My Experience in the W Circuit
In 4 days you can walk the W circuit in Torres del Paine. Here’s a travel experience.
Preparations of the trip
Considering that my goal this time was trekking at the W, the most advisable was taking a comfortable and light-weighted backpack containing just the minimal for a trip involving an around 55 km walk for 4 days. I had previously made the reservations for the accommodation and some meals at the Lodges (Refugios) located in the circuit, which are operated by Fantástico Sur (www.fantasticosur.com) and Vértice Patagonia (www.verticepatagonia.com).
Arrival to the Torres del Paine Park
I arrived to the Park by the Entrance Laguna Amarga. A Transfer took me from there to the Lodge (Refugio) Torre Central (www.fantasticosur.com), located in the sector of Las Torres. I was received at the lodge with an energizing meal and a delicious “Calafate Sour”, a preparation based on this purplish fruit that is typical of the Patagonia zone.
After dinner, I went to the bedroom, a place that you share with people from all over the world, of all ages, who travel thousands of miles, and who get together in this land… the end of the world, and they all have something in common: they really want to discover a new world, traveling the beautiful landscapes displayed at the feet of the Torres. Therefore, they need to rest a little and load their body with energy because a new day is coming, day one of the trekking.
The lodge Torre Central was an excellent choice. There I enjoyed comforting rest and a nutritional breakfast, which is very necessary for these walks that exceed 6 hours a day in average.
Day 1 of Trekking: Lodge (Refugio) Torre Central to Base Las Torres and return journey (9 km, 18 km round trip)
I walked for two hours until arriving to the lodge (Refugio) El Chileno (www.fantasticosur.com) during the first trekking route; I took there a short break and then continued walking for another one and a half hour to the base of the Torres.
It was a spectacular route framed by a splendorous and dense Lenga forest. The day was rainy and cold. Although the panorama scene have seemed terrible to many people, it was almost like a dream to me. I started walking very energetically, going through this wonderful forest while the rain was falling merciless over my head and shoulders. I walked vigorously, sometimes even running because I was so eager to arrive to the end.
There is an ascent at the end and I finally found myself at the base of the Torres. Surprisingly, there were clouds in the sky that covered their tops. I was somehow disappointed at first, but such feeling disappeared right away because this has happened to me before in many other trips… this is how nature is… capricious, it cannot be predicted… in addition, I already knew that this park had many other wonders to show me.
After coming back by the same route, I arrived to the Lodge Torre Central willing to rest in order to reload my energies.
Day 2: Trekking from Lodge (Refugio) Torre Central to Lodge (Refugio) Los Cuernos (11 km)
I walked the route from lodge Torre Central to lodge Los Cuernos (www.fantasticosur.com) during the second day of trekking. This was one of the most beautiful trails that I have ever traveled.
The beauty of the view displayed in front of me is almost impossible to describe. The intensity of colors, the light-blue of Nordenskjöld Lake that abruptly crashed with the different shades of greens of the local flora. These greens that were so intense that seemed unreal, almost as unreal as the red of the flowers that blossom this time of the year in Ciruelillo o Notro trees, convinced me that taking a good photo camera had been an excellent investment.
This time the weather was with me. It was a relaxed route in such a pleasant day. Temperature was nice during the walk, which took me around four hours. I was able to photograph beautiful views of Nordenskjöld Lake and hanging glaciers. The sky was totally clear, allowing me making out the Cuernos del Paine in the distance and two huge condors flying around them. It was a majestic image.
They told me I had to take my shoes off when I arrived to the Lodge (Refugio) Los Cuernos. I was glad to take them off and got in quickly. I realized immediately that I was in a warm place.
Dinner was served at 8 pm and consisted of hot soup as entrée, ideal to warm the body up. The main dish was stuffed roasted meat with mashed potatoes, and a delicious semolina pudding with wine sauce for desert, all of it home- made. I really enjoyed it, all the guests having dinner together. It was a great experience; I met people from different countries: Australia, Switzerland, United States, and New Zealand, among others. I really liked sharing Chilean wine with foreigners, not to mention that it was also the chance to practice other languages.
Day 3: Trekking from Lodge (Refugio) Los Cuernos to Valle del Francés, and then to Lodge Paine Grande (15 km)
Day 3 of the trekking started very early morning. I had breakfast at around 7.30 am and started the route that would first take me to Valle del Francés.
I started walking boosted by a different energy. I felt I was walking with my soul enriched, full… I felt that this place was captivating me.
I walked two and a half hours to the Italian Camp, which is the entrance to Valle del Francés. It was cold and raining at the Valley. The journey would consist of going around the river also called Francés, and then contemplate the glacier of the same name. While walking, I experienced a kind of frightening event, there were a series of snow avalanches, causing an appalling noise.
I arrived to the first mirador of Valle del Francés and I decided to reach that place. I could not move forward as it was snowing and the wind brought snow against my eyes, I could not see much further.
I climbed down happy and proud, I was fulfilling my goals. I went back to the
Italian Camp and I started to walk westward, this time my destination was to reach Lodge Paine Grande, at the foot of the Pehoé Lake.
By arriving to the Paine Grande Lodge (www.verticepatagonia.com) I felt a relief sensation. The place was comfortable, cozy environment, and good food. I renewed my energies. I had a rest to do my fourth and last trekking day of the W.
Day 4: Trekking from Paine Grande Lodge to Refugio Grey (11 km)
The last part of the journey considered the segment that goes from Paine Grande Lodge to the Refugio Grey (www.verticepatagonia.com)… I have never felt such a strong and powerful wind, it made me feel minimal, vulnerable. That was a hike I will never forget.
After hiking for three hours and a half I arrived to my destination, where I had the privilege of going board the Grey II vessel, which runs the Grey Glacier and Lake. A recondite place, where you really feel you are far away, that you are at the south end of the world.
When the ship finished the travel, I arrived to an even more amazing place, a place where the mountains, water, iceberg and sand melt in a shaking picture.
This last view was the end and farewell of a magic and unforgettable journey, where nature is unpredictable with phenomena impossible to predict, in such impressive-looking and majestic landscapes as Torres del Paine.
Final Reflection on My Journey
In Torres del Paine I lived four magic and unforgettable days that will remain forever in my memories. This experience meant a personal growth in many aspects: I run almost 60 kilometers, each achievement implied an unexplainable satisfaction; I met a lot of people from different countries, which allowed me to open to different cultures and worlds in the last remote place of the world. And finally, be in touch with nature in its most pure status: intense, unique, colors, sounds, tastes and feelings that only Torres del Paine can offer.
By: María Jesús Rodríguez L.
Técnico en Ecoturismo IDMA
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