travel story

To Paint a Mountain

How does an artist climb a mountain? Personal notes on finding inspiration in solitude.

 Written for TIERRA Hotels, October 2022

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With each brushstroke, a reminiscence of that day’s hike.

Getting up with the sun and starting early, a route of not much total altitude but certainly long and steep towards the base of the three Torres of Paine. In those peculiar ambivalences of spring, there was both sunlight and snow. The ñirres and lengas were sprouting their first leaves, and the green forest set the scenery for us throughout the first kilometers. The timing was perfect to take it slowly, as the number of hikers was just enough to not feel lost on the trail or overwhelmed by a crowd.

Traveling with the purpose of finding inspiration leads to prioritizing solitude and contemplation, and here I wish to take a moment and explain the significance of that term: Loneliness defines the emotional state of feeling alone, wishing for the presence of others; while the term solitude can be used to describe the natural desire to be in one's own company. Peak summer season might attract a greater number of passersby, as this route is one of the most beautiful and scenic hikes to take when visiting Torres del Paine National Park. This time though, spring benefited our purpose in every way possible.




As I continued to climb, the trees were left behind. The snow became thicker, and we had to wear crampons to proceed. The slope steepened as we approached the summit, adding to the allure of the challenge. The sun was high and the glare on the ice was starting to hurt my eyes a bit. Not enough to make me uncomfortable, but quite the opposite. The mountain’s magnificence captivates you with every step, and offers a different scene on every level. Depending on the pace, this route could take around 8 hours, so there is enough time (and it becomes imperative) to sit down for a few minutes every now and then to take in the surroundings. How they gradually shift as you ascend, evolving from a deep green forest to blue, rocky snow-covered peaks.

I knew that once I reached the summit, I’d find more than just a panoramic view. I would also encounter a more experienced and adventurous version of myself. The one, most valuable thing I could take back with me.



It's curious how the mountain serves as this magnificent mirror, reflecting the contradictions of the human spirit. Its greatness and infinity humbles us, but how great do we feel again when, finally standing at the pinnacle, we realize our abilities and savor the triumph of the conquest. Our pre-conceived weaknesses have been overcome, and we can finally appreciate the horizon of the mountain range from up high.




Upon returning, I painted a landscape almost the size of a miniature, precisely to remember how immense and infinite everything felt up there. Documenting the experience through a hand-made illustration is also very intimate and unique. As an instrument for recording a personal experience of discovery, it seems to have no substitutes; nothing can replace its narrative power. I rebuilt the images of my memory on the canvas with every brushtroke, layer by layer, until each of the three mountain peaks was done. A slow and patient process, just like the climb.



Torres del Paine illustration by Antonia Reyes Montealegre. Chile

LOCATION Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Chile YEAR 2022 PHOTOGRAPHY, WORDS, PHOTOS & ILLUSTRATIONS Antonia Reyes Montealegre 

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