One of the best parts of our travels through Patagonia in February was doing the "W" in the Torres del Paine National Park. It really is worth the hype- the views are constantly spectacular, no matter where you are in the park, and while the crowds can leave you feeling claustrophobic at times, one benefit is the opportunity to meet interesting travelers from every corner of the globe.
There are two main options for long hikes in the park: the "W" or the "O" circuits.
The "O" is much longer and does a complete loop around the main peaks in the center of the park. It can take anywhere from 4 to 7 days depending on how fast you hike. The "W" is much shorter, only going around one side of the peaks in the shape of a "w", and takes about 3-6 days. If you're doing the "W" you can start from the east or west side of the park. If you start on the east you will go straight from where the bus drops you off at the park entrance to the trail and will head up to see the Torres first.
|Photo from here.|
Day 1: Glacier Grey
|Walking down to see Glacier Grey at the end of day 1|
Day 2: Refugio Lago Grey to Campamento Italiano
|View of Los Cuernos just after leaving Lodge Paine Grande|
Day 3: Campamento Frances and Los Cuernos
|The river by Italiano - the campground is in the trees to the right|
|View from the top of the Los Cuernos trail|
Day 4: Frances to Campamento Chileno
|Hiking through the valley towards Chileno and the Torres|
Day 5: Chileno to Campamento Torres
|Getting some rest before our 4 a.m. climb to the Torres!|
Day 6: Las Torres - the end of the W!
On our final day in the park, we woke up at about 4 a.m. and joined the other campers at Campamento Torres in climbing the steep, rocky trail up to the towers in the dark with our headlamps. It was reminiscent of climbing Mt. Fuji during the peak season - a long chain of hikers in the dark slowly making our way up the mountain. But unlike Fuji it's a much shorter and less difficult climb. After about 1.5 hours we made it to the top and then sat around admiring the towers in the dark while waiting for the sunrise. Other, smarter people had brought sleeping bags and hot drinks with them - which in retrospect, would have been worth it, as it was freezing up there.
Despite the cold, the sunrise was absolutely beautiful and definitely worth waking up at 4 a.m. to see. It was definitely the best part of the hike and I'm so glad that we saved it for our last day.
|Absolutely worth the cold, dark climb to see such a gorgeous sunrise on the towers|
Torres del Paine is crowded, but it's absolutely worth visiting. The views, the Torres, and the other travelers made for a fantastic, memorable experience that I am really grateful to have had.