Patagonia, Chile – The W Trek

Soon I will be off to Patagonia with my dear friend Sally! Please keep us in your prayers as we have been planning this for some time and now it is upon us. We are really excited and holding out for great weather and no injuries. Currently freezing rain in Torres Del Pain National Park, Patagonia.

We are touring with Cascada Expeditions and 4 of our nights will be in a EcoCamp in a Geodesic Dome and the other 2 out on the trail. While we are there we will not have cell service or internet! Can you imagine? I should be able to fine tune my mindfulness and journaling.

For your enjoyment I have included our itinerary.

DAY 1 (MONDAY): THE PATAGONIAN ADVENTURE STARTS

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

The trip begins with you being picked up from your hotel in Punta Arenas or Punta Arenas airport in the morning and driven to EcoCamp Patagonia, located in the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park. Alternatively, you can start your trip in Calafate (see our weekly transfer board for EcoCamp’s pick up & drop off schedule). En route we make a stop in Puerto Natales, a small, lively town on the shores of “Seno de Ultima Esperanza”, where we enjoy a hearty local lunch. The journey is scenic and highly atmospheric, featuring many wild birds and wonderful Patagonian landscapes. The day ends with our arrival and overnight stay at EcoCamp Patagonia, nestled in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park and with a prime view of the majestic Torres. Sunset is usually around 11 pm during the summer months, meaning that there will still be enough daylight for you to admire the Patagonian steppe with its guanacos and snow-peaked mountain horizon once you arrive. 

  • Meals: lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia

DAY 2 (TUESDAY): LOS CUERNOS TREK

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile 4.5-5.5 hours 7.5-8.7 miles 800 feet elevation

We begin our Patagonian adventure with a pleasant walk through the sinuous Cuernos Trail which leads us alongside the beautiful Lake Nordenskjold. During this warm-up walk we will have the opportunity to admire the park’s exquisite flora and fauna, as we enjoy the magnificent views of the park’s central lakes and the Paine’s Horns, majestic black horn-like peaks of slate atop gray granite which crown the center of the Massif. The trek ends at Refugio Los Cuernos, a small and cozy mountain refuge located on the shores of Lake Nordenskjold. Alternatively, the trek ends at Domo el Francés, located between Cuernos and Italiano camping sites, with an amazing view of Nordenskjöld lake. The evening is free for relaxing and enjoying dinner. 

  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation:  Refugio Cuernos or Domo El Francés (depending on availability)

DAY 3 (WEDNESDAY): THE PAINE MASSIF’S HEART: VALLE FRANCES

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile 10 hours 16 miles 2250 feet elevation

After breakfast at Refugio Los Cuernos, we will begin the challenging trek to Valle Frances (French Valley), along a steep trail that leads to the very heart of the Paine Massif. How far in we go depends on our group’s trekking rhythm. A swifter walk will lead us to the hanging bridge over the French River, located at the foot of the south-east face of the Massif, where we will be treated to fantastic views of the valley. We will then continue to ascend towards the upper section of the valley where we will be able to marvel at the extensive mass of the valley’s geological formations: Hoja (Blade), Máscara (Mask), Espada (Sword), Catedral (Cathedral), Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin) and the magnificent Fortaleza (Fortress). After our upward trek, we will pause for a picnic and relax a while. This day’s trek will end as we descend through an undulating terrain of mixed grassland and light forest which will take us to Refugio Paine Grande.

N.B. An optional trek to Mirador Britanico is also available.

  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: Refugio Paine Grande

DAY 4 (THURSDAY): GLACIER GREY

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile 4 hours 7 miles 800 feet elevation

This day will see us hike from Paine Grande Refugio along the shores of Lake Pehoe to the northern side of the glacially beautiful Lake Grey. We will feast on a picnic lunch before boarding the boat that sails right to the huge, crystalline facade of Glacier Grey, where we will have plenty of time to marvel at the calving glacier.  From the southern end of Glacier Grey, we will transfer to EcoCamp. Due to the temperamental weather of the region, boat trips across the lake may occasionally be canceled if the required minimum of 15 passengers is not reached. If either is the case, we will trek up to the sightseeing point and profit from wonderful, panoramic views of the Glacier instead. Then we will return on foot to Paine Grande and take a catamaran to Pudeto’s dock, where we will be picked up and driven to EcoCamp.

  • Meals: breakfast. box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia

DAY 5 (FRIDAY): THE BIG CHALLENGE, TREK TO THE TOWERS BASE

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile 9 hours 14 miles 3000 feet elevation

The goal of our fifth day of our 7-day Trek will be to complete the most famous trekking trail in Torres del Paine National Park! We will walk from the campsite towards Hostería Las Torres before ascending to Ascencio Valley on the Tower’s eastern face. Mountain ridges, beech forests and small rivers line the scenic walk towards the valley. Our big challenge comes in the form of the steep moraine, a huge mass of boulders which will lead us to that iconic base-view of the Towers – Three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. After a tough uphill climb, the Towers eventually come into full view, rising majestically before us, with the glacial lake visible below. Is there any better place in the world to have lunch? After feasting on the view and our picnic, we backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio Valley and return to EcoCamp for a well-deserved dinner.

  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia

DAY 6 (SATURDAY): EASTERN LAKES*

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile 3 hours 4 miles 590 feet elevation

The sixth day will consist of a less strenuous trail in order to counter the exhausting efforts of the previous day. After breakfast, we will take a leisurely car journey towards Laguna Azul,  passing Cañadón Macho, home to many wild guanacos and ñandúes, en route. We will pause occasionally to admire the views of the Patagonian steppe and the towers from a different perspective. At Laguna Azul, we will hike to the lookout point where we will be treated to a gorgeous view of both the lagoon and granite towers. After lunch, we will drive to the northern shore of Sarmiento Lake where the Fauna Trail begins. As we hike northbound, we will spot an impressive range of Patagonian fauna on the vast plains, including guanacos, ostrich-like ñandús and maybe the occasional puma print! We will pass the charming Goic lagoon and after approximately 5km of relaxed walking, we will reach the Laguna Amarga ranger station where we will be picked up and driven back to Ecocamp to celebrate over our farewell dinner.

*Please note that if there are more than 6 travelers in the group there’s an option to split into two groups, with one group (or the whole group if everybody’s in the mood!) cycling to Laguna Azul!

  • Meals: breakfast, box lunch & dinner
  • Accommodation: EcoCamp Patagonia

DAY 7 (SUNDAY): ADIOS TORRES DEL PAINE!

Punta Arenas, Chile

We will board an early morning vehicle, sit back, relax, and enjoy a scenic ride back to Punta Arenas in time to catch the evening flight to Santiago. Or, alternatively, we board an early morning vehicle to the border to continue our journey to El Calafate. 

  • Meals: breakfast & box lunch