Skip to content

How you can manage a hike on Chile’s well-known W Trek in 2023

On this collection, we take you step-by-step via how we deliberate a few of the most intricate journey adventures, so you’ll be able to recreate them your self with ease. Right here, author Sarah Reid takes you thru how she deliberate her hike on Chile’s well-known W Trek.

Tracing the foothills of the snow-capped Paine Massif in southern Chile’s well-known Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, the W Trek one of many world’s most epic multi-day tramps. Named for the form sketched by the 80km (50-mile) path, the W Trek immerses you in a few of Patagonia’s most mesmerizing surroundings, with turquoise lakes, oozing glaciers, gnarled subpolar forests and wildlife recognizing alternatives aplenty (you would possibly even spot a puma ).

Whereas it is easy to comply with the well-trodden if not all the time well-marked path, planning the expedition is sophisticated by the quite a few methods to entry the route and the a number of reservations required earlier than you set out. Having lately skilled the path in two other ways, I’ve found out all of the methods you may have to plan one of the crucial memorable hikes of your life. This is what I realized.

Scout new methods to discover the planet’s wildest locations with our weekly publication delivered to your inbox.

Step 1: Time it proper

Discover the perfect combine of excellent climate and lodging availability.

Climbing the W Trek hinges on the provision of the half-dozen presently operational shelters (hostels with restricted dorm beds, a restaurant, scorching showers and campsites) dotted alongside the route, which may e-book out months prematurely throughout the November-to-February peak season. That is the warmest time of the 12 months comes with the added bonus of lengthy sunlight hours – nevertheless it can be very windy. The less-busy shoulder seasons (March to April and September to October) supply elevated tenting availability and extra agreeable climate (probably; that is Patagonia, in spite of everything). A information is required for a wintertime hike (Might to August, when shelters are closed). Wildlife, together with pumas, may be noticed year-round.

To get to Torres del Paine, you may have to journey to the small, superbly located gateway metropolis of Puerto Natales. You’ll be able to fly right here (or to close by Punta Arenas) from Santiago, take a four-day ferry journey from Puerto Montt or journey overland from Argentina (a 5.5-hour bus experience from El Calafate to Puerto Natales). From Puerto Natales, anticipate a two-hour bus experience to the jap finish of the W Trek, and a three-hour bus experience adopted by a 45-minute ferry to the western finish.

Climbing the W Trek east to west enables you to knock off the difficult hike to Mirador Las Torres on the primary day © jittykerd / Shutterstock

Step 2: Determine which path to hike in

You can begin or end your trek with one of many hike’s most epic views.

The W Trek may be hiked from east to west or vice versa, independently or guided, and you’ll take as many days as you want (pending shelter availability). Hikers with a superb degree of health will discover it is an achievable four-day unbiased hike. Think about an additional day so as to add a glacier kayaking or ice-trekking tour departing from Refugio Grey (organize prematurely; extra on this under).

The advantages of mountain climbing east to west embody frequent day by day bus companies from Puerto Natales (from 7am) to the trailhead. You may additionally knock off the difficult hike to Mirador las Torres, on the base of the three granite towers that give the nationwide park its title, on the primary day. Climbing on this path additionally means you do not have to fret about securing a spot on the primary ferry of the day throughout Lago Pehoé to entry the western finish of the W (essential for a four-day itinerary), as ferry tickets can’ t be booked prematurely. The early ferry (9am) solely operates from November to March.

The great thing about mountain climbing west to east is the chance to spend your final evening at Refugio Chileno, making it simpler to catch the dawn at Mirador Las Torres in your ultimate day and be again in Puerto Natales for dinnertime (ending at Paine Grande will get you again to city nearer to 10pm). With Patagonia recognized for its robust westerlies, mountain climbing eastward additionally retains the wind at your again for a lot of the journey.

Step 3: Contemplate your reserving choices

Reserve your lodging, transit and park move prematurely to simplify your life.

That is the place it will get difficult. the 2 shelters on the path’s western finish (Paine Grande and Gray) are operated by Vertice Patagonia, which additionally runs glacier trekking and kayaking excursions. The opposite 4 shelters (Francés, Cuernos, Chileno and Central; there’s an extra bunkhouse close to Central referred to as Torre Norte) are operated by Las Torres Patagonia. You’ll be able to e-book most popular campsites and dorm beds (some shelters even have rooms) individually via their web sites, or make reservations at camps run by each operators in a single reserving by way of Reserving Patagonia.

Meals, pre-pitched tents, sleeping luggage and mats may be prebooked for extra charges, pushing the price of a four-day hike from as little as $62 (tenting prices solely; wild tenting is forbidden) to round $400 in case you e-book all of the extras (and it is value doing so in case you’re not eager on carrying all of your provides, together with cooking gear). Reserving bus tickets to and from Puerto Natales prematurely can also be advisable; Bus Sur companies each ends of the path.

A neater if costlier choice is to e-book an all-inclusive package deal. These are available in all sizes and styles, starting from traditional unguided through-hikes, to hikes alongside sections of the path every day with a information then shuttle again to an off-trail camp or lodge every evening. (Word that it is troublesome to finish all legs of the W Trek as day hikes given the amount of backtracking required to the 2 exit factors.) Native operators providing good-value unguided through-hike packages with an east-west itinerary (about $1000) embody Chile Nativo and ChileTour Patagonia. Las Torres Patagonia and Vertice Patagonia additionally supply packages with lodging at their very own properties (a through-hike is just doable with the previous). Worldwide operators together with G Adventures and World Expeditions additionally supply through-hike packages.

You may additionally have to e-book a multi-day nationwide park move by way of the CONAF web site ($35), which will probably be checked on the entrance to the park.

Tents with mountains in the distance at Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Reserve nicely forward to safe a spot at a most popular campground or dormitory inside Torres del Paine Nationwide Park © fallarto / Shutterstock

Step 4: Put together for the journey

Discover the proper gear to your journey.

With the whole path positioned between 100-900m (330-2600ft) above sea degree, there isn’t any altitude to think about on the W Trek. Nevertheless it’s the ever-changing Patagonian climate, together with the uneven, often-exposed path, that can probably check you. Layers are key, and a water-proof jacket, rain pants and pack cowl are important year-round.

Anticipate to have next-to-no mobile reception all through the journey. Wifi coupons can be found on the market at shelters (offered the router is working) nevertheless it’s extra enjoyable to remain disconnected and mingle with fellow hikers on the bar as an alternative; each shelter have one. Be aware when packing that every part you carry into the nationwide park should come out with you – the one garbage bins at shelters are designed for lavatory paper. With a restricted variety of energy factors in shelters for charging gadgets, packing spare batteries is a good suggestion.

Step 5: Nail the path

Be adaptable to situations to get probably the most out of your journey.

Days on the path may be lengthy on a four-day hike; set out by 8am in autumn and spring to reach in camp nicely earlier than dusk. In case you’ve booked meals, most shelters have two seats; e-book the primary sitting if you arrive in camp every day to make sure an early evening, and early begin the following morning.

On foggy days, rethink rising early to hike to Mirador las Torres for dawn. You may also want to reassess the largely uphill return hike from Mirador Francés to Mirador Británico (the center arm of the “W”) in poor climate, although I hiked the latter in common situations and loved it, significantly as I noticed a pair of endangered huemul deer proper under Mirador Británico. Contemplate leaving non-essentials in a dry bag at Italiano (a CONAF-run camp not presently open for in a single day stays) in your manner up, as you may move this camp once more in your manner again down.

In case you’re making good time between Paine Grande and Valle Francés (French Valley), take into account veering off the principle path to hike the lesser-tramped different path across the barely extra scenic jap facet of Lake Skottsberg, which provides about half-hour to the journey. Flip left on the first bridge after Italiano in case you’re coming from the east, and head proper on the fork after the primary bridge you cross in case you’re coming from Paine Grande.

A hiker on a wooden walkway in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Somewhat planning goes a good distance in the direction of making the W Trek much less grueling © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Pictures

If I may do all of it once more…

I booked a last-minute four-day through-hike package deal on my first W Trek expertise. I hiked east to west in March 2022, and camped at Central, Cuernos and Paine Grande, and this itinerary was good for me. I’ve since hiked sections of the path on a guided multi-day, multi-sport tour with Chile Nativo, with very good views on Torres del Paine that complemented my first expertise.

If I had been to do the W Trek once more, I might purpose to sort out the prolonged model of the path referred to as the O Circuit, ideally in late September, as I discovered the climate very good and the crowds skinny after I visited then. I might minimize prices by making unbiased bookings, and I might e-book my meals once more (although additional comforts should not out there in any respect shelters on the O Circuit).

Since my toes had been soaking from the second day onward, I might additionally put on waterproof boots; pack fewer snacks, because the boxed lunches had been ample; and go simpler on the Carménère (Chilean pink wine) on the shelter bars. Did I point out you’ll be able to order pisco sours, too?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *