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W Torres del Paine (Trekking in Chilean Patagonia)

W Torres del Paine (Trekking in Chilean Patagonia)

The W Torres del Paine trek was part of a 30-day trip that took me walking and cycling in many places in Patagonia, both Chilean and Argentine. It is definitely a highlight of any trip to CHILE, and in particular of the PATAGONIA
I reached Puerto Natales, a pleasant Chilean town, from Calafate, Argentina, by a bus that took about five hours. Puerto Natales is the closest location to Torres del Paine Park. It is a pleasant town: it has a nice marina and there is a chance to find everything you need for trekking to Torres del Paine. Good food and good alcohol (here I first discovered the quality of Chilean wine, the consequences of which I paid for on day 1) complete the picture.

Day 1 trekking W Torres del Paine: from Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey

 

The W Torres del Paine trek began with a bus taken at 7:30 a.m. from Puerto Natales and taking two hours to the park. Once we arrived at the entrance, I entered the park’s administrative center: this is where you go through the formalities and watch a video on what you can do and especially what not to do in the park.

From the administrative center I took a bus in the direction of Pudeto. Before taking the boat to the Paine Grande Refuge, I went to see the beautiful Salto Grande. Pudeto is also famous for the famous Mirador Los Cuernos, about an hour’s walk away, but I did not have time to visit it.

After a half-hour ferry ride, I arrived at the Paine Grande Refuge. The first day’s hike of the W Torres del Paine trek leads from the Paine Grande Refuge to the Grey Refuge. In the first half hour of the walk you climb about two hundred meters: once you reach Grey Lake you begin to see Grey Glacier in the distance. We continue walking near the lake until we arrive after about 12 km at the hut. Here I left my backpack and went to see the famous Grey Lagoon, about a 15-minute walk away. although the day was quite cloudy the view of the lagoon with icebergs was truly breathtaking!

Once back at the lodge, I immediately appreciated the friendly atmosphere inside. The goliardic and lighthearted atmosphere is a great classic in Patagonia. On that occasion I met Scott and Kristen who were drinking the infamous El Gato wine, which costs a dollar a bottle): I would have drunk it with them but declined with the sincere words “sorry, I’m still hungover, let’s wait until tomorrow” .

THE WALK was not challenging at all.

Day 2 trekking W Torres del Paine: Refugio Grey – Refugio Paine Grande

 

Scott and Kristen convinced me to do something I never thought I would do in my life: kayak! Honestly, the sport was far from being an interesting activity: when the facts were proven, paddling alongside Grey Glacier was something incredible! The only downside to these three wonderful hours was the sunburn, perhaps the worst of my life.

From the Grey refuge I therefore returned to the Paine Grande refuge by the same route as on Day 1, and once I arrived at the refuge, I noticed that my face was really red: it should be pointed out that because of the ozone hole, sunburn in Patagonia is a big classic, so sunscreen here is really essential (I generally never use sunscreen on my face, but in Patagonia it is necessary).

At Paine Grande, we celebrated this day with Scott’s “bad wine.” The Paine Grande refuge also houses a bar, accessible even to those sleeping in tents: here I met some Chileans who initiated me into pisco, a typical local alcoholic beverage.

THE TRACE OF THE SECOND DAY  is therefore the same as the first, but in the opposite direction.

Day 3 trekking W Torres del Paine: Refugio Paine Grande – Refugio Cuernos

 

With clear alcoholic hangovers, I began the longest day of the trek. By this sentence I imply two basic things about trekking W Torres del Paine: there is always a goliardic atmosphere in the huts and the sun sets really late in the summer season. Sunset at late hours is a godsend: in January, when I was there, the sun sets at 9:30/22 pm.

The walking day started quietly at 9:30: and this was indeed a long but great day! We start by walking near Skottsberg Lake: after about 45 minutes there is a beautiful viewpoint. We continue walking, practically always on the flat, until the Italian Campamento, reached after 7.5 km. Here you can leave your backpack to take the detour that leads up to the Frances Valley and Campamento Britanico: this detour is about 12 km long, and you have to calculate about 5 hours given the elevation gain (which should not be underestimated: it is not challenging, but you still climb about 500 meters). The reward for this detour is magnificent views of lakes on one side and an amphitheater of mountains on the other side: the Cuernos from Campamento Britanico are very close and splendid.

After returning to the Italian Campamento, I continued walking along the lake (again on the plains), with the Cuernos always close by. I arrived at the Cuernos refuge (named after these fantastic mountains) after about 10 HOURS OF WALKING, including the various breaks.

Day 4 trekking W Torres del Paine: Cuernos Refuge – Mirador Las Torres – Chileno Refuge

 

Day four of the W Torres del Paine trek began with a small climb to a magnificent viewpoint over Los Cuernos and Lake Nordernskjöld. Soon after, I saw some trekkers bathing in the lake and well decided to follow their example: it is a pleasant feeling to bathe in a Patagonian lake! After this little swim, the trail started to climb again. After about 13 km I arrived at the El Chileno shelter, which would host me on my last night at camp.

I arrived at the hut in the early afternoon: given the sunshine, I well and truly decided to go straight to see the famous Las Torres: the last part was quite strenuous but the reward was once again simply fantastic views. Back at Campamento, I met up with some guys and we had drinks-I became particularly good friends with Barbara and we talked so much that we almost didn’t even set the alarm to go back to Las Torres, this time for sunrise.

THE FOURTH DAY OF THE WALK was therefore quite long, but spectacular!

Day 5 trekking W Torres del Paine: Campamento Chileno – Las Torres – Campamento Torres

 

The fifth day, in fact, started well before dawn: the Garmin suggests that Barbara and I started walking at 3:42. You may be wondering: why see Las Torres twice? The answer lies in the different colors that can be seen during the course of the day: seeing Las Torres at sunrise is totally different from seeing them in the afternoon. In the FIFTH DAY OF WALKING  I was in great shape, so the 600-meter climb didn’t weigh me down too much.

Once back at Campamento Chileno, Barbara and I picked up our backpacks: shortly afterwards we said our goodbyes, since for her it was the beginning of the W while for me it was the end. From Campamento Chileno I descended quickly (not eventwo hours of walking) to Campamento Torres, which is the end of the W Torres del Paine trek. From here I took a small bus to Refugio Amarga and, after lunch, took a bus to Calafate, where I arrived late in the evening.

 

IN ADDITION TO THE TREK W TORRES DEL PAINE MIGHT INTEREST YOU …

Laguna Torre, El Chalten!

Pliegue Tumblado, El Chalten!

Fitz Roy, El Chalten!

The Licancabur, Bolivia!

 

TREKKING W TORRES DEL PAINE: ROUTE AND ACCOMMODATION

 

  • The W Torres del Paine trek is about 85 km long with an elevation gain of about 2,000 meters. This route can be traveled quite easily in four days in the summer season, combining the first two stages into one.

 

 

  • The first basic choice to make is: sleeping in a tent or sleeping in a shelter? This choice depends on your budget and time. In particular, sleeping in shelters is definitely expensive. In 2016 my budget was definitely high: it was around 500 euros. The budget for trekking W Torres del Paine in a tent can be estimated at around 150 euros. Two of the lodges are owned by the company FANTASTICO SUR and two of VERTICE PATAGONIA.
    My favorite refuge was the Los Cuernos Refuge, from Fantastico Sur, with an enviable location on the lake and very close to Los Cuernos.

 

  • After choosing the length of the trek and the type of accommodation, you need to choose the direction of the trek. I, having booked too little in advance, had no choice. My trek started from Refugio Grey and ended at Rifugio Chileno. I recommend following this route so that you leave Las Torres at the end (this brings two advantages: avoid the major elevation gain on the first day, leave your mouth watering until the last for the most famous scenery).

 

  • After choosing the length of the trek and the type of accommodation, you need to choose the direction of the trek. I, having booked too little in advance, had no choice. My trek started from Refugio Grey and ended at Rifugio Chileno. I recommend following this route so that you leave Las Torres at the end (this brings two advantages: avoid the major elevation gain on the first day, leave your mouth watering until the last for the most famous scenery).

 

  • So you have to book everything in advance, including the buses to the park (in my case from Puerto Natales) and back from the park (I went back to Calafate), as well as the boat from Pudeto to Paine Grande.

 

 

TREKKING W TORRES DEL PAINE: ALTERNATIVES

 

  • The shelter/tent choice essentially does not exist in case you want to do the O, Paine’s other iconic route. The O is a true 7/8 day circuit, where it is essential to have a tent and a spirit of adaptation to pass Paso John Garner, which is often subject to high winds (this circuit is on my bucket list!).

 

  • It is also possible to visit the park on the day. Day trips usually lead to Mirador Las Torres and Mirador Los Cuernos.

 

TREKKING W TORRES DEL PAINE: VARIOUS TIPS

 

  • It is also possible to visit the park on the day. Day trips usually lead to Mirador Las Torres and Mirador Los Cuernos.

 

  • Shelters, despite high prices, are highly sought after. This makes the first thing to do as soon as you arrive at the hut is to choose your turn for dinner. Dinner times are 7, 8, or 9 p.m. I always chose the last one, so that I could quietly have a couple of beers before dinner in an always goliardic and friendly atmosphere.

 

  • If you sleep in shelters you can use electricity. The telephone network does not work throughout the park. There is a wifi signal, which I have never used as it is slow and very expensive.

 

  • It is a trek that can be done in groups or independently. The prices of group treks are almost prohibitive (definitely higher to the already demanding ones in the case of sleeping in shelters).

 

  • There are always toilets and showers. There is no shortage of small kiosks where you can buy simple things, including bread, salami, and basic sustenance food.

 

  • Drinking water is found in all huts: as for lunch, a box lunch is provided in the various Camps.

 

PREPARE THE BACKPACK

 

  • What needs to be brought to Torres del Paine? The backpack should be as light as possible. Generally, for such a trek, even a 40-liter backpack of about 6 to 8 pounds may suffice. I brought 3 underwear, 2 merino socks, 2 technical T-shirts (‘marathon’ style), 2 long-sleeved jerseys (preferably merino wool, it keeps the heat better), high mountain boots, a short, high mountain pants, a sweatshirt, a windbreaker, a kway, flip-flops, gloves, sunglasses, hat and neck warmer, small towel, sunscreen, ‘summer’ sleeping bag.

 

TORRES DEL PAINE PARK: WEATHER AND NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES

 

  • As you could see, this trek is not difficult either technically or in terms of elevation. Trekking W Torres del Paine can become quite hostile due to weather conditions. In fact, in Patagonia it is quite normal to see the four seasons within a single day. It’s still a wonderful trek, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to disconnect for five days. In the winter season this trek can be done only with guides.

 

  • I arrived at Torres del Paine Park from Puerto Natales, taking the 7:30 bus. After sorting out the formalities at the entrance, I took a second bus to Pudeto: from there I took a catamaran to the beginning of the trek (Paine Grande Refuge). At the end of the trek I took a bus from Laguna Amarga to Calafate at 4:30 p.m.: I arrived at my destination around 10:30 p.m.

 

  • In Puerto Natales I slept well at Hostal Cuatro Estaciones (precisely in keeping with what was said earlier) and in El Calafate at America del Sur Hostal.

 

 

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Andrea, un viaggiatore da lungo tempo con una grande passione per trekking, bici e diving! Su travelsbeer.com potrete trovare tutte le informazioni e gli itinerari di viaggio scritti da Andrea: cinque continenti e tante vette conquistate intorno al mondo!

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