The Torres del Paine Circuit: Patagonia’s #1 Hike

Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine in southern Chile is the location of one of South America’s great hikes. Some would go so far as to call it the #1 hike in the world. The writers of this post combed through a number of books which dealt with the topic of “the world’s best hikes” and recorded the frequency with which various hikes were mentioned.  According to their calculations, the Torres del Paine Circuit came out on top!

For some background information on how I got to the park, click here.

the main attraction of Torres del Paine Park- the Torres (i.e. Towers)  themselves

All images enlarge on a new page with a click; all blue text leads to a new web page with a click!

The satellite map below outlines two of the possibilities for anyone drawn to dramatic granite spires, the massive glacial end of the Hiele Sur Icefield with El Glaciar Grey, and glacier-fed lakes. What visitors to Chile’s finest national park choose to do will depend on how much time, what sort of equipment and supplies, and how much interest they have.

Torres del Paine satellite map with the red Cirucit and the yellow W –  the yellow rectangles show the six tent spots of my seven-day circuit

Option #1

For some visitors, a walk up the Valle Ascencio to view the Torres del Paine (as shown in the picture above) would be enough.  They would have to get to the park entrance from Puerto Natales or El Calafate and then take the shuttle bus to the end of the road in front of  the Hotel Las Torres. They could leave the bulk of their stuff at either the Refugio Torre Central (or the Hotel Las Torres, if money is not an issue (rates at the Hotel range from $290 to $540 a night during high season), Then they could do the hike up to the awesome granite towers. There is also another refugio (Chileno) on the way to the Torres where they could bed for the night. If they have tents and sleeping bags, there are tent spots  by the Refugio Torre Central , at Refugio Chileno or at the base of the Torres. This visit would take two days.

Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine map

Option #2- the W

Another option is the  W Hike, called this because of the shape of the hike when you look at it on the map.  See the satellite map above for a yellow W which looks like it has been scrawled by a drunken scribe and you get the idea!  To do the W requires more time than the first option described. A good thing about the W is that it you do not need to have camping equipment; you can make use of refugios each night, as well as have supper and breakfast there. (Please note that TDP is not inexpensive!) There is no one way to do it- you could do the hike up to the Torres del Paine on the very first day when you arrive if the weather is good and then move on to Refugio Cuernos and the Valle Frances. Your last stop would be at Refugio Grey, from which you could catch a boat ride back Refugio Torre Central and transportation out of the park. The W could take four to six days, depending on how driven you are to get from place to place.  You will be rewarded with most of the best of Torres del Paine Park.

Option #3- the Circuit

If you have lots of time- that is, a week to ten days- and are equipped to do some camping- i.e. tent, sleeping bag, enough food for at least four days, cook stove, etc- then maybe the Circuit is for you.  It was the option I chose- and I am happy I did.  It gave me four days of walking the less-travelled part of the park. Perhaps it appeals most to those who are obsessive about going all in when they do anything.   A warning however- It could become a real adventure in a hurry if you walk into some nasty weather.  If you take it on it  is best to be prepared for the worst. Make sure you have the right gear, enough supplies, and an adequate fitness level.  In the quieter back stretch of the trail, there will be few, if any,  people around to bail you out. Between Refugio Dickson and Campsite Los Guardas, there is only the keeper of the Los Perros Campsite you can count on.

The reward- standing at the Gardner Pass and taking in the view below- was for me the high point of the circuit, along with walking up to the Torres themselves.  The image below does not really convey the total “wow” of the moment!

Looking towards Grey Glacier from the John Gardner Pass

Take a look here if you want to see a fantastic 3D recreation of an eight-day TDP Circuit. It will give you a great idea of exactly what you are planning to do.

Some months are a better bet for a park visit than others. Check here for the historical monthly averages for the particular month you were thinking of going to TDP – but realize that there are no guarantees, even in the prime stretch from November to April!

If you want to get an idea of accommodation options in TDP, click here for a comprehensive list.

What follows below is an account of the seven-day Circuit hike I did – although most of it may be of use to someone contemplating the W, a worthwhile second choice.

Puerto Natales church from the square

I started from the Chilean town of Puerto Natales, the gateway town to the park. The stores in town are used to hikers looking for supplies for their treks- food, gas canisters, etc. so if you have forgotten anything, you can probably find it in P.N.  After a night at the Erratic Rock, a budget backpackers’ hostel with very helpful hosts who provide a useful  information session on hiking in the park most  afternoons, I was ready to go. While I would be doing the circuit on my own, I was not at all apprehensive.  Unlike hiking in the Canadian Rockies, for example, there are no wild bears to worry about in TDP! The trails are pretty obvious and on the W section at least there is always someone just behind or ahead of you so there is a built-in safety mechanism.  The one section where you need to have a partner is the stretch over the Paso Gardner; it is easy enough to join another hiking  group at Camping Los Perros before you head up to the pass.

beer glass at the pizzeria across from the church in Puerto Natales

The morning bus ride from Puerto Natales to the park entrance at Laguna Amarga took a bit over two hours. (Click here for up-to-date info on bus schedules and park entry fees.) Unlike hiking the trails around Monte Fitz Roy, doing the TDP requires an entry fee, currently $38. U.S. for non-Chileans. The  park website puts it this way -

The fee for foreigners is $ 18.000 chilean pesos (USD $38), or $ 5000 for chileans (USD $10,5) in high season, in low season the fee is $5000 (USD $10,5) for foreign tourists and $ 3000 (USD $6) for chilean people; this is a one-time fee regardless of how long you stay.

By 10:30 I was standing in front of the Hotel Las Torres and ready to start.  The usual approach is to do the circuit counter-clockwise, with Camping Seron as the first day’s objective.  Given that it was a fantastic sunny day I decided to use the good weather to walk up to the Torres that very day after setting up camp at the base of the final climb; that way a potentially rainy or overcast day a week later would not ruin my chance to see the iconic granite towers.  It turned out to be a good decision because it was indeed overcast when I came by seven days later on the trail from Refugio Cuernos.

the sign board at the start of the trek- with Monte Almirante Nieto behind

Crossing the bridge over the Rio Ascencio as in the image above, the trail to the Valle Ascencio goes to the right of pictured mountain (Monte Niete). It is about ten kilometers from the start by the deluxe hotel to the Torres Lookout and took me about three hours with a few rest breaks. It was early March, a bit past prime season, but I was definitely not the only one on the trail!

horses on the trail up to Refugio Chileno

As you walk up the east side of the valley you eventually come to Refugio Chileno, where you could potentially get a bunk for the night or pitch your tent before you continued up to the towers.  The picture below shows my first sighting of the refugio from the trail-

the Valle Ascencio towards Refugio Chileno and beyond to the Torres

the bridge over the Rio Ascencio to the Refugio Chileno

There was also a restaurant at the refugio but my passing by did not correspond to their “open” hours so I opened my pack and got out the water bottle and an energy bar. Then it was up the valley further, crossing back to the east side of the river over another bridge. the trail goes through some lush forest before arriving at a junction, with one trail going up to the Torres and the other going down a bit to the campsite.

the trail to Torres Del Paine above Refugio Chileno

I put up my tent at the Campamento Torres and then took my camera gear for the final 45-minute walk up to the “mirador” (viewpoint).

tent spot at Campamento Torres in TDP

The view below is what greets you as you finally get to the top. It is a grand scene which for some reason reminded me of a natural cathedral with me as the pilgrim! I inhaled the atmosphere for almost an hour on a beautiful afternoon in TDP, occasionally changing seats for a different angle. I now regret not walking all the way down to the laguna and setting up some more original shots. Still, the following images convey a bit of the majesty of the Torres.

the outdoor cathedral of Torres del Paine

Los Torres del Paine up close

fellow pilgrims at Torres del Paine, my kind of church!

I walked back down to the campamento and met some of the other hikers there, had supper, and by nine was enjoying the warmth of my sleeping bag.  I had a lot of walking ahead the next day- 10 km back to the start and then 16 km to the next camp spot for a total of 26 k.  The plan was to leave early the next morning- i.e.7:30- and get to Refugio Torre Central for lunch (so I could keep the food I had in my pack for an emergency). By eleven I was down at the Refugio, having walked down the valley and back over the final bridge and up to the Hotel Torres. By noon I was on my way to Camping Seron, a 16.5 km walk (fairly flat and easy) from the Refugio Torre Central.

building at start of afternoon’s walk to Serron campsite- Monte Niete behind and the Torres sticking up and visible- another nice day in TDP!

looking back at Eco Camp (extreme left side), Refugio Torre Central (left to middle) and Hotel Torres (on the right bottom)…trail to Torres del Paine starts to the right of the Hotel

the trail on the way to Serron Campsite follows the Rio Paine

approaching Serron Campsite from the south (i.e. from Refugio Torre Central)

I got to Camping Seron about 4:00 p.m. and as you can see I had company; there were perhaps a dozen tents in all, most with hikers who were heading up to Dickson the next day. The tent you see in the foreground is my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, which weighs about a kilogram! It is not the roomiest of tents but it does the job when travelling light is the operative word.

campamento Serron on Day Two

Camping Seron has a food service where you can order something to eat.  I think I had a pasta and veggies dish which hit the spot nicely. I had only broght about four days of food on the hike so whenever I could I took advantage of food available at the refugios.  I must warn you that it is not cheap!  If you are really on a budget you may want to buy more stuff in Puerto Natales- and cook it on the stove you will need to have, along with the fuel, pots, plates, etc. Unfortunately, great independence comes with a price- i.e. more stuff to carry!  I had a Primus Trail stove which weighs 230 grams and screws in on top of a butane canister (which you can buy in Puerto Natales).

leaving Serron Campsite early morning

Day Two of the classic TDP Circuit (but my third day since i had done the hike up to the Towers right away on the first day), takes you from Camping Seron to Refugio Dickson.

on the trail to Refugio Dickson from Serron Campsite

It is a nineteen-kilometer walk through grass fields and bush alongside the Rio Paine; the scenery is pleasant as opposed to dramatic and jaw-dropping. Having mostly walked in the rain at Fitz Roy for four days the previous week, the sunshine was a much-appreciated change.

the top of Lago Paine- next stop Lago Dickson!

Lago Dickson with Refugio Dickson in the clearing 

And finally, after about five hours, the refugio appeared- as in the photo above- seemingly on a spit jugging out into the Lago Dickson. I walked down the ridge to the clearing where the refugio sits. After setting up the tent, I made use of the shower facilities and then rambled around the area looking for interesting photo possibilities.

treescape in a small bay in Lago Dickson

The refugio itself has a number of beds available dormitory-style, as well as a very cozy eating area where meals are available.  I would have both supper and breakfast there; I found the food to be quite acceptable, given where we were and given my vegetarian requirements.

the eating area in the Refugio Dickson

Refugio Dickson price list- note that it is for 2010-2011…click here for a graph showing how many Chilean pesos for a $1. US over the years

In fact, I was amazed to see the following on the breakfast table. It makes you realize how small the world has gotten in the past one hundred years. What is also amazing is that this would make any economic sense!

dish with butter all the way from Ireland at Refugio Dickson

At Refugio Dickson I spent the evening chatting with a couple from California who were also heading up over the Gardner Pass the next day. Since you are not officially allowed to go over the pass on your own (although I have no idea how they could enforce that), I asked if I could tag along with them.

We left Dickson at about 8:30 the next morning and about three hours later had walked the nine kilometers up the trail along the occasionally turbulent Rio de Los Perros to the camping site Los Perros.

(Refugio Dickson is at 220 m (above see level); the Los Perros campsite is at 580 m; and the Gardner Pass is 1421 m- so there is some significant gain in altitude as you approach the pass!)

on the trail to Campamento Los Perros looking back at Lago Dickson

the trail from Refugio Dickson to Los Perros Campsite

trail along Rio de los Perros to the Perros Camp Site

man in motion- me on the trail to Los Perros

bridge over Rio de los Perros

Crossing a moraine at the bottom end of the glacial Laguna Los Perros, I looked back and spotted one of the California duo on the top of the ridge-

looking back a kilometer and seeing a fellow hiker on the moraine ridge

trail markers above the Laguna Los Perros- the trail goes down to the lake

Glaciar Los Perros and the laguna at its toe (i.e. bottom edge)

Laguna Los Perros  just before the Los Perros Campsite

the Los Perros campsite

I got to the Los Perros campsite about 11:30 and pulled out the stove and pot, as well as the day’s lunch. I would have a hot Thai noodle soup along with  a couple of slices of Wasa bread covered with my favourite peanut butter. Water was available out of a tap but I still treated it with my Steripen. Here is a self-portrait while I was getting water at the camp sink-

self-portrait while filling up the water container at Los Perros Campsite

hikers’ covered cook shed at Campsite Los Perros

My fellow-hikers from California soon arrived and we had lunch together in the hut pictured  above.  Many people stop here and start over the pass early the next morning.  Given that it was only 12:30 and we felt fine- and the weather looked good too- we decided to head for the pass and make our next camp site Los Guardas, about fourteen kilometers and six hours of walking away.

We left the campsite together- as per the rules!- but within a few minutes we had all settled into our preferred paces- and mine was a bit faster than theirs. The trail up was initially a bit sloppy thanks to recent rain- at first on the east side of the Laguna Los Perros and then along the Rio Paso.

a memorably mucky part of the trail just above Los Perros campsite

Eventually the trees are gone and you are walking on exposed moraine and scree.  The trail is indicated by orange stakes, cairns,  and occasional circular dabs of orange paint. A photo above showed a marker with all three indicators at the same time!

It is all pretty obvious - in good weather.  Now imagine what a snow fall or visibility-reducing fog could do to your trail reading skills and you realize that a pretty straight-forward walk over the pass could become a mountaineering adventure in a hurry.

Looking  up the Rio Paso valley to the saddle which is the 1421 m  pass

looking back down the valley as I get closer to the pass

the flag-draped cairn at Gardner Pass

It took about three hours to reach the pass from the Perros Campsite with an altitude gain of 841 m.    When I got up there I joined a Chilean from Santiago and a couple of guys from Buenos Aires in the wind shelter. They were amazed that I had started from Dickson that morning – something that didn’t seem that big a deal to me. After fifteen minutes or so of chatting about the trail and our respective home cities,  mis amigos moved out and on to Los Guardas campsite.

fellow hikers heading down to Campsite Los Guardas from wind shelter on Paso Gardner

wind shelter wall with tattered Tibetan prayer flags at Gardner Pass

John Gardner Pass satellite shot

John Gardner Pass  3D satellite shot

Standing at John Gardner Pass (at 1241 m  the highest point on the trail) was the highlight of the TDP Circuit. Even more so than the lookout by the iconic Towers which give the park its name, the view from the Pass is an breathtaking sight.  Looking back, you can appreciate the effort it took to get up here- and looking ahead you see what the image below hints at – the epic nature of the view.

the #1 Torres del Paine view (my pick!)

me waiting for the California couple to arrive at the pass

almost there- the last of our party approaching Gardner Pass from the valley we have spent three hours walking up!

I stayed for a few mintues and chatted with the American hikers- but I was definitely getting chilled just standing around. We had been very lucky with the weather but the wind had picked up in the past hour. We agreed to do supper together down at the Los Guardas camp site- three hours and over 800 meters down.

Along the way I passed the three amigos from the wind shelter. Again, they were amazed at how fast I was moving.  The secret? None of them had trekking poles!  They were hurtin’ as they made their way down a pretty steep path to the camp site and they got to watch as a guy almost twice as old as them (I was sixty when I did this hike) dance his way down to los Guardas.  The poles- and you need two, not just one- make all the difference. Coming up to the pass it made moving over the scree and talus much easier thanks to the massive increase in stability they provided; on the way down they took much of the pressure off my knees and transferred it into my upper body.  Trekking poles are the answer!

the view from the trail from Los Guardas to Refugio Grey

Los Guardas campsite has room for at least twenty tents on either side of a stream that comes tumbling down through the site. There is a guardian there but no services that I can remember. There is a hiker’s covered shelter which we used to make our supper and replay the day- and then it was off to my tent, tucked into the most-wind proof location that I could find.  It had been a massive day with incredible views- in retrospect, the best single day of the circuit- and I slept easy.

a misty morning as I move from Los Guardas to Refugio Grey

The next morning I had a very simple objective- at most, a half-day of walking and  lunch at Refugio Grey.  To get there you have to deal with a number of ravines- first climbing down into them and then climbing back up and out to the next one. The next couple of pix show just some of the entertainment provided!

the rope over the river and the ladder out of the gorge

looking back down the ladder and the stream

looking back up the Grey Glacier- all 16 kilometres of it

away from the glacier’s edge- lenga forest trail to Refugio Grey

45 minutes after the above ladder- another one–this time a descent

the warning- more useful if someone is coming from Refugio Grey!

Glaciar becomes Laguna- a view of the Grey Glacier’s toe from the trail

Lago Grey not far from the end of the glacier

It took a bit less than three hours to get to Refugio Grey from Los Guardas. It may only be five or six kilometers but it is definitely a good workout. I cannot image walking the circuit clockwise and having to go up to the pass from Refugio Grey- it is undoubtedly easier from the direction most choose (i.e. from Dickson).

camp area and beach cove at Refugio Grey

The Refugio Grey has all basic facilities you would expect- bunks, meals, showers, camp sites.  I put up the tent at about 11:30- not even noon and I was done!  It was my reward for yesterday’s epic march!  A quick shower and then the first of three meals I would have at the refugio restaurant- lunch, supper, breakfast.  The three meals (but no alcohol) came out to about $50. with tip.  There are cheaper options but, all in all, it is what I would pay at home.  Chile – and Patagonia even more so – is not Nepal.  There are no $1.25 dal bhatt lunches on offer.

Refugio Grey warning- but luckily no fox ever seen!

my Fly Creek UL1 at the Refugio Grey camping area

 the Grey II taking on  Refugio patrons  for the trip to the other end of the lake at Hosteria Lago Grey

the beach near the camping area of Refugio Grey

I spent a relaxing afternoon and evening watching chunks of the glacier float down the lago while I chatted with hikers from all over the world- more Americans, an Irish couple, a Dutchman- it was like the United Nations “at the end of the world”! The next  morning, after a great breakfast in the refugio, I packed up my tent in the rain and set off.

heading to Refugio Paine Grande on the Lago Grey trail

the trail from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande on a rainy day

The good weather had ended. For most of the rest of the trip it either rained or looked like it was going to. The morning’s goal was the Refugio Paine Grande,  an easy three-hour walk (11 kilometres)  from Refugio Grey but without the epic views of the previous couple of days.

After  seeing almost no one on the trail since leaving Refugio Torre Central four days previously, I was now in the land of the “W”.  It is the shorter version of the TDP hiking experience that most people sign up for.  Now there were hikers every ten minutes- and it would only get busier!

the junction in front of the Refugio Paine Grande with Cerro Paine Grande in the background

After a filling lunch at the Refugio cafeteria- the biggest I had seen since Refugio Torre Central- it was time to move on.  My plan was to put up the tent at Campamento Italiano and then spend the afternoon walking up the Valle Frances.  Along the way the trail passes by Lago Skottsberg, shown in the picture below-

Lago Skottsberg on the Torres del Paine trail to Campamento Italiano

The Paine Grande Massif from the trail- shades of a Lord of the Rings film set!

approaching Valle Frances with the Cuernos de Paine looming over it

Rio del Frances with Italiano Camp Site on the other side (not visible)

a busy Camp Site Italiano at the bottom of Valle Frances

When i got to the Italiano Camp Site, I found a fairly flat but, thanks to the rain,  muddy spot to put up my tent. There were already dozens of campers there.  Complicating matters was the fact that the toilet facilities were shut down. This meant that everyone was on their own when it came to basic body functions. Add the rain and the whole thing was not a situation I wanted to be in.  Reluctantly, I put the tent up and stashed most of my gear inside.

Then I went for a walk up the Valle Frances, which on a better day I would have made with my pack so that I could tent at the Britanico Camp Site. I made it as far as the entrance of the upper valley as shown in the pix below- even in the mist, it was stunningly beautiful. The walk up the valley and a tent spot site at the Britanico has the potential to rival Paso Gardner for the #1 stop on the TDP hit parade.  If I could change one thing about my TDP visit it would be this.  Instead, I shielded my camera from the rain, took a few shots, and reluctantly headed back for the mess that was the Italiano camp site.

Valle Frances trail up to Camp Site Britanico

up the Valle Frances- the point where I turned around

Check out this photographer’s 360 degree panorama of the valley in autumn and be amazed-  Gathering Storm over French Valley 3 . If you’re blessed with better weather than I was and you find yourself at Camp Site Italiano in the morning, do spend the day doing up the valley to Britanico and even beyond. You will be rewarded with one of the finest days of hiking in your life!  Even better yet, take a tent and sleep up there.

returning to Italiano campsite- SW end of Lago Nordenskjold and Lago Pehoe visible

morning view on the way to Refugio Cuernos

The next day, again a mostly wet and rainy one with unexpected bits of sun thrown in just to completely confuse me, I fled the dirty camp site. This would be my last day on the Circuit- the seventh in all- as I got to Refugio Torre Central by 2:30 or so.  On your right all the way is Lago Nordenskjold. I watched the wind as it whipped up the water. For half of the walk the Cuernos del Paine were on the left hand side. Clouds and sun came and went and created endless variations of Cuernos photos for me to contemplate- and even take.  For some reason I kept thinking of Lord of the Rings as I walked by. the next time if New Zealand is busy, Peter Jackson could move his gear here for some dramatic film sets.

Cuernos view on an overcast morning in Torres del Paine Park

on the TDP trail from Campamento Italiano to Refugio Cuernos

I arrived at Refugio Cuernos too early for lunch but did sit inside the hostal for a few minutes and enjoyed the view below while I sipped on my powdered  Gatorade-enhanced water and second-last energy bar.

the view from Refugio Los Cuernos

Rock and cloud continued to combine in magical ways and I enjoyed the show as I walked by, knowing that it would be a very different kind of enchanting on a bright sunny day.

Cuernos del Paine

the last stretch of the TDP trail

trail marker between Refugios Cuernos and Torre Central

view of the Cuernos del Paine from the trail along Lago Nordenskjold

Monte Almirante Niete coming on the trail from Cuernos-

Seeing Monte Niete again was a reminder that I was almost done. Six days ago I had walked up the Ascencio valley with  Niete on the east side. Now I came at it from the west. Soon I saw the view you see in the image below- the collection of buildings belonging to the Hotel Las Torres and the Refugio Torre Central.

the Hotel Las Torres and Refugio and on the plateau above, the Eco Camp

Some lines of T.S. Eliot I had memorized as a younger man popped into my head as I got closer to the place where I had started my walk a week before-

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from…

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

TDP trail horses enjoying a day off at the end of high tourist season

the end of my TDP Circuit-up the trail on the bottom right to the Hotel Torres

What a fantastic walk!  Seven days around the mini-cordillera that is the Torres del Paine, with six nights of camping. More time and better weather in el Valle Frances would have made it perfect.  And now I sat in the dining area of the massive Refugio Torre Central with some other hikers- Israelis and Spaniards this time. We were all waiting for the 4:30 shuttle bus which would take us to the park entrance where we’d transfer to the bus returning to Puerto Natales. And in the meanwhile, the cooks in the kitchen were good enough to prepare some food, even though it was not yet the official opening time.

the dining area of the Refugio Torre Central

If you’re interested, my  two previous posts on southern Patagonia can be found here-

Southern Patagonia- Hiking Adventure At “The End of the World”

Argentina’s Hiking Capital: El Chalten and Monte Fitz Roy

More recently I uploaded a post on the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, The Chilean gateway to southern Patagonia  for people flying in from North America or Europe. You can find it here: A Traveller’s Guide to Punta Arenas- Gateway To Southern Patagonia.

Still to come is a collection of all the dog pictures I took while I was there.  Stray dogs seem to be a bit of a problem in Patagonia and even domestic dogs are allowed to wander around town during the day. This made for lots of photo ops!

43 thoughts on “The Torres del Paine Circuit: Patagonia’s #1 Hike

  1. I am leaving for Patagonia from NYC in just a few days and have absolutely loved reading about your journey, especially your time in TDP. Thank you so much for sharing your adventure.

    I do have one question: were you able to bring your trekking poles aboard your internal flight, or did they need to be checked? Very curious how difficult it is to get around in general, and through airports in particular, with all the gear required of a trip like this one.

    Thanks again!

    • Susan, my trekking poles were the typical collapsible ones; I put them in the checked baggage. I flew down with one large duffel bag and a carry-on bag. In the carry-on I had all my dslr camera gear and other electronics stuff- iPod Touch and the like. In the duffel bag I put my backpack, my tenting stuff, the food I was bringing, clothes, etc. Also in there were the trekking poles. The duffel weighed 45 lbs., including 2 1/2 lbs for the duffel itself. When you get to Santiago you will have to go through customs with all your baggage. Then you have to haul everything to the domestic check-in counter for Punta Arenas. I think the baggage carts were free; that will be your best bet for moving everythng around. I agree that it is a bit of a pain to lug everything around- but it is only at the beginning and end of the trip. If you have a duffel bag with wheelies that might make things easier- but at the cost of a heavier duffel! When I got to Puerto Natales I left the actual duffel and a few other things behind at the place I was staying while i did the hike in TDP. Given that everyone is there for the hiking, every hotel and hostel will be used to the idea of keeping stuff for you while you do the hike. When you come back you will probably spend another night at the hotel where your stuff is anyway so it is just good business sense for them to have a left baggage area. Be ruthless about what you bring- and try your best to keep the weight down! But do bring the trekking poles- they will be invaluable as you negotiate the ups and downs of the trail.

  2. Pingback: Puerto Natales – A Quirky Gateway to Torres del Paine | love.antoinette

  3. This is an awesome resource! We’re doing the trek in November, along with Fitz Roy and Petit Moreno Glacier. We were going to try for Iguazu Falls, but it’s too far, and instead we’re going to find some more trekking/adventure around the south. Question – your pictures are beautiful – you say you brought a DSLR – What about lenses, tripods, etc. And how heavy was your backpack with all your stuff? Thank you so much!

    • You will have a great time down in southern Patagonia. I spent a week in TDP but could have spent a day or two more had the weather been a bit kinder and had I brought a tent that I had more confidence in to handle the wind. (My Big Agnes Fly Creek UL only weighs 2 lbs. and does a great job but the poles are really not meant for the kind of wind that Patagonia can see. I did manage to find spots to put up the tent where there was some natural shelter from the wind.)

      Re: my camera gear. i brought a small point and shoot (a Canon Elph 100S) which I kept in my chest pocket in a zip lock bag. I’d often whip it out for quick shots of something that caught my eye. My Sony Alpha 700 (2007 vintage) also came along with a 16-80 Zeiss zoom and polarizer filter. I also had a Tamron 10-24 zoom which i used maybe 2% of the time. It was probably not worth lugging that extra pound of gear around TDP! I had a gorilla pod (8 oz) which I never used once! I kept my dslr – there are definitely lighter weight ones these days like my newish Sony A57- in a small Lowe Pro bag which sat in front of my chest so that even with my pack on I could pull out the dslr and snap a shot or two. If the camera is not easily accessible it becomes a big pain in the butt to stop and take off the backpack and open it and….

      Having said all this, you don’t really need a dslr. I mean, it is great to have a very capable camera but in the end it is how you frame that shot that you’ve walked into that makes the picture pop. Take a look at the comments section of my post on Fitz Roy and El Chalten: Argentina’s Hiking Capital http://wp.me/p25mXk-ML and you will find a link to Kevin’s Facebook site with some stunning shots taken with a Canon point and shoot much like the second camera I had along.

      When I flew down I had all my stuff, including my actual backpack, in a large duffel bag. It all weighed about 45 pounds, including 2.5 for the duffel and 6.1 lbs for the 80 liter backpack and maybe 8 lbs for all the camera stuff, including the Lowe Pro bag. I took the camera gear and other stuff in a shopping bag as carry one. BTW I found my ipod Touch very useful. There is wifi everywhere in the towns down there so it was great to be able to skype back home and search for weather info and other info while in Puerto Natales and El Calafate and El Chalten. The tent was another 2.5 with ground sheet, down sleeping bag was 2.5 lbs, enough food for four days was another 10 lbs. All told, on the trail I think my bag weighed about 40 lbs. I left the duffel bag and some odds and ends at the Erratic Rock hostel in Puerto Natales- and in El Chalten i left it with the people where I rented a room for a couple of nights. They are used to the idea of holding luggage for trekkers.

      You’ve got a bit of waiting to do before take-off. Have fun planning a (fairly) lightweight pack and do spend the time working on your cardio and doing some strength training – anything for legs, back, and shoulders! The better shape you are in when you go down, the more you’ll enjoy it! You’ll be walking into some incredible photographs just asking to be framed.

  4. motivating story. I am planning this hike. Looking for a map of this route and could not find on internet. can you map one? Also Looking for suggestions on training for this day hike.
    Base of the Torres
    Difficulty: High Walk length: 7 to 9 hours / 18 km Travel time: Outwards, 45 min. – Return, 45 min.
    This world famous hike demands stamina, but the rewards are the impressive views of the three granite towers. This hike ascends strongly for one hour bordering the Rio Ascensio until reaching the Paso de los Vientos. From here it takes 30 minutes to reach Campamento Chileno where we can have a little rest. The walk continues to ascend through the forest for 1,5 hours, gaining altitude very quickly and with amazing views of the geological formations in the area such as folds, fractures and granite intrusions. The last hour is the most challenging and difficult, where the trail winds up thorough a moraine section of loose pebbles, there is exposure to the wind and where the weather is unpredictable. This excursion is hard and strenuous if you are not used to long distance hikes.

    • Kathy, your day hike is arguably the highlight of any visit to Parque Torres del Paine. You will be starting from the refugio or the pricy hotel at the beginning of the trail. It takes about four hours to walk up to the Towers. After an initial steady up section you come to a point where you see the Campamento Chileno down below you on the other side of the river. You walk all the way down to it on a gentle slope. Then after a walk along the side of the Rio Ascensio you cross the river again and head back up. the last bit is the steepest; the reward comes when there is not more up to do!

      Re: training! Anything you do before you go will be a plus. Since it is a day hike you will have a very light backpack with rain gear, water, energy bars and other snacks, sun screen and maybe camera gear. Go on walks in your neighbourhood with 15 pounds on your back just to get used to it. I went up with all my camping gear and four days worth of food. The pack weighed a bit more than forty pounds.

      Strength training is never a waste of time. Squats, leg presses, bench presses, lat pulldowns …anything to strengthen your legs, back, and shoulders will make the hike easier. The more time you put into upping your fitness level, the more you will enjoy your day hike to the Towers of Paine. (pronounced pie-nay and not pain as in hurt, which is what you’re trying to avoid!).

      I recommend a pair of trekking poles. Learn to quickly change the length depending on the terrain. they should be shorter going uphill and longer going downhill. Check out this instructional video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x1jrboF3pc

  5. What type of food did you bring down? We are planning a trip in December and are trying to figure out what we can take with us and what we cannot. Also did you make reservations ahead of time for your campsites?

    • Elise, if you are doing the circuit you will be able to buy meals at most of the refugios and camp sites. You can get breakfast and supper (and probably lunch too but I was always on the move during the day). It is not cheap but it means not having to carry the food. I brought four days worth of food along – oatmeal packs emptied into individual zip lock bags and supplemented with raisins, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cranberries, pecans – they made for a nutritious start to the day. I also had somne instant coffee and Coffeemate to meet my caffeine needs! You’ll also need a small cookset and a stove. I used a Primus screw on top and the butane canisters are available in Puerto Natales.

      I brought a dozen Clifbars for energy during the day; I also had Wasa bread and a jar of peanut butter.

      My four suppers were Backpackers’ Pantry selections; they are very easy to use and quite high in calories. You just add boiling water to the bag and zip it up again for 15 minutes and that is it – instant meal.

      Whenever I could i ate at the restaurants run in the refugios. Check the post for some comments on what is available – I think I posted a pic of the menu at the refugio Dickson.

      Enjoy your walk around the park. Best of luck with the weather! Do take a day or two longer than I did. I still regret not walking up the Valle Frances with my tent and spending a night at campsite at the top of the valley but the weather was truly rotten that day – and the camping area at the Italiano campgrounds did not have functioning toilets so I just wanted to get away from the mess.

  6. Really enjoyed your blog! I am 65, and my daughter and I are going to do the circuit this coming January. We did the Anapurna circuit a few years ago.
    Questions: Was drinking water an issue? ( Did you have to purify?)
    Was there electricity to recharge devices? (if so, what adapter is needed?)
    Was there any internet in the park (for communicating with family)
    Thank you, Tom

    • Tom, TDP weather in January is apparently the best but do expect a few more fellow walkers. Having your own tent will mean you will always have somewhere to sleep other than the refugios (if they are fully booked).

      re: the drinking water. Not an issue. I did have a Steripen Adventurer which I used to zap the water just to be totally sure. http://www.steripen.com/products/

      re: electricity. I don’t recall recharging anything in the park, although some of the larger refugios may have outlets. I did bring extra batteries for my dslr. I did buy an adapter for Chilean and Argentinian electrical sockets before I left Toronto and they worked fine.

      re: internet in the park. The ultra-pricey hotels will have wifi for their guests but I am guessing that they would not be too enthusiastic about others using it. You will find free wifi in Puerto Natales and in Punta Arenas.

      What I would suggest to keep in touch is a SPOT Connect paired with a smart phone or an iPod Touch. It would provide the folks back home with a up-to-the-minute track of your location. It also allows you to send messages of up to 45 characters. All of this costs – about $150 for the actual unit and then another $150. or so for the annual service plan with Globalstar. I’ve had mine for the past three years and I know my wife is really happy to be able to see where I am and receive daily “all is fine” messages while I am on canoe trips.

      There is another newer device – the Delorme Inreach – which actually allows two-way communication – i.e. you can receive emAIL messages from home – but it is at least twice as expensive as the SPOT Connect option. I noticed that SPOT has just come out with a Global Phone for $600. + more for connection. Of all the options I know the SPOT Connect is the cheapest while still being effective.

      Have a great time doing the circuit. It will be a different trip than the Annapurna Circuit. There is no cultural component to the walk at all but what is there is still amazing. Enjoy!

  7. Very beautiful pictures and place.
    I will be in Argentina in December/January and I would like to do the W trekking in Torres del Paine.
    Could you give me some information about the difficulties of the trekking?
    I’m a good trekkers but I have some problem to walk in path with precipices and I suffer a little of vertigo.
    Thanks in advance

    elisa

    • Elisa, the W trail is easy to follow and while there are some ups and downs there are no precipices to worry about. There will be other walkers on the trail if you do have any difficulties – you will not be alone.

      If you are not in the best of shape right now, you have four months to improve your fitness level – walking with a loaded pack and some weight lifting (both lower body and upper body exercises) would help. This is not a mountaineering expedition and you will never reach any higher than about 1300 meters so acclimatization is definitely not an issue.

      My #1 recommendation is to bring two – not one – trekking poles along and know how to use them properly. They will provide you will extra stability and balance and will transfer some of the stress from your knees to your upper body. Check out this link for some more info -

      http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/a/11089/Ten-Reasons-for-Trekking-Poles

      Since you are doing the W in high season it might be wise to book your accommodation at the various refugios now; they can be totally fully if you wait too long. If you are bringing your tent this will obviously not be an issue.

      Buen viaje y buena suerte!

  8. Awesome post. Thanks a bunch. I am headed there December 25 from Colorado. I fly into Buenos Aires first and then will head for El Calafate to Puerto Natales and to TDP. Awesome. I have a great OR rain jacket; lightweight down; alpine patagonia pants; and other gear. Do you have a list of gear you brought? Thanks,

    AB

    • Andrew, you lucky guy! You’ll be hitting southern Patagonia in prime time – both in terms of weather and the number of other hikers you may see. you don’t mention if you will be camping in TDP – I did. I had a Big Agnes UL tent (2.2 lbs), a Thermarest NeoAir (13 oz) and a down sleeping bag (2.5 lbs). I also had a cook stove and some food. If you plan to make use of the refugio system in TDP you may be able to skip all of the gear I just mentioned, although I would be concerned about the chance of the refugios being all booked.

      While you will, of course, have fantastic weather, do be ready for rain! The OR jacket is a must; so too are some Goretex or similar rain pants; the lightweight down will make a nice evening time top. Sun hat, water bottle, Steripen or water purifier…

      I flew down with my backpack in a duffel; at TDP I left the duffel and some other things behind at the hostal I was staying at (The Erratic Rock). Keep your load as light as possible – but bring everything you need! Dehydrated food you should buy in Colorado – I had some of the Backpackers’ Pantry selections. You can buy the butane canisters in Puerto Natales – there are a number of stores which cater to the hiking crowd.

      Enjoy your hike.

      • Love this page! Great info! I was wondering if you could recommend any brands of clothing and the type of clothing needed? Also, are there any type/brand of shoes you recommend? I have been reading about the best socks to get as a I have Reynauds….where my hands/feet are always cold. So, I have to be extra careful!

        Another thing, what did you cook while you were there? We are going to be camping to reduce costs. I figured we could bring nuts/dried fruits. But as far as food-food, what did you bring/eat?

      • Caitlin, I’m happy to see that my post has you thinking about a hike in TDP. I am hoping that you have already done a bit of hiking/camping near where you live – it is a good thing to have a bit of experience before you tackle TDP.

        Re: clothing. Good quality gear is always better than junk. Think of what you’re getting as an investment; hopefully you’ll be using the gear you buy often in the coming years so you might as well get better stuff. Check out this site for good advice – http://www.outdoorgearlab.com

        You need a good pair of hiking boots, ones that feel right on your feet. The above web site has all sorts of good recommendations. I am a big fan of Zamberlan boots, which oddly do not get mentioned by the gearlab site!

        Re: food to bring along. Breakfast are easy. As I think I mentioned in the post, I brought packs of oatmeal along with nuts and dried fruit. That served as breakfast. I also brought a jar of peanut butter and dried bread (Wasa or Rye Krisp) and Gatorade. Backpackers’ Pantry has a number of quite edible suppers available. You could always eat at the refugios and campamentos when possible but it isn’t cheap! You can easily spend $50. a day per person on prepared meals. Chile is one of the more expensive countries in South America – the prices are pretty much what they are in North America.

        In the end, there is nothing you can do about the costs but pay what you need to – the reward is some stunning scenery, which is why you’re going there!

      • Thanks for your reply and for the advice! One more thing….you think it`s possible to do the W trail in 5 days tops with four people who have never hiked/trekked before? I live directly in the center of Chile so I am thinking to start trekking and hiking around here in the mountains and hills to get my shoes broken in and to get used to trekking with a bag.

      • Caitlin, it is difficult to say how everyone will respond to the walk! If they didn’t really want to be there in the first place, they could get a bit short-tempered. It isn’t really the place to go to find out if you like walking all day for five days! BUT … if they are in reasonable shape, up for a challenge, have the proper gear, can handle the fact that it may well rain on them for a day ( or two!) and want to experience a wonderful slice of Chile’s natural beauty, then they should be fine.

        I did not do the W when i was there but here is what I might do if I were to do the W in the future -

        Suggested itinerary for four nights / five days the TDP W

        1. take the bus to TDP from Puerto Natales and then the mini-bus to Refugio Torre Central . Check in and leave your bags there. Then hike up to see the torres themselves and walk back to the refugio and a good night’s rest.

        You would need to get an early morning bus to get you to the park by noon. It would be a longish walk but you would not be carrying your packs (except for water, camera, rain jackets, snacks)) (6 or 7 hours)

        Another way of doing it would be to walk to Refuio Chileno instead of Torres Central and get beds at Chileno and then go see the Torres. Return to Chileno for the night. This would be shorter but you’d have to carry your bags . If you pack right this should not be that much of a problem.

        2. short day’s walk to Los Cuernos where you can stay at the refugio for the night (4 to 5 hours)

        3. walk to Campamento Italiano, leave your bags there, walk up the Valle Frances for some stunning views, and then back down, collect your bags and walk to Refugio Paine Grande. It is a beautiful hostal with an excellent restaurant. A longer day than Day 2.

        4. Walk up to Refugio Grey and then return to Paine Grande for second night…

        5. Get the boat to Guarderia Pudeto in the morning and the bus back to the park entrance for buses going to Puerto Natales.

        *** You could let someone else take care of all the details for you and pay a bit more money. If you are new at this, it might be the thing to do. Check out this link for a reasonable price – but not cheap…nothing in TDP is inexpensive!….

        http://www.fantasticosur.com/en/w-circuit/w-circuit-regular/

        Good luck in your planning and your exercise campaign. the idea is to suffer now so that you won’t hurt when you do the hike!

      • As someone who completed the W last year (and who got a lot of great advice on this blog!), I just wanted to mention to Caitlin below, who’s trying to do the W in 5 days, that the day from Cuernos to Paine Grande, heading up to the French Valley in the middle, is a good 9-10 hours of trekking, so at least double the 2nd day (the walk to Cuernos). Additionally, to Grey and back from Paine Grande is a good 6-8 hours.

        Just wanted to make sure Caitlin had some accurate timings on those sections, so she and her group could start doing appropriate practice hikes!

        Cheers!

      • Sue, thanks for the input. You added some needed information that should give Caitlin a better idea of what it is they are taking on. I’d felt a bit uneasy with my initial response and had been contemplating editing it for the past couple of days. Without a doubt the third day will be a long day. What sort of shape they’re in – and the weather – will play a big role in how it goes.

        Another thing that I should have emphasized is the need to prebook the bed space in the various refugios to ensure a place to sleep. I was assuming that a group that has never done a long hike before was not planning to camp each night.

        In the end, the best thing for the group to do is take a package like the one I provided a link to in my original response. That would eliminate all the organizational worries and let the group focus on doing the walk. Any time they spend before the hike upping their fitness level and feeling of ease with walking with a twenty-five pound (12 kilos) pack on their shoulders will be time well spent.

      • Thanks for the advice! I really appreciate it! We are planning on camping and eating all breakfast and lunches with the food we bring. We plan on eating dinners at the refugios. Also, we are a group of 4 so, we are planning on bringing 2 two person tents because we are worried that if we get caught in a rain storm in the middle of the trek that we might want to take shelter. Do you think that it necessary? Or would it be better to rent the tents at the refugios? Is it necessary to make the camping reservations now, or can you just arrive and pay? Thanks again for all your great advice and help!!! Caitlin

      • Caitlin, your trip will require more planning if you intend on bringing your own gear – i.e. tents, sleeping bags, cook gear, food, etc. The more you have already done something like this – and the more of the gear you already have – the easier it will be to do.

        Putting up your tent in the middle of the day to escape a rain shower is not the way to deal with bad weather. Much better to have quality rain gear – top and bottom – and walk through the rain to the refugio where you will be spending the night. There you can put up the tents or get beds if they are available.

        You do not say when you are going so it difficult to say if reservations would be necessary. If you are going in the December to February period you can expect things to be busy – that is why it is advisable to pre-book your bed spaces. The problem with this, of course, is that you are then committed to being at a certain place on a certain day. This requires a lot of planning – and a little bit of good luck for everything to unfold exactly as you hope.

        Also, the later in the day that you arrive at the refugio, the more likely it will be full. In that case the tents – either your own or rented- would come in handy. When you arrive, the rental tents are usually already up and ready.

        I went in March and TDP wasn’t quite as busy. I had my own tent and only used the refugios for breakfast and dinner.

        If I were you – given the lack of hiking and camping experience of the group – I’d go for the organized fantasticosur option and let someone else handle all the logistics. You will end up spending more money but you will eliminate a lot of potential problems.

        Whatever you choose, I hope you have great time on your TDP hike.

  9. your blog is fantastic! I can’t wait! Could you advise if you got any permits in advance or were you able to just show up at the trail head and start hiking?

    • Ah, lucky you!

      Re: the entry permit. You get it when you get off the bus from Puerto Natales at the park entrance. Here is the word from what I think is the official park web site -

      The fee for foreigners is $ 18.000 chilean pesos (USD $38), or $ 5000 for chileans (USD $10,5) in high season, in low season the fee is $5000 (USD $10,5) for foreign tourists and $ 3000 (USD $6) for chilean people; this is a one-time fee regardless of how long you stay.

      Enjoy your time in TDP and take lots of pix. Send me the link if you upload any of them. I want to see what the park looks like when the sun is out and shining!

      • OH? so you didn’t get a DIFROL permit in advance? did you have to provide proof of medical insurance?

      • Christa, the DIFROL permit is for full-out mountaineering expeditions! See here

        http://www.difrol.cl/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=12&Itemid=27&lang=english

        You are going for a long(ish) walk in TDP park. While you need to take certain precautions and be prepared for foul weather, it is definitely not a mountaineering expedition. There are organized campsites and refugios all over the place and the trails are very easy to follow. If you are going in prime time (December-February) you will be sharing the trail with people ahead and behind you – a built-in safety mechanism. The $38. is all you have to worry about, though the refugios and the meals they serve are (to no great surprise) fairly expensive. Make sure you bring lots of pesos or Yankee dollars!

    • No ropes, no ice axes, no crampons, no harnesses… just a trail walk around TDP if you are doing the circuit. The highest you’ll get is Gardner Pass at about 1400 meters (4000 feet) as you walk from Campamento Los Perros to the Campamento Los Guardas.

      Erratic Rock is the hostel where I stayed for a couple of nights before doing my TDP hike; I also stayed there for a night on my return. it is an ultra-budget place but very friendly and helpful – a great place to get advice. It is run by some people from Oregon.

  10. Another question for you as we get closer to our January 2014 hike of the circuit! What kind of gloves should I bring. I have a light pair for biking/winter golf and a heavier pair for snow skiing.

    I’m thinking that I will only need the light pair at this time of year. Thanks again for your terrific blog. Getting excited!

    Tom

    • Tom – go with the light pair. The heavy-duty winter gloves are overkill. If the light pair are just fleece you may consider getting a light gore-tex or waterproof over mitt just in case it you run into a cold rain- or snow! You’re not mountaineering at altitude but southern Patagonia weather can a crap shoot. January is the best month of all usually so good luck! In a pinch a wool sock on each hand will keep things warm – even if not dry!

  11. Hi

    Great advice! Thanks.

    I want to complete the W circuit, but I’m sort of stranded because the only time I can go is between May 7-14. Is that an absolute no? The websites seem to suggest it’s going to be freezing and the trails may be covered up.

    Any advice?

  12. Hi,

    Terrific information. Planning to trek TDP during first two weeks of March, and am trying to prepare for the weather, as it seems it changes quite a bit from February. Regarding clothing, what would you recommend regarding jackets for warmth (fleece, light-weight down, medium/heavier down)? Will have a rain (Goretex) jacket and similar pants, but I am concerned about cold temperatures. You mentioned light gloves to the person traveling in January – true for March too, or a pair of ski gloves as well? Thank you for the tips on trekking poles and camera size (I was thinking of taking a DSLR, but may stay with a Canon Powershot to keep it light, easily accessible, as well as to reduce the risk of damage from rain/weather). Also, how did you protect your gear inside your pack from rain?

    Thanks again!

    • AF, lucky you! I hope the weather gods are kind but it is wise to be prepared for the worst. You definitely want Goretex (or similar quality) rain pants and top in case of rain and wind. Other than that, multiple layers underneath the outer layer is the way to go – base layer, fleece mid layer, fleece or wool hat, and gloves. Ski gloves may be overkill but they will do the trick if need be. I had a double layer Outdoor Research pair of gloves with a goretex outer and fleece inner. Fleece gloves alone do not cut it in the rain! Spare plastic bags will serve to protect your wool-sock-covered hands if you have nothing else. All my gear inside the pack was inside large or extra-large plastic ziplock bags that I got at the local supermarket.

      Re: camera. I had a small p&s in my chest pocket inside a ziplock bag. I did also have my dslr – sometimes in my pack and sometimes (in good weather) in a Lowe Pro bag in front of me. How much camera gear you bring along will depend on how obsessed you are about taking pics and how much other stuff you are carrying! I am bringing both my dslr and five lenses as well as a p&s to Sri Lanka next week – but it is an organized tour so I won’t be carrying much except for my camera gear. Plush, eh!

      I had a silnylon pack cover; I also had a garbage bag as backup. At the campsite I’d put my pack inside the plastic garbage bag at night and leave it in the vestibule of the tent.

  13. Hi,
    Thanks for taking the tip creating this blog/post – a lot of useful information, and better yet you keep it alive responding to questions.
    We are going in November 2014, for 6 days/five nights “W” hike, camping and avoiding as much as possible the Refugios, as we prefer more of the wilderness type of camping.
    With that said, it has been a bit difficult to find information about Campamento Britanico and Japones . The last one seems to be just for climbers, but I read somewhere else that Britanico is closed. Can you confirm anything about both?

    our itinerary should place us on day 2 – (starting from Paine Grande), as returning from Refugio Grey, either by PG lodge again or if we indeed leave early in the morning, by the Italiano – should we indeed try to avoid this one and got to the Britanico? 8 hours hiking is not too much, so it’s more related the worth of hiking another 2.45 hours to reach Britanico and overnight there.

    On day 5 we should be already at Torres – or Japones if possible, as day 6 will be just a hike down to catch the 2pm bus to Laguna Amarga

    last but not least, where you able to find any GPS mapping for garmin units? Yes, I know maps are better and barely needed – I just like to track down my ventures, and create overview maps with it.
    Thanks

    • Anon, I’ve been on the road for the past month – Sri Lanka – so i missed your comment. I’ll try to respond to your questions.

      1. November will be the beginning of the season; I was there in March, the end of the season. Prime time seems to be January and February.

      2. Camping is only allowed in designated campsites. Making your own camp spot is not a good idea. they still talk about the Czech camper who set up his own camp site and started a fire that burned down 15% of the park! The camp spots are a part of the refugio area. It’ll cost you about $10. per tent each night. If you are doing the W there will be no way to avoid the refugios since that is where the tent spots are. The TDP hike is not really a “wilderness” adventure. A plus will be the fact that it will be the start of the season and there will be fewer walkers on the trail

      I do not have any info on Britannico. It was open back in 2011 when I was there but as I wrote in my post, the weather was so rotten that day that I decided again going up the valley with all my gear and tenting there. (i am not sure my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL would have survived given the wind and rain!) It would seem that both Britannico and Japanes have been closed to camping since 2012 – they would both definitely be categorized as backcountry locations with no services at all. That is a good part of their allure! Let me know if you find out if they have been re-opened.

      3. re: Itaiano or Britannico. Unfortunately, it may not be a choice you will be able to make if Britannico is off limits. That will leave Italiano as your base camp. You will put up your tent there and then walk up the valley to see Britannico with a day pack – best of luck with the weather!

      4. re: gps mapping. I didn’t bring my unit with me. It would be nice to have a record of the exact trail you took but is probably overkill for the hike itself. The path is very obvious and if you wait ten minutes in one spot chances are very good some one will be passing by so there is no way you can get lost! They give out useful maps at the park entrance kiosk.

      You’ve got a bit of a wait until November! Lots of time to do a trial hike or two with the gear you plan to take to TDP. Have a great walk and enjoy the stunning scenery.

  14. Hello True North!
    My daughter and myself (age 65) , fellow Canadians, successfully completed the Torres del Paine circuit in January, 2014 ,thanks to your help. It was a challenging hike…..trails were washed out from too much rain and the pass was “officially” closed because of snow and white out conditions. We managed to do the pass only because we joined a guided group of Brazilians who had a very capable guide that knew the route. Very exciting in the strong wind/white out conditions, but we made it!! We lucked out with some clear weather so we could take in the fantastic scenery. Saw a few avalanches to boot! Thanks again, for sharing your knowledge!

  15. Hello True North!
    My daughter and myself (age 65) , fellow Canadians, successfully completed the Torres del Paine circuit in January, 2014 ,thanks to your help. It was a challenging hike…..trails were washed out from too much rain and the pass was “officially” closed because of snow and white out conditions. We managed to do the pass only because we joined a guided group of Brazilians who had a very capable guide that knew the route. Very exciting in the strong wind/white out conditions, but we made it!! We lucked out with some clear weather so we could take in the fantastic scenery. Saw a few avalanches to boot! Thanks again, for sharing your knowledge!

    • Tom, congrats to you and your daughter on doing the TDP circuit. Great walk, eh!

      You definitely got much more challenging weather than the rain I had to deal with. Joining the other hikers to cross the pass was certainly the right thing to do.

      If you’ve uploaded some pix of your walk and want to share them, let me know the url and I’ll add it to my post.

      Have fun on your next hike!

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