The Torres del Paine National Park is a vast area in Patagonia, Chile, perfect for hiking and trekking expeditions spread across several days. One of the favorite trekking routes in the Torres Del Paine is the W trek so called because the shape of the route resembles the alphabet W. It is challenging as well as rewarding, enough to make you fall in love and wish to stay on but minimum of five days are what you will need to cover the 80 km stretch.
October to April is the perfect time to arrive in Patagonia and join a local guided W trek Torres Del Paine tour. Trekkers outfit themselves with the necessary gear, which is minimal given the long distances one walks and the steep slopes to cover. Fully suited up (the weather can change dramatically from hot to snowstorms in a moment and there are thorny bushes to contend with) one sets off to base Torres or the base of towers. It takes about 4 hours to reach the Asencio Valley and the Lenga forests to reach base Torres lookout point. Depending on one’s luck there could be a snowstorm that chills one to the bone and then the next moment the sun shines warmly and lights up the huge towers, the lagoon and hanging glacier beautifully spread out in a magnificent vista. A hard day’s trek can end with a relaxing tub bath, good food, a cozy room warmed by a wood fire and a welcoming bed. But there is more in store.
The next day can be even more interesting and enthralling as one explores the French Valley in the heart of the W Trek. This is a 25 km trek right in the middle of the “W” taking trekkers across some of the most idyllic places with picture perfect scenery. One turns north and comes upon the Paine Grande Glacier with the added thrill of the possibility of an avalanche. The trek goes up higher into a vertical wall of spires with the Mirador being the most eye-catching. Trekking over for the day it is a treat to sit high in the mountains and enjoy hot food and look forward to a night of peaceful rest, far removed from civilization in the place known as Refugio Paine.
The final leg of the W trek in Torres Del Paine takes trekkers to the magnificent Grey Glacier at a distance of 11 km one must cover on foot. The Glacier is the largest chunk of ice after the Antarctica. Arriving here is a feat in itself. Intrepid souls can venture on a 5 hour glacier hike. Those not so inclined can enjoy a kayak tour and nudge floating glaciers but it is better to stay well away from them. One can find hidden coves and climb up to spots that give a lovely view of the Grey Glacier.
After such highs the return trip to Refugio Paine Grande, a trek of 11 km, can be somewhat tame but there is still some action in store. Trekkers can now get on horseback and enjoy a refreshing ride followed by hot food and rest before transferring to Punta Arenas.