W-trek - Torres del Paine
Reaching the top and having an amazing view as a reward; that is what the W-trek is for me. Every day is a completely different day with new challenges and unique sceneries. The W-trek is one of the challenges of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. The trek forms a W on the map and you can do the trek from East to West and from West to East. We have the trek booked via Chiletourpatagonia and the evening before the start of the trek they treat us with pizza and wine after a very specific briefing about our adventure for the next four days; hiking the W-trek from East to West.
You can do the W-trek (bright red dots) from East to West or from West to East or you can do parts of the Trek. There is also an O-trek (orange dots) that goes all around the National Park.
Day 1 - The Towers 24 km hike - leave 9:30am and finish 6:00pm
We’re being picked up early from our holiday homes in Puerto Natales and with our backpacks and daypacks packed for the next four days we head to Torres del Paine National Park. We’ve got two guides for today, Carla and Andy, and they will guide us all the way up to Mirador Base Las Torres, also called The Towers. On the way to the park entrance we stop for a beautiful sunrise view of the mountaintops from the National Park. We leave our big backpacks and sleeping bags in the van because we will return to the starting point of the hike at the end of the day. Andy and Carla hand out the lunchboxes for today; a big sandwich, an apple, a cereal bar, a chocolate bar and a juice box. As soon as everyone has put the lunchboxes in their daypacks we start walking.
The mountaintops turn almost gold in the morning during sunrise
We’ve been told that it can be very windy and cold in the national park and that wearing layers of clothing is key. We all start day one with a lot of layers, or I should say; way too many layers. I’m wearing a thermal longsleeve, a sport shirt, a hoodie, my winter jacket and I have my waterproof jacket in my daypack. The weather is absolutely perfect today and after 30 minutes of walking a mostly flat trail, Andy advises us to lose some layers because we are going to climb the mountain from now on. The first hour we stop a couple of times to take off more and more layers. Pretty soon I end up walking in my t-shirt. Andy shows us the best places to fill up our water bottles with fresh water from the mountain and takes a lot of photos of us during the day.
The first of many rivercrossings.
Waterfalls, boulders and the contrast of the colors of Autumn and the white mountaintops.
The climb up to the Towers is beautiful: the contrast of the Autumn colors and the snow on the mountaintops, river crossings, waterfalls and huge granite boulders we have to climb. The last part of the climb up is pretty steep and heavy but the view when you reach the top is absolutely worth it. Today’s climb is a good warming up for the rest of the days because today we are only carrying our daypacks.
Torres del Paine National Park covers approximately 242,242 hectares (598,593 acres). It is one of the largest and most visited parks in Chile.
Torres del Paine National park is named after the three towers. Torres del Paine means towers of blue, what likely refers to the grey-blue granite of the towers.
The highest summit of the towers is Cerro Paine Grande, at 2,884 meters.
When we get back to the starting point of the trek we say goodbye to Andy and Carla and check in to Refugio Torre Central, our hostel for tonight. We decide to head for dinner first and shower after. Dinner tonight is in Hotel Torres. It’s a very nice hotel and a nice 3 course meal awaits us there. A minivan takes us from the hostel to the hotel and back. After dinner I take a very nice and warm shower and we all go to bed to have a good rest for day two.
Day 2 – Lake Nordenskjöld 18 km hike - leave 9:30am and finish 5:30pm
Early in the morning we pack our backpacks because today we are hiking the full day with all of our gear. Because my daypack with camera and drone stuff (including chargers) also has to fit in my backpack, the backpack is pretty heavy and weighs around 22kg.
The breakfast is also in Hotel Torres and it’s a very nice buffet with all kinds of bread, eggs, fruit and a lot of sweets. I don’t eat breakfast before 12 because of my intermittent fasting (only eating between noon and 8pm) so I take some breakfast with me for later. Every day we get a lunchbox so after picking it up from reception, we get ourselves ready for a rainy day. We hoped today would be another sunny day but we were also told that every day the weather in Patagonia is a surprise. The sky is completely covered with clouds and it has been raining for the last hour so we put rain covers over our bags and wear waterproofs as much as we can.
I put some of this amazing breakfast in a Tupperware so I can enjoy it later today. Because of my intermittent fasting diet I only eat between noon and 8pm.
If we had to choose one day with bad weather during the W-trek it would be this day, because of the highlights on the other days, so we suck it up and start walking.
It’s a heavy and very wet day today but we still enjoy the trail very much because we hike around the beautiful Lake Nordenskjöld the entire day. At lunchtime we stop a bit longer than normal to dry our clothes a bit and rest our legs to get back on strength for the second part of the day. My legs and shoulders are very sore but we have to carry on to reach tonight’s campsite; Camping Frances.
Lake Nordenskjold has 200 meters of depth
The park averages around 150,000 visitors a year, of which 60% are foreign tourists, who come from all over the world.
Even though we hiked the entire day with raincoats and raincovers, this hike was absolutely stunning.
After 8 hours we reach Camp Frances; where we will spend the night. We are all wet from top to bottom and there isn’t really a place to dry ourselves or our gear. We check-in and each get a small tent. I make a little washing line in my tent, put my wet socks and shirt to “dry” and head for a very nice warm shower. We don’t have reservations in the small restaurant for tonight because our private cook; Natasha is waiting for us at the campsite to prepare us dinner. We buy some box wine at the check-in desk and share our stories of today with Natasha. Not long after dinner everyone heads to their tents to get some rest for the next day, hopefully a sunny day!
The (small) tents are set up on wooden platforms.
Day 3 –Frances valley and Británico 23 km hike - leave 8:45am and finish 6:30pm
I wake up in my tent and I’m actually not really cold. What does annoy me is that the end of my sleeping bag is all wet because the tent is too small and I’ve been hitting the tent with my feet the entire night. I pack my things and meet everyone at 7 for breakfast. I just have a coffee and walk to the small restaurant to get our group’s lunchboxes for today. The weather cleared up completely and the views of Lake Nordenskjöld in the morning are amazing. We walk for about thirty minutes with our full gear and arrive at Camp Italiano where we can leave our big bags for the rest of the day because we will make a loop to Mirador Británico and arrive back at Camp Italiano later today.
Our goal today is the top of the trail called viewpoint Británico. It’s a trail with beautiful views of a freezing river, several glaciers and a lot of high mountain peaks. We even witness some mini avalanches in the glacier. The last part climbing to the viewpoint is pretty steep but the view from the top is absolutely amazing and very rewarding.
The blue color of the ice on the glaciers is super bright.
Mirador Británico is surrounded by these huge granite mountaintops.
After enjoying lunch at the top and taking some nice photos, the group heads down. I tell them I’ll catch up because I still want to take some drone shots. I spend about 30 more minutes enjoying the view at the top and run down to catch up with the group. We pick up our bags at Camp Italiano and follow the trail to Refugio Paine Grande.
Of course I can’t leave this view without taking some drone shots.
The beautiful view on the trail from Camp Italiano to Refugio Paine Grande. You can see the backside of the Towers.
The beautiful view on the trail from Camp Italiano to Refugio Paine Grande.
Chiletourpatagonia booked us tents at Refugio Paine Grande but we find out that we can upgrade pretty cheap to dorm rooms. After last night’s wet and cold tent adventure almost the entire group upgrades to a dorm room with a very nice buffet dinner included. During dinner three of us decide to wake up extra early tomorrow and start our hike in the dark to go for one of the furthest points on the trail; the second suspension bridge. I ask at the restaurant if we can pick up our lunchboxes right after dinner and we can. We charge our electronics next to the fireplace for a while and head to bed to recharge for tomorrow’s last and most challenging hike.
Day 4 - Grey glacier and the 2nd suspension bridge 35 km hike - leave 6:45am and finish 4:30pm
Today we start very early in the morning. It’s still dark when we start hiking because we’ve got a lot of distance to travel today and a ferry to catch at the end of the day. We want to go from Refugio Paine Grande to the second suspension bridge at Grey glacier and return to Refugio Paine Grande to catch the 6:35pm ferry back to the entrance of the National Park. The info we’ve gathered about today’s hike differs a lot; some say we won’t make it in time for the ferry and some say we will. We know we are pretty fast hikers so we presume we will make it but start extra early, just to be sure.
During the first hour it’s completely dark. We reach a small mountaintop just before sunrise and decide to watch sunrise from there. We were pretty warm already while hiking but once you stop it gets cold pretty quick, especially without sun. We put on some extra layers of clothing and witness an stunning and colorful sunrise. We still have a lot of distance to travel today so just after sunset we start walking again.’
The sunrise is absolutely stunning!
Enjoying one of the best sunrises I've ever seen.
During today’s hike we get a lot of glimpses of the glacier in the distance. The views are beautiful and parts of the glacier that broke off float in the water. The blue color of the ice is amazing. Most people hike to Camp Grey and return back to Refugio Paine Grande from there but our goal today is to reach the viewpoint just after the 2nd suspension bridge for, what we’ve been told, the best view of the glacier.
The first glimpse of Grey Glacier all the way in the back.
As we get closer and closer to the glacier the view gets better and better.
The view from the first suspension bridge is already amazing.
The second suspension bridge looks out on the broken glacier ice. During winter times the glacier is so big that it reaches all the way to these floating pieces.
Around lunchtime we arrive at the viewpoint just after the second suspension bridge and we enjoy our lunch with one of the best views of the National Park. It’s indescribable how big the glacier is. As far as we can look we see this magical blue colored ice.
Grey Glacier is world’s second largest contiguous ice field outside of the poles.
The contrast of the bright blue ice and almost black rocks is amazing,
A topview perspective of the Glacier's ice.
A drone point of view from the beginning of the glacier.
Check out the short video I took from Grey Glacier
Time wise we are doing great! We are indeed very fast since it’s just three of us today so after lunch we head back to Refugio Paine Grande for a well-deserved cocktail to celebrate finishing the entire W-trek; a physically challenging and amazing experience that makes me appreciate the beauty of nature even more.
Our W-trek team. We walked 100km in 4 days, what an amazing experience!