Torres Del Paine.. Read at Your Own Risk

When we were “planning” our trip down to South America, we had two must do’s on our agenda. Machu Picchu (which you can read about here) and Torres Del Paine. The gorgeous pictures all over every social media account had us hooked on seeing this beautiful place with our own eyes. Fair warning here.. after you see the pictures of this park, you’ll probably want to head down there yourself, so read at your own risk!

 

Preparing for the hike..

When we decided we were going to do this hike, we were going to go as a lovely group of five. (Remember our friends Marteen, GaBi, and Martin from El Calafate and Villa O’Higginsyeah them three and the two of us were going to tackle Torres Del Paine together.) We all wanted to do the “O” circuit, but were a bit hesitant with the lack of experience of multiday trekking within the group, as we were the only ones with experience.  We committed to doing the “O” circuit with the consensus that we would do the “W” trek first, and then if everyone was still up for the rest of the circuit we would continue. With the idea of completing the entire circuit in mind, we decided to start at the east side of the park and work our way around heading west. In doing so, we would skip the extra cost of the ferry and would also get two chances to see the towers at sunrise-once in the beginning of the trek and once at the end.

 


Packing food for this trip is the tricky part. You have to be creative when thinking what food you are going to eat. You not only have to think about the energy and calories you need when trekking so much, but you also have to think about the weight you are carrying and food for 10 days weighs a lot! Thankfully, you can literally drink water straight from the creeks within the national park, so packing water isn’t necessary. 

 

[Sorry… but we have to insert a bit of awesomeness and awareness here.. The water in all of Patagonia is so pure that you can literally drink straight out of any creek, river, or lake. If you’re traveling down in the Patagonia region, please please please keep it that way. Don’t go to the bathroom right near the water sources, and don’t dump your dirty dish water straight back into the fresh water! Seriously remember that.. also make note of this other awesomeness.. Rumor has it that there is nothing poisonous in Patagonia. That means that you can eat basically any plant. We enjoyed Calafate berries nearly every morning we hiked. These are great to add to your plain old oatmeal on the trail. There are also no poisonous snakes or spiders to worry about.. basically you just have to be conscious of pumas.. but they stay away from people for the most part!! Ahh.. such an amazing part of the world!!]

 

So anyways.. we prepped and prepped for our big day. We stayed at Erratic Rock Hostel in Puerto Natales and woke up to an amazing breakfast of homemade peanut butter, an omelet, and freshly made bread.. along with cereal, yogurt, great jam, and all the breakfast drinks you can think of, and then hit the road.

 

{Traveler’s Tip #1.. If you are in Puerto Natales, stay at Erratic Rock. The owner of this hostel is a fellow Oregonian, and is super upbeat and informative. Him and his staff are just as excited for you to be there as you are yourself! The bomb breakfast is just an added treat!}

 

{Traveler’s Tip #2…If you don’t stay there at least go to Erratic Rock’s free base camp talk and buy homemade peanut butter from them for your trek. The also have a plethora of gear you can rent out from tents and stoves to sleeping bags and water bottles.}

 

{Traveler’s Tip #3.. When buying your bus ticket to get to the park, don’t buy it too early. We went to the bus station late the night before our trip, and got the tickets for half the price of what other people paid when they pre-booked them. You can probably even push it to buying the tickets the morning of your trip in the lower seasons!! There are tons of buses heading into the park each day, so don’t worry about not securing a seat.}

 

Day One:

[Entrance of Park to Camp Torres: roughly 17 km. — Camp Torres to the Base of the Towers: 1.6 km round trip]

 

After checking in and purchasing our camping permits, we hit the trail…. Or so we thought. We started walking along the road to the left, only to determine we were heading the wrong way. The beginning of the trek is along a road that leads to the first big hotel and the main trailhead. It’s super flat, and has some great views of the towers, but is extremely long. It’s about seven kilometers on a dirt road, and although you can pay for a bus to drive you that distance, we opted out. Once we reached the hotel/trailhead entrance we stopped for a nice lunch and then hit the trail. From the trailhead to the first campsite (Camp Torres) was going to be roughly 10 more kilometers. This trek is no joke. The elevation gain is pretty intense, especially when considering the amount of weight we were carrying. Remember, we had decided to pack food for 10 days!! The views were gorgeous though! We were all so in love with the trek already-eating Calafate berries and drinking water straight from creeks.

 

 

Once arriving to Camp Torres, we decided to set up our tents, leave our gear behind, and take advantage of the little daylight we had left to head up to the towers for the evening. This was a daunting task, knowing very well we were going to head up in the morning, relaxing at camp sounded awesome, but we forced ourselves to go up! And boy were we glad we did! Seeing the towers up close and personal makes you forget all about the struggle it was to get to them.  The blue waters below the towers makes you want to get in and swim, but then you remember how cold you are and realize that’s a terrible idea!

 


After enjoying the towers for a bit, we made our way back down to camp, cooked some dinner in a very crowded shelter, and then headed to bed early. Our 4:30am alarm clock was going to be going off way too soon!

 

Day Two:

[Camp Torres to Base of Towers: 1.6 km round trip – Camp Torres to Camp Los Cuernos: 19.7km]

 

We woke up to our dreaded alarm around 4:30, threw on our warmest clothes, grabbed a granola bar, and hit the trail. The hike up to the towers before the sun rises is quite an amazing experience. It’s so dreamy seeing the light from little headlamps scattered all the way up the trail and knowing each headlamp belonged to a person that was about to witness something beautiful with us. The not so dreamy side is the elevation gain conquered in such a short time. While racing the sun to get to the top, the legs beneath you are fighting for a break that cannot be had. Getting to the top and taking in the view with the glistening sun against the towers again diminishes the fact that your legs are about to fall off.

 

 

After viewing the light show on the towers which, to be fair, wasn’t the best due to some cloud coverage, we made our way back down the trail to begin our 20km trek. Day two of the trek proved to be more difficult than we thought. Our friends, who had never trekked like this before, weren’t nearly as prepared for this kind of thing as they thought they were, and quite honestly us trail vets weren’t ready for it either. Our 19 plus km day was scaring us all!

 

 

We experienced every type of weather possible that day with the wind definitely being the biggest struggle! The hike was absolutely gorgeous as usual, filled with not as much elevation as day one, lots of pinch me moments and plenty of breaks to really take in the beauty and give Maarten’s knee a rest (he hurt it in the morning hike back from the towers). This day took longer than planned with the stoppage time and the wind literally blowing us over, but we still enjoyed every moment of it!

 

 

During our last stretch to camp some heavy rain hit us. Luckily, we were pitching our tents at a refugio which meant we would be able to hang out inside and hide from the storm. The refugio was so nice and warm, but we felt so weird being in a building when we were supposed to be in the great outdoors.

 

 

Day Three:

[Camp Los Cuernos to Camp Italiano: 5.5 km – Camp Italiano to Mirador Britanico “Valle Frances” 11 km round trip]

 

Day three consisted of light trekking to the next campsite to set up camp and drop off our gear, and then a full afternoon trekking the middle part of the “W”. This day was one of our favorites! The trail ran right along a lake for the majority of the morning, and we were blessed by beautiful rainbows and partly cloudy skies. The trail was fairly flat for the most part, with one long climb to the top of a great overview of the lake. From there it’s was an easy, really muddy, trek to the camp. We set up camp, had some lunch and hit the trail again to get up the “Valle Frances”. 

 

 

Some people opt out of the Valle Frances, but man this part is not to be missed. Again, the weather was great for us and we had a lovely relaxed hike up the Valle with no extra weight to be carrying. On the way back to camp, we stopped and collected absurd amounts of Calafate berries to enjoy in our breakfast the next day. When we got back to camp, we were surprised to see Maarten waiting for us there already. He just started laughing when he saw us and we were so confused why.. until he showed us the absurd amount of Calafate berries he had collected as well. Apparently, we were all beginning to think the same!

 

 

Maarten explained that he would not be able to continue the rest of the trek with us due to his knee, so that night we feasted big time. We had a dinner full of laughter and sadness knowing it could very well be our last night all together.

 

 

Day Four:

[Camp Italiano to Refugio Grey: 18.6 km]

 
The game plan for day four was to take it easy in the morning, hike as a group going Maarten’s pace, and then say goodbye to him at lunchtime and complete the rest of the trail. The morning hike started with the usual muddy trail, mainly flat terrain, and breathtaking scenery. The scenery quickly changed to being engulfed in acres and acres of burnt land trying to find a way to produce life again. There was a devastating fire in 2005 started by a tourist using a camping stove and two others again in 2011 started by a tourist having an unauthorized campfire and a tourist attempting to burn used toilet paper. These fires had major impact on the landscape because the ecosystem in Torres Del Paine is not prepared for fires at all, as the only possible fires in the area are due to human error. Beauty can be found in the devastation though. The hike through the burnt trees was so gorgeous in itself, although extremely sad to know that it all could have been green and luscious if people were more aware of what they were doing.

 

 

We enjoyed lunch at Refugio Camp Paine where even if you’re not staying there, you can still hang out inside. Here we decided to not complete the whole circuit as the weather was taking a turn for the worst and we were all a bit saddened by Maarten having to leave us. The four of us would hike up to Refugio Grey, stay there for a night, and then come back down and catch the boat to meet Maarten in Puerto Natales the next day.

 

 

The hike up to Refugio Grey/Glacier Grey was one for the books. The weather was absolutely terrible and everything was extremely slippery. The number of times that we fell or almost fell is far too many to count. The trek took us double the amount of time it should have due to the poor trail conditions. By the time we got up to the refugio we were covered in mud and exhausted. We set up camp and met Martin and Gabi at the Glacier Grey lookout about 2 km up the trail.

 

 

With the wet weather all day, Maarten leaving us, and our gear covered in mud, we had a nice quiet evening with the underlying tone of all of us looking forward to being in a warm hostel the next night.

 

Day Five:

[Refugio Grey to Paine Grande (boat landing) 11km]

 

Waking up on day five, we were dreading the hike back down that same path we had just come up. We put back on our muddy gear packed up camp, and took off. The trail was even worse than the previous day. The overnight rain made the muddy sections turn into deep trenches to cross. We lost all hope of not having soppy socks, and just trudged right through each trench. Although it was a nasty hike, we were sad to be finishing our time in this lovely national park.

 

 

We made it down the trail just in time to catch the boat across Lago Pehoe, and took the first bus available back into Puerto Natales. As we were driving off, we blew kisses at those beautiful towers and promised ourselves that we would one day return to conquer the entire “O” circuit.

 

 


 

See a map of our trek and read more about the different trail options in Torres Del Paine Trail Talk here.

 


 

We have decided to start doing Flash Back Fridays to catch up on all the things we haven’t wrote about in the past year. Literally the past year.. This Torres trek was March 13-18 of 2015- wow does time fly or what?! We hope you enjoy the small glimpses of our time back in South America. We sure are enjoying reminiscing on that time and flipping back through all the pictures of our most favorite part of the world!

 


 

Want more of Patagonia?? Check out our time in El Calafate 

 


 

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