On Thursday I travel to Torres del Paine National Park for a three-day, two night trek along parts of the W Circuit. The weather is turning and one trail in the circuit (leading to the towers – torres) is closed. I’m excited and looking forward to the experience! Vertice, a Patagonia adventure travel group, made it as easy as possible.
The itinerary is a little confusing – or at least it is to me. It’s off season so the buses and catamarans don’t run as often. You have to pay close attention to time so you don’t miss connections.
Not sure exactly what to expect as the weather this time of year is unpredictable and there can be strong wind, rain, and even snow. I’m prepared for bad weather but of course hoping I’ll be lucky and it’s clear and sunny. This weekend may be the last window before winter storms begin.
If you stay in Refugios it’s only necessary to carry rain gear, water, and snacks in your pack – the lighter the load the better. The Refugios provide energy meals, a packed lunch to carry, and a safe, warm place to sleep and shower.
The park lecture on Monday was slightly intimidating. The other people attending were much younger and all of them were experienced trekkers and climbers backpacking into the park and camping – not for me. Some of the stories the lecturer (a young guide from the Netherlands) told us about his experiences in the park were wonderful.
Getting to the park involves taking an early bus from Puerto Natales to the entrance at Laguna Amarga and connecting to a second bus that travels to Pudeto. In Pudeto you catch a catamaran that passes through Lake Pehoe and arrives at Paine Grande Refugio at about 12:30 p.m. I’ll spend the first night there.
The first hike is from Paine Refugio to Italiano Camp in Valle del Francés (French Valley) and back – about 5 miles each way and supposedly an easy trail. Since the catamaran doesn’t arrive until afternoon I can’t begin hiking until 1:00 p.m. and will need to watch the time to make sure I get back to the Refugio before dark.
There are no groups to join but there will be others hiking on the trails and staying at the Refugios. Many people hike the trails solo. There’s a ranger station nearby each major point and I’m told the trails are well-marked.
Hiking the second day is from Paine Grande Refugio to Grey Refugio – a gorgeous seven mile trail along Grey Lake. It will be the most challenging with a bit of climbing in the beginning. Other trekkers have reported strong wind in this area, a concern.
On Saturday I may hike further north and see if I can get a glimpse of some of the ice masses, then it’s a hike back to Paine Grande Refugio followed by the catamaran and buses to return to Puerto Natales. Hoping to get some good photos to share – but they surely won’t be as good as the professional ones attached to this post.