One minute I’m wet and cold whilst fighting through gale force winds and sideways rain, the next, hot, sunburned and needing sunglasses to help combat the intense brightness. My legs feel tired like pieces of lead, my ankle hurts and I’ve forgotten what it felt like to not have shoulder pain. I’m coming to the end of the 5 Day ‘W’ trek through Torres Del Paine National Park and I’m having the time of my life.
Torres Del Paine National Park in the Southern area of Chilean Patagonia is like a Mecca for hikers and outdoor sports enthusiasts worldwide. Aside from the incredibly beautiful (and at times jaw dropping) landscape, the single well-worn trail that runs through it ensures that the park is the perfect balance between a genuine wilderness experience and a safe, but exciting hiking destination. It attracts everybody from those interested in the hard core adventure sports, to the casual hiker in their thousands every year.
There are several ways you can experience trekking through the park that can last anywhere from 1 day to 20 days. For the more adventurous people you can do the challenging 'O' or 'Q' circuits. I opted for the famous ‘W’ trek; 5 days and 70km on a trail shaped like a W through some of the best parts of the entire park, including challenging climbs to incredible mountain peaks, walking along vibrant turquoise coloured glacial lakes, navigating through dense woodland, crossing rivers and coming face to face with mighty glaciers.
One thing that you have to be aware of and ready for is the crazy (but awesome) Patagonian weather. The weather literally changes several times a day. At one point on my trek it changed a few times in an hour! In a few seconds it can go from howling winds (apparently the highest recorded in the park was 180km/hr, and it made people fly against their will) with driving rain or snow thrown in to the mix, all the way to clear blue skies and sunlight strong enough to burn, and then go back again a few minutes later. What I will say is that regardless of weather, there are not many more beautiful places to hike through.
Highlights of the trek for me were scrambling up crazy inclines to reach the 3 majestic towers of Las Torres, looming over a crystal clear glacial lake, and getting close up to the incredible Glacier Grey with its icebergs slowly floating down the river. The hike to the top of Las Torres was one of the most challenging few hours of hiking I've ever done, and probably the most rewarding. Little compares to sitting on the shores of the pristine aquamarine lake and looking up at the clouds swirling across the 3 giant spires.
Glacier Grey made me feel small. Smaller than anything's made me feel. First off, it is more gigantic than you can comprehend unless your see it in person. The little pieces that break off the cliff face and crash in to the water below become icebergs that completely dwarf the large boats carrying tourists around them. It's quite an experience to see the raw natural power in person of something that big, knowing that it is slowly carving valleys through the mountains.
Over 5 days I came to see why Torres Del Paine is treasured so much by adventurous people worldwide. It's one of the most majestic and diverse landscapes in the world, and one you can truly experience safely and enjoyably without sacrificing the true wilderness exploration experience. I was there for 5 days, I could have happily been there for 20. I just guess that means I'll have to go back sometime.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.