Patagonia’s dramatic landscapes and beautiful hiking trails have been calling adventurers from around the world for many years. Over the course of our three-week adventure throughout the region we attempted to get exposed to as much of it as possible. One of the highlights of the trip was tackling the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park. Considered one of the most popular treks in South America, the W Trek doesn’t require technical climbing experience or require hikers to endure high altitudes. It will, however, test your physical ability, endurance and adventurous spirit. Sounds perfect right? We sure think so.
The 3 to 4 day W Trek gets its name due to the actual shape of the pathway through Torres Del Paine National Park. Trekkers can either start the trek on the west or east side. Taking a look at the map you’ll see that regardless of the direction you decide to go, the path you follow is an outline “W”. Also famous in Torres Del Paine National Park is the 7 to 8 day O Circuit. I bet you can’t guess how it got its name? Ding Ding Ding – That’s right, it circumnavigates the park in the shape of an “O.”
Puerto Natales (Destinations // Puerto Natales) was our pre- and post-base trekking location. We left all but our essentials at our hotel, met up with our W Trek guide, boarded a bus and made our way towards Laguna Amarga – the eastern entrance to Torres Del Paine National Park.
Check out Part 1 of our 4 Day/3 Night W Trek adventure here:
// DAY 1: BASE LAS TORRES TREK
Having entered the park from the east, our first day of trekking involved making our way to Base Las Torres. Some trekkers choose to hike the trail from west to east so they can summit Base Las Torres on their last day and catch the sunrise. As it was shoulder season the chances of having a clear morning are slim – so it didn’t matter to us
Once we entered the park we made a pit stop at the visitor’s center. In it you will find maps of the treks as well as a shop selling snacks, drinks and outdoor gear (FYI – Anyone who shows up to the start of the trek without the basics like walking sticks or a thermos should probably not attempt the trek). After saying goodbye to our driver we made our way to the clearly marked trail. Shortly after passing Las Torres Hotel, we crossed a few streams on swing bridges and the clouds began to open up around the stunning massifs of Las Torres. It’s official – our trek was well under way.
Taking Las Torres trek up the first side of the “W” we began ascending through densely forested Rio Ascencio Valley. Our first stop was at Refugio Chileno where we had our lunch. Chilling out at the picnic tables alongside the Asencio River while the massifs peeked through the clouds was fantastic. It was a great place to get our energy levels up before the last 5 or so kilometers to the Base Las Torres lookout.
As we continued our ascent above the tree line, the trail began offering solid views of the glacier-capped mountains to the north. While initially quite an easy trail with a gradual ascent, the path becomes quite rocky and meanders around massive granite boulders.
Once we got to the end we had to manually lift our jaws off the ground. No instagram feed full of Torres Del Paine photos prepares you for the view you get when you arrive at Base Las Torres. We will always remember the moment we saw the torres towering over the turquoise glacial lake. While initially very cloudy, the weather gods arrived and gave us the clear views that ever trekker hopes for.
After the obligatory photo session on every rock imaginable, we put the cameras down, found a boulder to perch on and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.
After an hour of soaking it all in, we made our return journey all the way back down to the start of the trek. Yes – what goes up must definitely come down in Torres Del Paine.
Our driver met us at the visitor center and transported us to the Refugio Laguna Amarga. This Refugio is not owned by one of the two major Refugio providers in the park, but is located a couple minutes outside of the park entrance. We camped in tents (that were rented out from the Refugio), but the Refugio did also offer a few simple mountain huts. Either way you can’t go wrong – the food was decent, there were flushing toilets, we had hot showers and we woke up to views of the Torres Del Paine National Park.
Day 1 Total Distance/Time: 19km/9h
- Las Torres Hotel – Refugio Chileno (5km/2h)
- Refugio Chileno – Torres Ranger Station (3km/1.5h)
- Torres Ranger Station – Base Las Torres (1.5km/1h)
- Base Las Torres – Las Torres Hotel (9.5km/4.5h)
// DAY 2: LOS CUERNOS TREK
After breakfast at the Refugio, we made our way back into Torres Del Paine National Park for day 2 of the W Trek.
Passing Las Torres Hotel again, we followed the path past the trailhead for Base Las Torres Trek (that we conquered on Day 1). Our day 2 was all about making our way through the first “U” in the “W” to Refugio Los Cuernos. Before leaving, our guide told us the path would be a long one, but relatively flat. Shortly into the trek we knew he meant it would be what he calls Patagonia Flat – constant up/down and not flat at all. Funny man.
Most of our day was spent walking alongside turquoise Nordenskjöld Lake.
As the afternoon progressed we began to see Los Cuernos on our right. These three horn like massive granite peaks stick out of the Paine Massif and mark the halfway point of the W Trek.
The clouds began rolling in so we high-tailed it to our next stop – Refugio Los Cuernos. They offer 4 shared-mixed dorms with beds and about 50 camping sites. Our rented tents had not been set up by the time we arrived, so we spent time just chilling out in the lodge. Nothing that a few beers, card games with travel mates and a hot shower can’t fix – right?
Word of advice for people camping: Some of the campsite areas have plywood platforms that the tents are built on. If it is raining make sure you avoid these at all costs and get your tent pitched under the trees. We were under the trees and were as dry as a bone come morning. Our mates who slept on the plywood platforms had water go through the bottom of their tents and soak everything they were travelling with – including sleeping bags. Consider yourself warned.
Day 2 Total Distance/Time: 11km/4.5h
- Las Torres Hotel – Refugio Los Cuernos (11km/4.5h)
Stay tuned to see how we tackle Days 3 and 4 of the W Trek? COMING SOON: Destinations // W-Trek, Torres Del Paine National Park – Part 2
Patagonia is a special place and what could be described as the epitome of wilderness. Like many other adventure seekers around the world, the W Trek, deep in the heart of Patagonia, pulled us in and did not disappoint. I hope after sharing my stories and photos that you are feeling like an adventure is in your future and add this beautiful place to your travel bucket list.
For up to date information on the trek and Torres Del Paine National Park be sure to visit the official Torres Del Paine National Park Website. Happy Hiking!
READY TO PLAN YOUR ADVENTURE? GUIDE OR NOT? CAMP OR STAY IN THE LODGE? WHAT TO PACK? WATCH THIS SPACE FOR A BREAK DOWN OF THE MAJOR CONSIDERATIONS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT WHEN PLANNING YOUR OWN W TREK.
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