Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, known as one of the most beautiful places of Patagonia and Chile, has been our home for the past 5 days. 227 000 ha of forest, lakes, mountains, rivers, waterfalls and glaciers, that can only be accessed by foot or by horse, and where Queen Nature rules above all. Sun, snow, rain, 150km wind gusts… we hiked through it all. We completed the famous ‘W hike’ – named after its shape – an 80 km trail leading to some of Patagonia’s most isolated, mysterious and breath-taking viewpoints. We spent our evenings and nights in small “Refugios” which offer a bed in dorms and hot meals which were much appreciated after an entire day of hiking.
We started our journey in Puerto Natales, a little lake-town with small coloured wooden houses, which serves as the base camp for accessing the national park of Torres del Paine. We left our large backpacks in our hostel, filled our small backpacks with food and gear and set off for Torres del Paine.
Day 1: Lake Pehoe – Refugio Grey (12 km – 4.5 hours)
After a two hour bus drive from Puerto Natales and a 30 mins boat trip on a turquoise “fluo-blue” lake we set foot on the shores of Lake Pehoe and started our hike to the Grey Glacier. We reached the top after a bit more than two and a half hours walking through extreme wind gusts and were suddenly struck by the amazing beauty of the Grey Glacier which lies on the other side. A gigantic sea of ice of 16 000 km2 that lies between Chile and Argentina, which plunges into Lago Grey, a grey-blue-green shaded lake stuffed with floating icebergs as tall as buildings. The descent to the lake took us a bit more than two hours and we arrived at Refugio Grey in the middle of the afternoon, where we spent the night.
Day 2: Refugio Grey – Refugio Paine Grande (11 km – 4.5 hours)
The next morning we spotted a very rare puma right outside the Refugio while having breakfast and hesitantly started the hike back to Lake Pehoe to reach Refugio Paine Grande in the early afternoon. We had to put up with even more extreme wind gusts than the previous day, and were literally blown away on the top. However this time, we had the wind in the back which made the day easier than day 1.
Day 3: Paine Grande –Valle del Frances – Refugio Los Cuernos (25 km – 11 hours)
The third day was the longest and toughest day of the entire W hike. We left the Refugio at 8am and only reached Refugio Los Cuernos around 7pm. We hiked the whole middle part of the W, including the Valle del Frances, which was a tough climb but totally worth the effort. At the top of the Valle del Frances, we were rewarded with an amazing 360 degrees view on the valley, the surrounding glaciers and the lago Nordenskjold.
Day 4: Refugio Los Cuernos – Refugio El Chileno (14 km – 5 hours)
Although the weather was less good on day 4, the hike from Los Cuernos to El Chileno was beautiful and relatively easy. The majority of the hike follows the shores of the lago Nordenskjold and the trail is rather flat (except the final ascent to El Chileno). The last kilometre arriving to the refugio is absolutely stunning with amazing views on the Rio Ascencio and the valley.
Day 5: Refugio El Chileno – Base Los Torres – Las Torres bus stop (14 km – 4 hours)
The Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is named after the emblematic “torres”, three giant granite rocks that seem to threaten the sky with their sharp summits. It is the main attraction of the park and the view is supposed to be absolutely breath-taking at sunrise. With that in mind, we decided to wake up at 4am to make it to the summit around 6.15am. To our despair we woke up at 4am and it was snowing heavily! Putting on all the warm clothes we had, we decided to set off anyways (pitch dark and freezing) hoping that the sky would clear up. We caught up with other hikers, and made it to the top around 6.15am but unfortunately it was still very cloudy and we couldn’t admire the towers at sunrise. It was extremely cold, so we stayed 10 minutes at the top before heading back to refugio El Chileno and later to the bus stop at Hotel Las Torres.
Although we couldn’t see the towers properly, the experience was absolutely amazing and the place is truly magical; a MUST for everyone traveling to Southern Patagonia! We were also super happy we managed to hike 100% of the W hike and met some amazing people on the way!