Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Trekking the W – last week of February 2015

Probably the most popular trekking in Patagonia is the trekking in the National Park Torres del Paine. Getting to Puerto Natales, the closest town to the park, you can find lots of turists, many hostels, restaurants displaying grilled lambs in their windows, shops where you can buy dried fruits and nuts (very good for the trekking), and also free lectures about the trekkings.

So there we went, to listen the lecture and get the informations we needed. There’s a dutch girl who pretty much covers all the informations one might need speaking in very good and pretty fast english. We also had a good laugh because she makes lots of jokes and has a very funny way of explaining stuff.

There are three options for trekkings: the W, the circuit and the Q. First is the shortest and the last is the longest. Last two include the W. Most of the people do the W and that’s the one we did also. You have two options to start, from east to west or from west to east, we chose to start from west, they told us are better views from that side. Also you can sleep in refugios (or rent a tent at the refugios), which is more expensive and a bit more complicated since the refugios are less than the camping sites and you have to walk more each day, or you can camp, and in Puerto Natales there’s a lot of places to rent all sort of equipment and is not very expensive. If I will ever go back there I will try to do the Q carrying my own tent, now that I have more confidence and I know it’s not very hard and not very steep there.

I was stressed a lot at the beginning thinking it will be hard, that my backpack is too heavy and so on. The guys carried the tents, stove and gas and I think I had the lightest backpack in the whole Patagonia. Now, after the trekking from Lago del Desierto to Candelaria Mansilla with the 24 kilos backpack and after the other trekking when I bought a tent and camped by my own in Cochamo Valley I think I underestimated myself a lot in Torres del Paine, but it made sense to test my strength when I’m alone and not with a group, not wanting to bother anybody if it’s getting hard.

Basically we prepared for the possibility of bad weather putting all our stuff in garbage bags, we prepared the money for bus, entrance fee and for camping, we rented tents and stove (from Base Camp, the place where the lectures are also, near Erratic Rock hostel), we bought food (mine was actually no food but 20 chocolate bars) and we left the rest of the things at the hostel in a locker (we stayed at Singing Lamb hostel, very nice hostel with helpful staff, locker is 500 chilean pesos per locker per day).

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Early in the morning we went to the bus terminal (15000 chilean pesos for the bus to go to the park and come back) and in around two hours we got to the entrace of the park where we paid the entrance fee (18000 pesos), we had to fill some papers with passport number and number of nights we will spent in the park, we received a map and we had to watch a video about the rules in the park. Some years ago there was a fire set by a tourist which burned a vast area in the park leaving behind charred trees which and vegetation which are not prepared to recover since in that area natural fires don’t occur, thunders being inexistent there. You’re not allowed to smoke on the trails, and when you camp you have designated places for smoking and cooking your food on the stove. Also you have to camp only in camping sites. In the video they emphasize a lot on the fire and it seems maybe weird and we made jokes about it but when we saw the consequences of the fire we understood why is such a big deal.

Next the bus took us to another place where we embarked in a catamaran (15000 pesos) to cross Lago Pehoe to Guarderia Paine Grande. And there we started the trekking, first day only 3.5 hours from Paine Grande to Refugio and Campamento Grey located very close to Glaciar Grey.

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From left to right Cerro Paine Grande, Cuernos del Paine and Monte Almirante Nieto as seen from the catamaran.

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Our first trekking day was cloudy but we got the chance to see the landscape in sunny weather the next day.

day1_cloudy Grey_glacier

We arrived at the camping site, set the tent, ate some noodles and walked closer to the glacier in high winds and rain. The price for camping is around 4000 per person, they have a sort of place for cooking, quite small when everybody wants to cook at the same time and they have also showers with hot water until 9 pm, but I preferred to see the glacier and then I had a cold but refreshing shower later.

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During the night we had beautiful view of mountain with stars and clouds.

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Each morning we woke up early (for me) but in decent time for the trekking we were doing, had breakfast (coffee and cigarettes for me), packed the tent and go. In our second day we returned at Paine Grande and from there went to camping Italiano, around 6 hours in total. At camping Italiano you cannot rent anything, you don’t pay and you don’t have a refugio to sleep in.

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Up are Los Cuernos as seen while trekking from Paine Grande to Italiano and down is the view of Lago Pehoe from Paine Grande.

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We camped near that river and slept with the sound of the water in the background. I have to say the sleeping bag I had from home wasn’t good enough for that weather and I didn’t want to rent one, therefore I felt cold almost all the time while sleeping,next time I’ll know better. I think a good sleep is very important and I advise to have a good sleeping bag there.

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Day 3 we had probably the best views, we left our stuff in the tent and went with day pack 2.5 hours up to mirador Britanico, enjoyed the beautiful landscape, and 2.5 hours down to camping, packed our backpacks and tents and head to camping and refugio Los Cuernos, other 2.5 hours trekking. That night we had beers and very expensive dinner at the refugio, and for me again cold water for shower although somehow the boys had hot water for their showers. The camping costs around 4000 per person.

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Panorama

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We were warned that fourth day is the hardest and longest one and we mentally prepared for that and probably that’s why it didn’t seem that bad. We left Los Cuernos and headed to Refugio Chileno around 4-5 hours far. From there we went to Campamento Torres , one hour up, also free of cost, as Italiano, also you cannot rent equipment there, but the most important to know is that you have to book it in advance, before starting the trekking or at the registration in the park. From there I went 45 min uphill to the Mirador Las Torres and 45 min downhill back to camping. I was lucky to have good weather and to see almost alone the beautiful view there. The plan was to wake up very early and go there to see the sunrise, but in the morning was raining very bad and I just skipped it.

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Last day we trekked around 3 hours to hotel Las Torres where we took a bus (2000 pesos) to the administration and there we took another bus which we already paid at the beginning to go to Puerto Natales. We saw flamingos, nandu and guanacos from the window of the bus but couldn’t do any photos. The weather in general was very good during the trekking and I think we were pretty lucky about it. The water in the park is plenty and good for drinking. Unfortunately, trekking in Torres del Paine is sometimes like walking on the boulevard due to the great numbers of tourists coming in this park.

All in all I just loved it! Amazing landscapes, nice people and good time spent in nature. 🙂

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