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Trip Report - Torres del Paine W - Hiking & Camping

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Toronto, Ont.
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Trip Report - Torres del Paine W - Hiking & Camping

Hey everyone,

I recently returned from an amazing hike in Torres del Paine and had a lot of trouble finding info before we left, so I hope that some of this information will be helpful to you!

General

Puerto Natales is the town closest to Torres del Paine. You can rent gear/tents/pretty much everything there.

Getting to Puerto Natales

The most common ways to get to Puerto Natales are either to (a) fly into Punta Arenas & then take a bus up to Puerto Natales or (b) take a bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales.

If you choose (a), there are 4 bus companies that run several buses daily (at least during high season, starting in November) up to Puerto Natales. The bus stations in Punta Arenas are open until 10 p.m. so you can buy tickets anytime before then. If you arrange bus tickets in advance, I believe the bus can pick you up at the airport and take you directly to Puerto Natales - however as I said, this is only if you arrange in advance.

To get into Punta Arenas from the Punta Arenas airport is about 8,000 chilean pesos.

Getting Ready for the Hike

We attended the 3 p.m. talk at Erratic Rock - this talk will let you know everything you need to know about the route, what to rent, what to eat, what to expect, etc. I would highly recommend it.

After attending the hike on a Friday afternoon, we decided to take our time and begin the hike Sunday, as opposed to Saturday, which we had originally planned. We just wanted more time to go to the grocery store/rent gear/rest up.

Renting Gear

Everyone we met had rented gear from different places. Shop around and see which store has the price you want!

One thing I would definitely recommend is to rent hiking poles. These saved my (and many other peoples') knees on the steep ups & downs.

Grocery Shopping

As the 3 p.m. talk at Erratic Rock will advise you, you want light, quick, easy food.

For breakfast, we had oatmeal with dolce de leche & coffee each day.

We never stopped for lunch (too hard to start again) but we took lots & lots of breaks and ate trail mix, granola bars, salami, cheese, crackers, cookies, candy, etc. You will be starving. Bring a lot!!!

For dinners, we had two pastas, one risotto and one soup. Check the cooking times on the items that you buy - one of the pastas that we bought (stuffed) required 15 mins in boiling water, which used a lot of fuel. (or, just bring extra fuel - which i would recommend anyway.)

We also brought one small tetrapack of red wine for each night. It was a nice treat at the end of the day.

Bus to Torres del Paine

You can book bus tickets through your hostel or through your gear rental place up to Torres del Paine. There are several bus companies that all head out at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

Route

We did what Erratic Rock suggested in terms of route - a classic W route from west to east. We camped as it's cheaper & gives you more freedom in terms of where you sleep. The campsites are usually in better locations than the refugios, as well.

Day 1: 7:30 departure to Torres del Paine. Arrived a few hours later, had something to eat & got on the Lago Grey ferry at 12:30 or so. Started at Refugio Paine Grande up towards the glacier.

We expected to camp at Campimento Los Guardos that night. The map shows that the hike up from Paine Grande to Refugio Grey is 3.5 hours. This was not true for average hikers like my friends & I. It took us 5 hours with the wind blowing against us, really heavy packs and not being used to the routine of hiking.

We decided to stop early and camp at Refugio Grey.

There is a store there which sells fuel, some food, drinks, etc.

You can also use the washrooms & showers in the refugio.

In mid-November, it was staying late until 10 p.m., which was awesome!

*Note: a fire in December 2011 burnt most of this area of the park.. sometimes you feel like you're in Alice in Wonderland or something. Charred trees everywhere. It's slowly regrowing though!

Day 2: Went back down from Refugio Grey to Paine Grande. Much much easier & quicker on the way back down. Reached Paine Grande and stopped for lunch (in the cook shack there, there are gas burners that you can use for free) and then continued on to Camimento Italiano. It's beautiful. It's right on the rushing stream & you can hear glaciers cracking in the distance. The washrooms there are sick though .. there are only 2 and they're not pretty.

Day 3: Left all of our stuff at Italiano and hiked up into the French Valley. This was my fave part of the whole trip. It was beautiful. The end of the hike up will probably feel like a bit of a push, but it's worth it! Take lots of breaks & eat lots of calories - it's a tough hike.

After getting to the lookout at the top of the French Valley & spending some time up there, headed back to Italiano to get our stuff, and then headed off to Refugio Cuernos. The start of the section is very steep, but after about 45 mins the rest of the hike is downhill. There are a couple of rocky beaches you can stop at. Dip your feet in the freezing lakes - it will make them feel so refreshed!

Cuernos is fancy & has tent platforms for most tents, although we ended up camping slightly uphill of the refugio in a grassy area.

There are showers, washrooms, sinks, cooking areas, etc.

Day 4: Left Cuernos & headed to Campimento Las Torres. Long day & lots of uphill. It was very windy. Once you reach Refugio Chileno you've got another 1.5 hours or so to get to Las Torres. A bunch of our friends headed up to see the torres that afternoon, as well as the following morning.

Las Torres was quite cold (up high) & windy - coldest it had been the whole trip. There's only 1 washroom but it's nice and clean. The stream runs right through the campsite so it's easy to get water!

Day 5: Wake up early (4:30!) to head up & see the sunrise on the torres. Beautiful.

The hike back down to Hosteria Las Torres is easy & all downhill. Caught the bus at 2:30 & was back in Puerto Natales by 5:30 or so. Exhausted.

If you are wondering if you should do this hike, you should. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever ever seen. Each valley is different and has its own special characteristics. We made a bunch of friends along the way which made the experience that much more fun. My knees definitely took a beating but it was worth it!

Enjoy!

San Francisco...
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1. Re: Trip Report - Torres del Paine W - Hiking & Camping

Great report! I am doing the full Circuit in December and was wondering how the weather was. Was it hot most of the time? Did it rain while you were there?

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Trip Report - Torres del Paine W - Hiking & Camping

Thanks for posting this, the details are really great for others planning a trip there, especially the bus routes. My wife and I went hiking there in March of this year just after the fires and I totally agree with you that the French Valley hike was the most beautiful hike of the trip. And that is saying a lot because Torres is spectacular!

Toronto, Ont.
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3. Re: Trip Report - Torres del Paine W - Hiking & Camping

Hey gc6981, it's pretty windy while you're hiking & Torres del Paine is well-known for "4 seasons in 1 day" - you can expect all kinds of weather. When the sun was out & I was hiking with a heavy pack, I was definitely warm enough, but there were only a couple of times that I was "hot" (1. the first day at the entrance of the park -but as soon as we got into the mountains/hiking it cooled down significantly & 2. the first night in the tent at Refugio Grey.) When you hike up to the Grey Glacier or French Valley or the Torres, it's so windy & you are often above the snow line, so layering was the best option. A wind-proof jacket of some type is key.

For hiking, I would definitely suggest a quick-dry shirt of some type - cotton just gets soaked & keeps you damp.

We were lucky & didn't get any rain, but don't count on that type of weather. Bring lots of layers, rain coat & rain pants, and hiking boots.

And a second pair of shoes to wear around the campsites at night. You will not want to be wearing your hiking shoes!

Princeton, New...
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4. Re: Trip Report - Torres del Paine W - Hiking & Camping

We just got back from a week in TDP over Christmas break. We (family of four with 12 and 14 year olds) did the W trek from east to west. We stayed at Refugios along the way (Torres Norte, Las Cuenos, Paine Grande, and Grey). The weather was great - cloudy on a couple of days, but gloriously sunny around Christmas. It was not as windy as we had feared, and we never had to use our rain jackets/pants.

We had hiked in the Austrian alps and stayed in alpine huts, and found the refugios to be much more luxurious (and cleaner) than alpine huts - also much more expensive too. There is free hot water shower in all the refugios, clean and comfortable made-beds at most refugios, (at Los Cuenos you can rent sleeping bags, and also rent clean sleeping bag liners 8000CLP), there are even clean plush towels provided at Paine Grande and Refugio Grey. Alpine huts had none of these amenities. All the refugio staff are friendly and helpful, again the same can not be said about the Alpine huts. The trails in TDP are well marked and less strenuous than alpine trails ( we had been at Zillertal and Stubai). The food at the refugios were good considering how remote the region is.

Highlights of our trip are:

Christmas feast at Los Cuenos - the head chef leads his staff in a superb Gangnam Style dance before each dinner.

Ice Kayak with bigfoot on Lago Grey next to Glaicer Grey among the icebergs - it is about 3 hours long and an adventure well worth the money $110/person. American guides Don and Bree are really good and put our family at ease in the kayaks, which are sturdy and easy to steer. Bigfoot just started this operation in the park, and our kids are thrilled to do something fun other than hiking in TDP. They also run ice climbing trips, but it takes about 9 hours and we found out about it too late to have time to do it.

http://www.bigfootpatagonia.com/

Tips about food in TDP:

we had breakfast and dinners at all the refugios and ate granola bars brought from US for lunch. The breakfast usually consist of 2 pieces of bread, butter, jam, cheese, coffee/tea, juice. Dinner includes soup, main course (usually some kind of meat, very tough to chew! and rice), juice, and a dessert. Los Cuenos's chef goes the extra mile to put nice finishing touches to dinner; Paine Grande's dinner also include salad as well as really excellent seafood ceviche, and tomota salad; Refugio Grey (brand new) has the most posh dining room and bar area, and the food is quite good too. The refugios also sell box lunches - which didn't look that appetizing. It includes a large sandwich, which we noticed that people hardly touched, a fruit, a juice box/water, some trail mix. Save yourself some money by bringing Cliff bars and granola bars for lunch instead.

5. Re: Trip Report - Torres del Paine W - Hiking & Camping

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