Torres Del Paine (Chile)

The natural wonders of this national park in the south of Chile can be admired in 2 ways. Either the 5-day W-Trek or the 8 to 10-day O-Trek can be chosen, the names are due to the respective shapes of the routes. The W-Trek offers a walk in one direction and a return by boat. The O-Trek comprises a challenging and at the same time, very worthwhile circle route. The Torres Del Paine ranks among the top 10 hikes around the world, thanks to the magnificent views of the huge glacier fields and the fiery mountain peaks of the Torres at sunrise.

Torres Del Paine

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Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Day 5 Day 6

 

Mar. 15, 2013 – Mar. 20, 2013

 

Day 1: Puerto Natales – Camp. Dickson, 27.5 km:
My backpack is ready for the 8-day hike – the rest of my things I deposit for a small fee in the hostel. With the first bus towards Torres Del Paine I reach the national park around 11am. I shoulder my 28-kilogram backpack and I am happy that I can get going.
The first leg leads along a jeep trail over a grassy flat. The peaks of the Torres del Paine, roughly translated as the “blue towers,” are already visible in the distance. There are some bare trees added to the scenery – the traces of a forest fire that happened a few years ago, due to carelessness. The first nice view I get is on a small hill from which the course of the Rio Paine can be followed.
After two hours and 9 km further, I reach Campamiento Serón. Campamento is the name given to the camps, which are a combination of refugios, the mountain huts, and camping sites. In the late season, it is quieter here – I spend my lunch break with a German, who has already traveled the world for 10 years. I decide to use the remaining hours of daylight and move on towards Lago Dickson. The route to get there is flat and not very strenuous.
The remaining 18.5 km I cover in 4 hours and I pitch my tent at the local campground. I spend my dinner, which consists of noodles and cheese, in the company of two couples who, like me, decided to go on the O-Trek. Before it gets dark, I go down to the stony bank of Lake Dickson and enjoy the evening mood. Due to the still air a reflection of the opposite snow-capped peaks is created on the mirror-smooth water surface. I breathe in the fresh clear air a last time and make my way back to the tent tiredly, accompanied by a few mosquitos.

 

 

Day 2: Camp. Dickson Camp. Paso, and 20.7 km:
The path is lined with trees on both sides and continues just as level as the day before. The 9 km to the campamiento Los Perros are not a challenge. I pass the campground in the forest and am glad about the change since it now leads steadily uphill. The lively green tones change to a more one-sided gray as I pass the forest border and follow a rocky trail.
The first ice field of the hike, which I can admire from only a stone’s throw distance, is the Los Perros glacier. It is surrounded by massive rocks of different gray tones on both sides; an icy lake has formed on its foot, the surface of which is slightly curled. After I turn around for the last time, gazing at the wooded valley, I march on.
The climb continues – the outlines of the John Gardner Pass are already visible in the distance. When I reach the highest point, I get a taste for the view, which will open wholly to me in probably a few minutes. On the horizon, I can already see a white structure spreading like a lake in front of a mountain background. A moment later I stand before this giant glacier, which glitters in the sun.
Fascinated, my gaze turns to the right to its origin, where the mountains are also completely wrapped in white. With frozen waves and cracks crisscrossed all over it, the cold ice paved the way for kilometers down to the left, where it finally falls sharply into the Lago Gray. Vehicle-sized ice floes drift over the water in the other direction.
An ant-like kayak which is rowing next to them and adjusting for my size estimation – some of the snow-white fragments have the height of a terraced house. After tearing my eyes from this natural wonder, I do not need long to reach the Campamiento Paso, where I erected my tent in the shelter of the trees. The setting sun dips the background of the glacier into a deep red, and ensures a relaxed ending to the day.

 

 

Day 3: Camp. Paso – Camp. Italiano, 29 km:
The first two hours of the path lead along the cliff, which gives me a view of the glacier from a different perspective. The impression is that the ice mass does not simply turn into the lake, but wants to override it with a breathtaking power. I follow the sloping path inland, and at noon I see the Refugio Gray on the horizon, near which I take a short break. A few kilometers further I cross the bridge of a rushing river and find myself in the campsite amidst a small grove at Campamiento Italiano.
Here, I get the first more detailed impressions of the Torres, three stony towers towering on the horizon. The dark tops give the impression that they have been placed on the light gray base. The muted outlines of the moon are visible on their left side, while the sun shines across the trees between the two tall towers. It is late afternoon when I erect my tent at my destination.
I’m planning to stay here for two nights, and tomorrow, with just a daypack, to appreciate the Mirador Británico. This is actually part of the W-Trek, but the time buffer and my back, which after the exhausting march so far, is looking forward for a break, are for this decision.

 

 

Day 4: Camp. Italiano, Day trip Mirador Británico, 11 km back and forth:
With my small rucksack on my back, which contents only of my 3-liter water bag, hiking is much easier. I follow the slightly ascending path along the Valle Francés with rapid steps. In the distance, I suddenly hear a dull crash that cannot be localized exactly. Therefore, I ignore it and admire the crystal clear streams that make their way down to the Nordenskjold lake.
A few minutes later there is the rumbling sound again. This time I recognize the origin. On the opposite side of the river, a piece of the glacier has loosed on the mountain. The snow dust blows through the air as a small avalanche falls over the rock like a white waterfall. I leave the impressive spectacle behind me and travel the remaining kilometers uphill. As I reach the viewpoint in the early afternoon, I take the highest stone there as a look-out.
Despite the sky, which is shrouded in shades of gray, a distant mountain range can be found over the tree tops. I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere for a few minutes before I continue the trail towards camp. Once there, I am talking with my tent neighbors, two young men from France. It turns out that they walked the W-Trek without cooking gear and only ate dry bread. I smirk lightly and lend the two my cooking equipment, including some rice and cheese – the French are very happy about the first warm food they’ve had for three days.

 

 

Day 5: Camp. Italiano – Camp. Torres, 26.5 km:
Today it will probably be a little more strenuous. Since I would like to visit Torres tomorrow at sunrise, I will try to reach the nearest campsite. Despite the cloudy sky, the views remain interesting. After an hour’s walk I let my eyes wander over the lake. On the other side, a snowy mountain rises above a brown-green landscape. A few lost sunbeams paint on the cloud wall a beautiful rainbow, which disappears behind a white summit.
After continuing my journey, I meet a group that carry out some repairs along the route. A bearded 50-year-old man hands me his tuna sandwich and justifies this by the fact that they as workers receive much more food than they need. I thank him and enjoy the variety on my menu.
The route shows only slight ascents until it reaches a fork. On the right, the path leads back to the park entrance, to the left towards the Torres – I follow the left. This climbs steeply for some time, before opening a narrow stone path on the side of a mountain. After passing the Refugio Chileno, there are about two kilometers to the last stage goal of today. These will take me to the Campamiento Torres for 30 minutes through a contrasting forest. There, I meet other campers who want to leave one hour before sunrise. I join this plan impulsively.

 

 

Day 6, Camp. Torres – Puerto Natales, 12.5 km:
My alarm clock was not necessary as rustling of the tents and the sounds of footsteps are taking over its task. At about 5 o’clock I am joining the preceding queue of people, armed with my headlamp. The glowworm-like light points of the lamps of the other hikers in front of me show that the route continues uphill. After an hour in the dark we reach some large stones just before the Torres.
Patiently, I wait with the rest of the group for a few minutes until the sun slowly emits its rays across the horizon. Seconds later, the pale gray-shrouded mountain tops are turning into a fiery red, whose breathtaking effect is strengthened by the reflection in the adjacent lake. To capture a different perspective, I try to change my location. Climbing on a different rock I suddenly slide off with my foot and lose the balance – I land a few inches deeper with my chin forward on a stone. Some anxious faces look down at me. With a painful lower jaw, I make it upon another stone shortly afterwards, but the natural spectacle is almost over.
Half an hour later I reach the campsite and pack everything together. Except for a small scar, not a lot of traces of the fall seem to remain – the pain slowly weakens. I use the same route as before, moving past the Refugio Chileno to the Hosteria Las Torres. The shuttle bus, which can be used from here, I ignore and cover the last 7.5 kilometers also on foot. An hour later I reach the Laguna Amarga, where I wait for the return transport to Puerto Natales with a happy feeling due to the charming impressions.

 

Summary:In order to be able to enjoy the O-Route in its full splendor, I would plan 8 days instead of the 6 days I used. The National Park offers stunning impressions that are worth enjoying. The hike is rightly found in most of the top 10 lists. The views of Dickson Lake, the Gray Glacier and the Paine Grande are fascinating, and the dawning scenario of the Torres after the exciting march in the dark is indescribable.