The W Trek in the Torres del Paine National Park was one of the most beautiful hikes I have done. I completed this hike back in March 2013 with my friends Nicola and Ben and it was a highlight of our 3 month trip in South America.
We completed the hike over 4 days 3 nights and stayed in the refugios which added an element of luxury to hiking that I hadn’t experienced before. It made it all a lot easier as we only carried day packs and it meant we had a warm place to stay at night. We also were blessed with perfect weather which is rare in Patagonia…
After a 2-hour bus ride from Puerto Natales, our bus dropped us off at the park entrance village at the start of the trek. Here we had to listen to a safety talk conducted by local guides. The talk was mostly about forest fires and pumas… We then some cheese toasties and coffee for lunch to give us some energy for the long days ahead.
However, it turns out eating a massive lunch before hiking up a hill for a few hours was a bad idea and that cheese toasty quickly ended making a return trip out of my stomach on to the path…
The first day is the steepest and takes you to the most famous part of the hike, the Torres. After a few hours of hiking through the valley, we dropped our things off at the first refugio (Campament Chileno) and started 4-hour return climb to the foot of these famous peaks. It wasn’t easy going and at some points, the track was not clearly marked. Getting to the Torres was a special moment as I had this image on my desk at work for a year for motivation so it was magic having one of my travel dreams come true!
By the time we returned back to the refugio it was getting dark, and unfortunately, the meal provided was terrible. However, the refugio provides a made up bed which made going to sleep very easy. Ben was keen and decided to head up to the Torres again the next morning for sunrise. He was treated to spectacular views as the morning sun hit the Torres. Nicola and I decided to sleep in as climbing back up the steep path in the pitch black was not for us.
Day 2 – Lago Nordenskjöld
We started the day with a good breakfast provided by the refugio and the second day of the hike took us back out the valley and around Lago Nordenskjöld. It was an easy day of hiking and it was peaceful following the lake around to our next refugio (Cuernos). We were able to rest at the refugio which had a nice fire and a petty location and enjoy the lake in the evening sadly it was way too cold to swim.
Day 3 – Valle de Frances
The third day was the longest and most difficult day (10 hours of hiking) as we opted to go into the Valle de Frances. The Valle de Frances was spectacular and was worth the additional hours added to the hike. We were surrounded by mountains and active glaciers once we were deep inside the valley. It was a perfect spot for lunch and a rest.
There were dark times during the last hour as Nicola, Ben and I powered through to our final refugio (Paine Grande). I think at one point we believed we were a train to get us through…
It was St Patrick’s day when we finally arrived at the refugio, no better time for a few whiskeys and a hot dinner. Dinner was again average but we were treated to more beautiful mountain views.
Day 4 – Grey Glacier
The final day, we had some time before the ferry picked us up. We, therefore, decided to hike to Grey Glacier along Lago Grey. We started out intending to only get to the first viewpoint, but as we were making good time, we pushed on to the end. We had a tight time frame to get there and back in time but it was worth the push as we were treated to glaciers and icebergs.
We made it back in time for our ferry and after 4 big days of hiking, we were ready to head back to Puerto Natales and our comfortable little hostel The Tin House.
As I completed the hike back in 2013 I am sure things have changed a lot as South America tourism has increased in popularity. Therefore, it is best to complete your own research on how to best complete the hike and for current prices. For more information check out the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine website here.
I would love to return to Patagonia one day, Alisdair has never been so it is on our list for future adventures to share together.
For more blog posts on hiking check out;
- What to expect when hiking the Inca Trail
- Camping and exploring Yosemite National Park
- What to expect when hiking the Milford Track, New Zealand
- Volcano Boarding and hiking El Hoyo