After an amazing time in Puerto Williams I had to leave to get to Torres del Paine for my reservation to hike the O trek. I was able to book a flight from Puerto Williams to Punta Arenas which cost $60,000 pesos Chilenos.
Travel Tip: If you are trying to take this flight in the high season you need to book several days in advance. Also, you can take a 2 day ferry through the fiords for roughly $100 USD.
Upon arrival to Punta Arenas, I decided to stay one night at Hospedaje Independencia before heading on to Puerto Natales. The hostel cost $10,000 pesos and included one of the best hostel breakfasts I’ve had so far. (I.E. eggs, yogurt, bread with the fixings, coffee, and tea) I also found the best seafood at the Mercado Municipal where Guillaume and I decided to buy some fresh salmon and ceviche. This was a real treat because I hadn’t had seafood in 7 months! During the afternoon we walked around the center and the coastline. That evening we enjoyed some great sushi at Sushi Bar Limeno.
The next morning I prepared to leave for Puerto Natales. I stayed at Hostel Chuman-Go which was very clean and nice and cost $12,000 pesos. They next morning I took the 1hr 30min bus ride from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park. For those who aren’t aware, Torres del Paine has a limit on the number of people that can stay at each campsite and everything tends to book up in advance especially in the high season. This is the case for both the O trek and the W trek. However, I did hear of people who were able to book only a few days in advance but they were very lucky. I was also lucky because someone told me about the need to book in advance when I first arrived to Argentina to I made my reservations in September for a hike in February (crazy I know).
Travel Tip: The only buses from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine leave at 7:30am and 2pm so plan accordingly.
Upon arrival, I paid the $34 USD entry fee and then decided to walk from the Laguna Marga entrance to the Las Torres base. While there is a bus I didn’t feel like paying more money and the walk was only 7km and took around 1hr 30min. Once I arrived to Las Torres I started the walk to Camping Seron. This was a really easy hike and the views were pretty of the rolling hills. I arrived to camp around 2pm and decided to take a nap because I was rather tired still from the hike in Los Dientes a couple of days earlier. That evening I met two guys from Santiago, a guy from Barcelona, and a guy from Israel and we found out that we would be staying at a lot of the same camp spots over the next week which was great because I had a group to each dinner and visit with each night.
On day 2, I packed up and left camp around 9:30pm. The hike to Camping Dickinson had a couple of uphill sections but overall was not that challenging. The views started to get really beautiful around mid-morning after I crossed over the first hill. It was pretty windy at the pass but not too cold. I decided to stop for lunch shortly after the guard station in the middle of the hike for that day and then I continued on because there were a few raindrops starting to fall and the clouds were moving in around the mountains. Luckily, it didn’t rain very hard or for very long.
I made it to camp around 2pm and set up my tent immediately because I could tell that rain was coming… I really lucked out because 30 minutes later the rain started falling and didn’t let up until the following morning. I felt so bad for everyone that didn’t arrived to camp early in the afternoon because they ended up soaked.
On day 3, I left camp around 10:30am because I knew the hike was only a few hours to El Perros. The hike to Perros started out heading straight uphill but the climb wasn’t too terrible and I was rewarded with an amazing view at the mirador about halfway through the hike.
The second half of the hike definitely continued uphill overall but it was a lot of uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill…it was also pretty because it ran along the river a lot of time and there were a couple of waterfalls to see. The best reward through was arriving at mirador with the view of the glacier at the top of the uphill and being able to enjoy the view for as long as I wanted because Camping Los Perros was only 20 minutes away.
On day 4 I had some bad luck….rain. When I woke up in the morning it was raining again and this was on the most challenging day of the hike. The park guides told us we needed to leave before 8am and I left camp around 7:30am. The hike was supposed to take 6hrs to Camping El Paso where I was staying the next night. When I left camp, the climbing started immediately. It was very muddy in the trees because of the rain and heavy foot traffic but that was the worst part. After an hour or so I made it out of the trees and started climbing up the rocks. The path was very well marked and very beautiful despite the rain. I kept hiking and didn’t rest on the way up because I knew I would get cold if I did. I made it to the John Gardner Pass after a couple of hours and was rewarded with a beautiful, hazy view of Glacier Grey.
The descent started out pretty easy but once I got back in the trees it got steeper and slippery. I took my time do to the rain but again continued without stopping to avoid getting cold. I was able to arrive at El Paso at 11:30am (2 hours faster than the posted time on the map). Upon arrival I fixed some hot soup for lunch and then pitched my tent so I could change out of my wet clothes. Due to the weather, I decided to take a nap and stay as warm and dry as possible. Luckily around 5pm the rain stopped. Since I had to pack up a wet tent that morning everything was extremely damp and so I decided to take down my tent, wash it, and then dry it in the sun before nightfall. I also walked 5 minutes to a mirador of Glacier Grey from Camping El Paso and was rewarded with amazing views. I was so glad I got to see the glacier with fewer clouds since the view from the John Gardner Pass wasn’t very good earlier in the day.
On day 5 I had one of my longest days of the trek. I decided to skip Camping Grey and go straight to Camping Paine Grande. The hike from El Paso to Grey was absolutely beautiful because I was walking along the Grey Glacier most of the time. It also has several swinging bridges over the canyons which were fun. I arrived to Camping Grey after 2hrs and 30min and decided to keep going a little more before lunch.
It was at this point that the trail started to overlap with the W trek and I could immediately tell a difference because of the number of people. Before this I was extremely spoiled because there are fewer people allowed to hike the O trek. I appreciated this because I saw very few people during the day and was able to enjoy the nature and views in solitude. Once I started overlapping with the W trek I didn’t have quite the same solitude but it still wasn’t horrible.
The hike from Camping Grey to Paine Grande was very beautiful and also VERY windy. At times I was almost pushed to the ground because the wind was so strong at certain times. I arrived at Paine Grande around 4pm and started setting up camp. Unfortunately, as I was setting up my tent a huge wind gust camp and snapped one of my tent poles. Luckily, I had an emergency splint I could use and that saved me for the rest of my trek!
On Day 6 I woke up to rain again. Since there was a wonderful shelter to cook and eat in I took my time at breakfast and then decided to read for a while to see if the rain stopped. I knew I only had a couple hours of hiking that day so I was very relaxed with my departure time. Luckily, I was rewarded for waiting and the rain stopped around noon long enough for me to dry out my tent and pack up camp. I then walked the three hours from Paine Grande to Camping Italiano. The rain started again during the trek so unfortunately the mountains were covered in clouds most of the time. I arrived at camp mid-afternoon and decided not to hike up Valle del Frances due to the rain and cloud cover.
On Day 7, I decided to make up for my easy day the day before. I started with a sunrise hike up to Valle del Frances. I didn’t go the entire way but I walked 1 hour or so up and then back down. I was rewarded with amazing colors during the sunrise and the mountains were visible unlike the day before.
After the morning hike, I ate breakfast and then packed up camp and left around 10am. I made it to Los Cuernos after 2 hours of hiking and ate a quick snack. I then continued onto Camping Chileano only stopping for lunch at one of the many mountain lookouts. I arrived at Chileano around 4pm thanks to the short-cut the exists from the main trail.
Upon arrival I had the nice surprise of being told I was upgraded from using my own tent to using one of the sites’ tents. This was great because I didn’t have to unpack all of my stuff. Since I had 4 hours until dinner was served (the only option in Chileano is to eat at the refugio) I decided to use those 4 hours to visit the Torres when there were fewer people. The hike up took around 1 hour and 30 minutes and wasn’t too challenging (I hiked it in Chaco sandals) although it was uphill the entire time. The view of the Torres from the laguna was absolutely amazing and it was a great rewarded after 20ish miles of hiking that day. I was able to hike down in an hour and even had time for a hot shower before dinner! I was also rewarded with a 3 course meal in the refugio which was a nice change after the dinners of instant mashed potatoes and soup I had been eating for the previous 6 days.
On day 8 I had breakfast in the refugio and visited with an amazing couple from Germany that I sat with the night before. We enjoyed talking about our trips in South America as well as our travel hopes for the future. I finally left camp around 10am and enjoyed the very tranquil downhill hike back to the visitor center. The hike down only took a couple of hours and I had plenty of time to take the afternoon bus back to Puerto Natales.
My hike in Torres del Paine was amazing and I’m so glad I opted to hike the O because I had the opportunity to enjoy the surrounding with fewer people. While the W was definitely a beautiful part of the hike too I enjoyed the contrast between both sections and would definitely recommend either hikes to anyone planning on visiting Torres del Paine!