Starting the Torres del Paine W+ Hike
Torres del Paine is a trek of somewhat mythical reputation, a trek that comes up in any conversation surrounding Patagonia. This means conversation at travel spots all along the way from Santiago to Ushuaia is peppered with questions and advice on the trek. “Are you hiking the W or the Circuit?” “Did you go east to west or west to east?” “The only guaranteed thing on the hike is the rain.” “Don’t ask us about the weather. This is Patagonia. WE DON’T KNOW.” (The last was from a sign at one of the campsites in the park which made me laugh because it’s true).
Basically there are a number of different routes you can take as far as where to start and which direction to go, and where to sleep. But all in all it’s a very well developed trail network that handles a lot of people really well, and in the end it’s all true – you will get wet, the weather will give you four seasons in one day, and you can’t get lost. That’s basically all you need to know.
We decided to hike the west to east route, and also tack on an extra night in the beginning by hiking a portion of the trail that leads into the W route from afar. I loved that we did this – we got to just stare at the gorgeous mountains as they got closer and closer, until finally midday Day 2 we merged with the W and were face to face with the peaks. This was our entrance to our hike, incredible:
Here is our Torres del Paine “W+” or “W With a Tail” itinerary:
- Day 1: Administración to Campamento Las Carretas, 5km / 2 hours
- Day 2: Campamento Las Carretas to Campamento Grey, 23km / 10hours
- Day 3: Grey to Campamento Italiano, 22km / 8hours
- Day 4: Italiano to Cuernos, 7km + however far you hike up into Valle Frances / 2.5hours + Valle
- Day 5: Cuernos to Torres, 22km / 8hours (not including 1 hour hike up to Mirador Torres)
- Day 6: Torres to the Park Entrance, 10km / 3hours
Day 1 was an easy one. We took the 2pm bus to the park and took the bus to it’s last stop – Administración. This meant we didn’t start hiking until 5pm, walking about two hours from Administración to our campsite. The entire walk was during the sun’s journey down which made for some nice lighting.
Las Carretas was our windiest campsite, but also the most secluded camping we had, with only a handful of other campers with us at the site. This was also the coldest night — I didn’t know at the time, but I count myself lucky that it only got better from Day 1!
More trekkers in the distance:
Wildflowers and red brush near our campsite:
The Famous Five (our group name to start… it would change every day):
The next day we would hike up to Glacier Gray.