Torres del Paine W Trek

TORRES DEL PAINE W TREK,  7-DAY PROGRAM

 

DAY 1-TO TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK: Our tour leader meets you as you arrive in Punta Arenas airport from your flight* from Santiago or Puerto Montt. We transfer by private van to Puerto Natales (254 km/158 miles; after a brief stopover here, we continue to Las Torres Eco-Camp (147 km/91 miles) in Torres del Paine National Park. Lunch and a visit to the Milodon Cave is provided en route. We reach our Eco Camp at Las Torres in early evening.

*Important: Travel on the earliest morning flight from Santiago or Puerto Montt, arriving into Punta Arenas no later than 1 PM. (LD)

DAY 2-PASO LOS CUERNOS TRAIL: We trek west through rolling open hills above the rocky northern shore of Lake Nordenskjold (12 kms, 4hrs). The trail is named for its spectacular proximity to the Cuernos of the Paine massif. We are walking on the slopes of one of the peaks that dominates the skyline during the drive in from Puerto Natales: Mount Almirante Nieto (2,640 m/8,660 ft). Condors are commonly seen along this route, as they nest in the rugged cliffs rising above us. We cross several rushing streams draining the mountain, and watch the play of wind on the turquoise waters of the lake. The easiest of all the walking days so far contains some of its most breath-taking scenery. We reach the 32-bed Los Cuernos Refugio in mid-afternoon on this warm-up hiking day (12 km/8 mi). (Horses or porters transport the camp gear today while we walk with daypacks.) Note: on some departures, the group will travel in a clockwise circuit, rather than the counter-clockwise circuit described here. (B,L,D)

DAY 3-FRENCH RIVER VALLEY: We trek west, first skirting the shoreline and noting the curious salt-and-pepper effect of the beach gravel which contains rocks from black and white strata exposed on the cliffs towering over us. We climb into the hills as the trail curves inland from the lake, some 8 km/5 mi to Campamento Italiano. Here we pick up the trail parallel to the French River, and start climbing up moraine through fantastic southern beech forest. We’re directly beneath the sheer granite faces of the “Cuernos”. It’s an easy climb to the French Glacier lookout. Ambitious hikers can continue up the valley another 90 minutes to a lookout above Campamento Británico (12 km, 3-4 hrs). In this magnificent setting we are surrounded by high peaks and sheer granite walls on three sides of a magnificent cirque – well worth the steady climb! Once we are back at Campamento Italiano we cross the river on a suspension bridge, and continue west (2 hrs) through rolling terrain until we reach the modern, 72-bed Refugio Pehoe for overnight. (B,L,D)

DAY 4-TO LAKE GREY: We hike north along the eastern edge of Grey Lake. It is a 4-hour hike (12 km/8 mi) to the northern end of the lake. We climb to a lookout over the Grey Glacier to enjoy picnic lunch amid impressive scenery. After lunch, we board a motor launch for an exciting cruise to the face of the Grey Glacier. Together with the Dickson and Perito Moreno glaciers (in Argentina), the Grey Glacier drains the giant South Patagonian Icefield. After photographing the headwall, we leave the boat near the southern end of the lake. We depart by van along a spectacular drive through the heart of the park. En route we see troops of guanacos, as well as abundant migratory birds in the many ponds. Overnight in the Ecocamp. (B, L, D)

DAY 5-ASCENCIO RIVER VALLEY: Today we enjoy another of the park’s classic treks, up the Ascencio River to a viewpoint at just under 1,000 m/3,280 ft directly opposite the impressive Towers of El Paine (2,900 m/9,400 ft). These three granite monoliths are remnants of a great cirque that has been sheared away by glacial ice. Though at the highest point in our hike we’re close to sea level and thus altitude doesn’t come into play, today’s hike challenges us with two steep pitches. The first is when the trail ascends the grassy slopes of the glaciated Serrano River Valley to a terrace high above the turbulent Ascencio River. We then continue across a big scree slope, losing altitude and gaining it again before we drop down toward the river and enjoy a mainly level stroll through delightful southern beech forest. On the final pitch we switchback up through the rocks of a terminal moraine to the tarn at the foot of the Towers – a heart-pounding experience with a huge emotional payoff at the top; 10 km/6.3 mi round trip. Note: if visibility is poor today, we’ll switch activities with the nature hikes scheduled for next day. (BLD)

DAY 6-GUANACOS AND MIGRATORY BIRDS: We have a full day to hike and photograph in the wildlife zones between Lakes Nordenskjold and Sarmiento. We typically include a hike through guanaco breeding grounds, observe migratory birds in the ponds, and visit some caves where we observe cave paintings. Our guides shape this delightful day according to the weather and the particular interests of participants. Once back at Las Torres Eco-Camp, we enjoy a classic Patagonian lamb barbecue cooked over open coals to celebrate our shared experience. Overnight at Las Torres Eco-camp (B, L, D);

DAY 7-TRAVEL TO PUNTA ARENAS: In mid-morning we head back to Puerto Natales, with a stop for lunch before continuing via private transfer to Punta Arenas in time to catch the late afternoon flight departing back to Santiago (B).

Included:

  • All ground transport private and domestic as indicated in the itinerary, including airport transfers to/from El Calafate and Punta Arenas
  • Catamaran crossing over Lago Grey
  • 2 nights in park refugio with dorm-style bunks, shared bath, 4 nights accommodation, sharing a tent in our Eco-Camps
  • Park fees for Milodón Cave and Torres del Paine National Park
  • Meals as indicated on the itinerary: B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
  • One typical lamb barbecue dinner
  • One English-speaking trekking guide per each 8 persons
  • One Spanish-speaking cook & assistant while in Pehoe and Torres
  • Porterage on the trek
  •  

TORRES DEL PAINE QUICK GETAWAY – 5 DAYS/4 NIGHTS

 

During the Patagonian summer season (November through March), Torres del Paine National Park enjoys 18 hours of daylight. Select this departure if you want to see all the classic destinations in the shortest possible time. You hike to the Torres viewpoint, to Grey Glacier, and up the French Valley, while staying at night in comfortable fixed camps and refuges. Despite some long travel days you’ll enjoy the highlights of this unforgettable park.

In choosing between the 4-night and the 6-night itineraries, keep in mind:

  • Only the longer itinerary includes the beautiful hike along the north shore of Lake Nordenskjold, beneath the dramatic cliffs of the Cuernos
  • On the longer itinerary we include a buffer day for bad weather, so you have more opportunity to hike to the Towers on a day with cooperative weather.

DAY 1-TRAVEL TO TORRES DEL PAINE: We meet you in Punta Arenas airport (travel on the earliest morning flight from Santiago or Puerto Montt, arriving around 1 PM). We depart immediately in our private van to Puerto Natales (254 km/158 miles; after a brief stopover here, we continue to Las Torres Eco-Camp (147 km/91 miles), located within the Torres del Paine National Park. In summer time, the sun sets around 11 PM, giving us plenty of light to admire the landscape en route and the craggy mountains while entering the park. We will make short stops in the town of Puerto Natales for lunch, and at the enormous Cueva del Milodón, a giant geological wonder that once sheltered a prehistoric sloth. Overnight camping at the Las Torres EcoCamp (L, D).

DAY 2-GREY GLACIER: We drive through the guanaco breeding grounds to Grey Lake and board a motor launch to view the calving face of the Grey Glacier at close range. We leave the boat at the Grey Refugio and hike along the eastern shore of the lake to Refugio Pehoe at the north end of the Pehoe Lake. This is a new (opened 2004) 72-bed hostel with dorm-style 6-person bunk-bed rooms, shared bathrooms, and spacious comfortable common and dining areas. (B,L,D)

DAY 3-FRENCH RIVER VALLEY: We trek east through easy, rolling terrain some 8 kms (2.5 hrs) to Campamento Italiano, then start climbing up moraine through fantastic southern beech forest. We’re directly beneath the sheer granite faces of the “Cuernos” or Horns of Paine. It’s a fairly easy climb to the French Glacier lookout. Ambitious hikers can continue climbing to the higher section of the valley, to Campamento Británico (12 km, 3-4 hrs). In this magnificent setting we are surrounded by high peaks on three sides – well worth the work! Return to the lake for the 6:30 PM boat to Pudeto, and drive to the Torres Eco-Camp (B,L,D).

DAY 4-ASCENCIO RIVER/THE TOWERS: Today we enjoy one of the park’s classic treks, up the Ascencio River to the foot of the impressive Towers of El Paine (2,900 m/9,400 ft). These three granite monoliths are remnants of a great cirque that has been sheared away by glacial ice. Though we’re close to sea level and thus altitude doesn’t come into play, today’s hike challenges us with two steep pitches. The first is when the trail ascends the grassy slopes of the glaciated Serrano River Valley to a terrace high above the turbulent Ascencio River. We then continue across a big scree slope, losing altitude and gaining it again before we drop down toward the river and enjoy a mainly level stroll through southern beech forest. On the final pitch we switchback up through the rocks of a terminal moraine to the tarn at the foot of the Towers – a heart-pounding experience with a huge emotional payoff at the top. Farewell dinner at the Eco-camp. (B,L,D)

DAY 5-TRAVEL TO PUNTA ARENAS: In mid-morning we head back to Puerto Natales, with a stop for lunch before continuing to Punta Arenas via private transfer in time to catch the late afternoon flight departing back to Santiago (B).

Quick Facts

  • 7-Day / 6-Night W Trek 
  • In/out Punta Arenas
  • October - April weekly departures
  • Overnights in comfortable dome tents and park refugios
  • Professional English-speaking Chilean guides
  • 4-night option available

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