Torres del Paine W Trek
In Torres del Paine National Park Patagonia Chile, the Torres del Paine W Trek weaves in and out of the Cordillera del Paine. This jagged monument to the power of wind and ice, was once an underground magma chamber, which solidified before being pushed up to the surface. Highlights include hanging glaciers, granite spires, luminous lakes and unbelievable views.
Booking Refugios and Campsites
You can book accommodation in Torres del Paine direct with Vertice Patagonia and FántasticoSur, both in Puerto Natales.
Where is Torres del Paine National Park?
Torres del Paine National Park is in Patagonia Chile in the Province of Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope), Magallanes, Region XII of Chile, 312 km north of Punta Arenas, the regions's capital, and 112 km north of Puerto Natales.
Can I hike the W without camping?
Yes, unlike the longer Torres del Paine Circuit, the W has refugios at fairly regular intervals along its route. The longest section without refugios is between Paine Grande Mountain Lodge, via the French Valley, to Refugio Los Cuernos, which takes about nine hours (22 km, 13.64 miles).
Alternatively, you can use Paine Grande Mountain Lodge as a base and do a day trek to the French Valley and back, and then trek direct to Refugio Los Cuernos.
What's the weather like in Torres del Paine?
Changeable. High winds, snow, sideways rain are all common, but so are long hot days - 18 hours long in mid summer. Go prepared for either - windproof layers are key.
How long is the W?
About 75 km (46.5 miles), a total of around 28 hours hiking.
Most people take between three and five days to complete it.
Can I hike on my own?
In theory yes. It's probably not a good idea to hike the Pass alone though, unless you are an experienced hiker.
Which is best - the W or the Circuit?
The W Trek is pretty much the same as the Paine Circuit without the long hike to and over the John Gardner Pass, which takes an extra three to five days. There are no refugios up there, so camping - and therefore carrying a tent, cooking equipment and a sleeping bag - is essential - unless you want to risk a very long Trekking day between refugios.
The views over the Southern Patagonian Ice Field from The Pass are unforgettable though.
Refugios or Camping?
Refugios are considerably more expensive than camping grounds, but unfortunately not necessarily any warmer or quieter. Camping of course means carrying a tent.
Torres del Paine's hotels range the exclusive Hotel Salto Chico to the mid-range Hosteria Pehoe.
Which is the most difficult part of the W trek?
Probably the last 350 metres or so of the hike to The Towers (Las Torres), which is over a field of massive moraine boulders.
What are the highlights?
The French Valley is a glacier-clad cirque hidden deep in the ribs of the Paine Massif.
The Towers are the jaw-dropping granite spires that give Torres del Paine its name.
Grey Mirador looks out over Grey Glacier, an immense highway of ice leading to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
When is the best time to go?
Between November and Feburary. It is possible to hike in Torres del Paine National Park even in winter, but you should check that refugios are open and that the road to Torres del Paine and the trails are passable.
The summer is much windier than the winter.
How do I get to the start of the W Trek?
From Santiago in Chile to Punta Arenas
Take a domestic flight (four hours) to Punta Arenas.
Aerovias DAP, www.aeroviasdap.cl
Punta Arenas is about 3000 km from Santiago. The road takes drivers into Argentina south of Puerto Montt and back into Chile between Rio Gallegos and Punta Arenas.
From Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales is about three hours.
Buses Fernández, www.busesfernandez.com
Buses Pacheco, www.busespacheco.com
Bus - Sur, www.bus-sur.cl
From Puerto Natales
The entrance to the National Park at Laguna Amarga is about 2 hours 15 minutes from Puerto Natales. Buses run around twice a day - at 7.30am to 8am and at 2.30pm.
What are the distances between refugios and/or camp grounds?
Refugio Paine Grande to Mirador Grey and back
7 hrs (22 km)
Paine Grande to Camp Italiano
2.5 hrs (7.6 km)
Camp Italiano to French Valley Mirador
3 hrs (5.5 km)
Camp Britannico to French Valley Mirador
30 mins (2km)
French Valley to Refugio Los Cuernos
2 hrs (9 km)
Refugio Los Cuernos to Refugio Torres Central and Norte
4 hrs (11 km)
Refugio Las Torres to Refugio Chileno
1.5 hrs (5.5 km)
Refugio Chileno to Camp Torres
2 hrs (2.5 km)
Camp Torres to The Towers and Back
2 hrs (1.2 km)
The Towers to Refugios Torres Central and Norte
3 hrs (8 km)