We disembarked the Navimag in Puerto Natales, a small rustic town which would probably be a ghost town if not for one thing, it’s the gateway to the Torres Del Paine National Park – home of the world-famous W-trek. Being the fans of alliteration that we are, we couldn’t resist another W word so booked our bus and accommodation and headed off to the park. We decided to stay in refugios (hostels based in the park) rather than camping so we didn’t have to carry large backpacks full of food and camping equipment (and not because we are old, lazy and afraid of the cold! – who are we kidding?)
Our route was as follows:
Day 1 – Pehoe to Refugio Grey. Today’s W is brought to you by the word “Wet”
After arriving at our start point by catamaran in glorious sunshine we were soon given a reality check on how fast the weather can change in the mountains and our nice, short 3.5 hour warm up trek to our refugio at the Grey Glacier soon turned into a trudge against 50km winds and horizontal rain. We didn’t get to see much on the first day other than our feet but the refugio was warm and cosy and the staff amazingly friendly so we were dry and warm in no time and then fed to bursting.
Day 2 – Refugio Grey to Refugio Los Cuernos. W is brought to you by the word “Windy”
The W trek is so-called because it is in the shape of a W (duh!) but could also be because “you double” back on yourself a lot. Today, doubling back was a good thing as we got to see all the things we missed on the first day. We started with a short walk to the glacier mirador where we were rewarded with our first clear view of the Grey Glacier and lots of icebergs floating around in Lago Grey. We then had a wind assisted (75 kmph gusts) walk back to Pehoe where the catamaran dropped us the day before and then another 4 hours on to Refugio Los Cuernos, our home for the next 2 nights, past incredibly blue lakes and spectacular monochrome mountains.
Day 3 – The French Valley. W is brought to you by the words “Warm” & “Wow”
Today was probably our favourite day, partly because the dodgy weather had been replaced with glorious, warm sunshine. We left our heavy packs at the refugio and went on a day hike to the French valley and back. The French valley is tree-lined on one side (our side) and ice-lined on the other. Every so often you would hear a thundering noise as ice broke off and caused an avalanche – incredibly spectacular! The sheer force is memorizing to watch and people have been known to sit there for hours awestruck. We carried on for another couple of hours to get to the mirador where we had fantastic 360 degree views of the whole valley. Simply stunning.
Day 4 – Refugio Los Cuernos to Refugio Chileno. W is brought to you by the word “Weary”
After the previous two 9 hour-long walking days we were understandably a little tired on this day (ok , we were completely knackered!). Thankfully this was a relatively short day, 5 hours, which we took really easy with lots of stops. We took the shortcut to the refugio but this meant that we were off the maintained trails so were faced with muddy fields and had to balance precariously on old logs to get across the streams. We arrived at the refugio mid afternoon but were so weary from the previous days we took the opportunity to chill out for the rest of the day rather than going to see the Torres del Paine towers. They would be tomorrow morning’s finale.
Day 5 – Refugio Chileno to the Torres Del Paine mirador. W is brought to you by the word…. (I’ll tell you later)
So, after walking 90+ kilometres on the trek, past spectacular glaciers, gauchos, icebergs, guanacos, avalanches, mountains, forests, rhea, lakes and valleys we got up at first light to make the 90 minute trek up to the Torres del Paine themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen we give you…. drum roll please…. the spectacularly beautiful Torres Del Paine
Oh Bugger! Yes, todays W is brought to you by the word “Whiteout!”
I don’t know what we had done to upset Pachamama (Mother Nature) but she really didn’t like us at the moment – an inch of snow! Of course she also turned the knife a little more when 3 hours later, after we had walked right down to the valley to catch our bus back to Puerto Natales, the skies cleared and the day trippers who enjoyed a lie-in and walked up relaxed and refreshed got to see the towers in glorious sunshine.
Don´t despair though as we saw the towers clearly from the valley and the main thing was the completion of the trek. 100km in 96 hours and only 2 small blisters – Result! Now to hit the bar – Vino time!