circulated around the globe for years. But why? What makes this place so cool, so special? The short answer is you’ll have to go there yourself to figure it out. But life sometimes just isn’t that easy, so I’ll attempt to tell you why.
Los Cuernos, or “the Horns,” is part of the Paine Massif, an outcropping of granite peaks nestled comfortably within the heart of the southern Andes and Patagonia. It is a spectacle of erosion and a probe into the depths of time. The Horns are about halfway along the famed 60km (37 mi) W Trek Circuit, seated between the neighbouring peaks of Los Torres and Paine Grande. They are a particular spectacle mostly due to their shape and colouring. They instantly call to mind a set of rocky horns, and their jaggedness really does strike even the most well-travelled adventurer to awe-inspiring silence. The colour is something more scientific and brings out the amateur geologist nerd in those of us who really like rocks.
Paine Massif is the result of a centuries-old volcanic eruption in which the magma never reached the surface of the earth. Instead, it got just close enough to eventually harden into a large circular granite shape just underneath. Over the course of millions of years, the earth’s tectonic plates shifted creating the South American Andes. The giant ball of granite was ever so slowly pushed upwards, and over hundreds of thousands of years the earth’s climate shifted and changed and, thanks to the ever-powerful force of erosion, the mountains began to take shape.
Granite is a very hard rock and often outlives most other types of rock. The surface layer of that ancient eruption was almost completely washed away over the Massif, and through centuries of ice ages and relentless winds, one would not think any differently. However, there is still a tiny section that holds on and can still be seen to this day, hence the curious colouring of los Cuernos. At the very top of the rocky horns lie three capped peaks marked by their stark contrasting colours of black (sedimentary stratum) and greyish white (granite). It is truly a sight to behold and a wonder of geology and erosion.
Patagonia is indeed a mythical place. Los Cuernos hold a spirit that matches the beginning of time and holds a presence like that of God’s sentinel to our beautiful home. A place of stunning natural splendour and childlike wonderment, Patagonia holds true to its everlasting reputation, and the Horns will be there for you to admire.