One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Torres Del Paine national park in Patagonia. The park offers various hiking routes and we went for the most popular one called the W trek. All campsites or lodging (free and paid) have to be prebooked online and there are different services available. You also have to carry all food and equipment (unless you stay in rooms) so our backpacks were quite heavy.
Day 1: Puerto Natales – Paine Grande – Grey
After a bus ride to the park where we got our entrance tickets we took a catamaran to the base camp. It was an incredibly windy day so the passage was quite exciting with our boat being drowned in waves on various occasions. Once landed safely we started our hike up to Grey glacier. The wind unfortunately didn’t settle and we had to fight to walk and stand upright. Luckily it was sunny so we got the enjoy the full beauty of the surrounding lagoons, plains and mountains. After 3 hours hike with heavy backpacks we arrived at our campsite which was equipped with showers and a kitchen room. Just a short walk from the site is the Lookout for Grey glacier and the lagoon in front of it. Blue ice was floating on the water and the massive glacier was very impressive. We had our first campfire dinner and went to bed early to rest for the next day.
Day 2: Grey – Paine Grande – Italiano
After a warm breakfast we strapped back on our backpacks (still heavy) and made our way back to our starting point of Day 1. It was sunny and there was no wind and we got to take various photo stops of the lakes with floating ice. Due to better weather it only took us 2.5 hours that way. After a lunch break we started our second part of the trek hiking to Italiano camping. You pass by burnt forests (a tourist made a fire in the wild and managed to burn down a lot of forest), high peaks of glaciers and multicolored mountains and dark lakes. Once crossed the suspension bridge to the camping we set up our tent in the forest at the foot of a massive glacier (you could hear the ice crushing like thunder). The campsite was more basic and there were lots of mice – luckily they didn’t get any of our food – some of the other people had mice coming into their tents at night.
Day 3: Mirador and Italiano
Due to availability online we stayed for a second night at Italiano (apparently you are only allowed to stay one though). We just packed a light day bag, was a relief to not have to carry the big bags, and headed up through the fog to the lookout point. It didn’t clear up well when we were on top but sometimes the mountains were visible through the clouds. On our way down it got sunny and we got to see the big glacier we had heard the night before. Simply amazing! At the camp we enjoyed our gourmet menu of chicken curry accompanied by some Pisco :-).
Day 4: Italiano – Torres Base camp
People had warned us that this will be a long day – they said it will be around 10 hours. We got up very early, had breakfast and starting walking towards the lake passing by the Frances campsite . The path leads through lush forests and over cobbly beaches to the Cuernos camp and lodge. After a quick break to eat some fruit we continued along the lake on a steady up-and-down (Colombians would call it flat) in full sunshine. Suddenly we got to the intersection for the shortcut to Torres – way ahead in time. We took it easy and had a long tortilla lunch before beginning the ascent to the valley leading to the Torres. It is a steep climb but you get to have the view over the lake and the valley. On top the path joined with the one coming from the hotel and from there one it was more like a road with many tourists. This part of the walk wasn’t particularly nice and the last ascent of 1 hour from Refugio Chileno camp to ours was really hard after such a long day of hiking. We reached our campsite exhausted but proud and happy after 7.5 hours of walk. We were lucky the timing was wrong and we had sunshine all day. From the campsite it’s just a 45minute hike up to the Torres and the lagoon. Ignoring our sore legs we decided to hike up there the same evening to take advantage of the clear skies. It was a steep climb (particularly hard after that day) but when we got to the top we were rewarded with a spectacular place. Back at the campsite we had dinner and went to sleep very fast after this exhausting day of hiking.
Day 5: Torres – Natales
It was raining heavily during the night and still very foggy in the morning so we decided to “sleep in” until 9. After breakfast we began our walk back down. The park ranger had told us it takes around 3 hours so we had some time to catch our bus at 1.30. The walk down was the least interesting of all days and filled with day tourists. At the hotel there was no sight of a shuttle to the park entrance so we started walking. Fortunately a shuttle bus shortly drove by us and picked us up – otherwise we would have had to the the 7 Kms on foot. We arrived well in time and headed back to Puerto Natales where a comfy room, a hot shower and a glass of wine were awaiting us.
This trek seems to have become extremely popular with tourists – a lot of them American going ‘Wild’ with lots of equipment and dried food – we were lucky enough to have gone end of season. None of the campsites were overfilled and we didn’t meet many people on the paths. This hike is one of the coolest things we have ever done – amazing scenery and nice trails!
What we ate: food is most important to get strength but should be light so you don’t have to carry more. Our meal plan for the trek: breakfast: oatmeal with dried raisins, bananas and manjar. Lunch: tortillas with ham/cheese/avocados/cream cheese/mustards. Dinners: couscous with veggie mix(pack). Risotto ready made(trattoria brand from Unimarc). Precooked chicken and potatoes with cream, cashews and curry powder. Ravioli with tomato sauce. Snacks: dried fruits, chocolate , nuts, biscuits.
- Food: buy most of your supplies at Frutos Secos in town. Dried fruits, nuts, porridge, dried onions, spices, herbs, couscous, etc. you can find everything there by the gram. For the rest we went to Unimarc. You can refill water at all streams in the park. Check hostels for half full gas cans instead of buying a new one.
- Rental gear is available at many places in town – we took everything from Erratic rock since they had everything we needed instead of collecting bits of pieces from different agencies
- Get some rope to hang your food at night to avoid mice attacks
- Wear trekking shoes not sneakers otherwise your feet will kill you
- Get rainproof gear – most likely you will get wet
- Rustic Home B&B – simple acco with breakfast with nice host.
- Weskar lodge with view on the fjord. Perfect to relax.
- La mesita grande – pizza, pasta and homemade beer at affordable prices.
- African restaurant – yummy ceviche – a nice find in the heart of town.