Below is the suggested day-to-day ROUTE A for the 'W' Circuit.
DAY 1 : The minibus will transport hikers to the first camp-site CAMP LAS TORRES. Set up your tent and leave your main backpack there.
After crossing the bridge, there is a rocky path on the right upslope. It takes from 1.5 to 2 hours steadily up an exposed slope which can become very windy to reach CAMP CHILENO. Have a rest and a quick lunch there.
Then, it is another 1 to 1.5 hours through forests and certain exposed areas. At the exposed areas, it can get very chilly.
Finally, you see a sign that reads '45 minutes to Las Torres'. How can you turn back now? This last scramble, 45 minutes to 1 hour, is up a rocky slope with huge boulders. The wind is very vicious here. You cannot rock-hop as you do not know when the savage wind will come and slam you against the boulders! Best to crawl up slowly, with your arms out-stretched in front, for cushioning effect.
When you finally reach the top, you will surely gasp at the sight that unfolds before you - LAS TORRES. It was pure poetry.
Some people do the 'W' circuit the other way, saving the BEST for LAST. But if you are unsure whether you will make through the hike alive, it is better to save the BEST for FIRST.
After savouring LAS TORRES, it is the same 4-hour route back to CAMP LAS TORRES.
Bring a bottle. Water can be obtained as you pass a few streams. Always refill the bottle when you pass a stream. As you are only carrying your day-pack, the going is moderate today.
Total hiking time = about 8-9 hours.
Torres del Paine is the reason why SOME tourists fly all the way to Chile to visit. It has one of the most spectacular natural scenery in the whole wide world. There are impressive peaks, glaciers, lakes of turqoise, green, etc... colours and gorgeous valleys.
Entrance to the park is 8000 Ch Pesos, where volunteers will brief you on the treks, the camping sites and the precautions to take. There is another bus (1500 Ch Pesos) to catch from the entrance to the first camp-site. Either that, or you walk 6km there.
'The Circuit' is a route around the park in a circle. This takes between 5 to 10 days. Lone hikers are not allowed and camping gear must be carried. The circuit is not easy and some sections can be blocked or washed away.
The shorter route is the 'W' Circuit. Allow me to explain more on the 'W' Circuit, which takes about 4 to 5 days.
Starting from right to left of the alphabet 'W', the first vertical section up is to view the three famous towering, near-vertical mountains that gave the name 'Torres del Paine' the 'Torres' (towers) bit for they are called Las Torres (The Towers). This would be, to many, the HIGHLIGHT of their hike here.
Then, one has to head west, walking the horizontal bit of the 'W'. After that, the second vertical section is along Valle de Frances, where one could see beautiful ranges of mountains, including the unique-looking Los Cuernos (The Horns).
Finally, after heading west again and up to the third vertical section of 'W', one could see the impressive Glacier Grey. At the bottom of this third vertical section was Camp / Refugio Pehoe where one can take a boat ride (9500 Ch Pesos) back to Refugio Pudeto to catch a bus back to Puerto Natales.
Puerto Natales is even more wind-swept and bleak than what I remembered about Punta Arenas. I could not stay out for long amidst the tossing wind. I either had to stay in my hostel or sit tight in a cafe to avoid the wind.
One has to be here to prepare for one's hike to Torres del Paine or embark on the Navimag cruise, going to Puerto Montt, or disembark from the Navimag cruise, coming from Puerto Montt.
There are many bus companies to Torres del Paine. The one ('Maria Jose' bus) I got seemed cheaper. It cost 8000 Ch Pesos (Around 700 Ch Pesos = 1 US$) to / fro Torres del Paine National Park but there is only 1 departure time from Puerto Natales and 1 departure time from Refugio Pudeto.
The bus-ticket can be bought from a camping equipment rental-cum-internet shop located on Av M Bulnes, between Magallanes and Tomas Rogers. The wall of the shop is yellow in colour.
Tents, sleeping bags and stoves are available for rent everywhere but this same shop provides 1-man tent (not so common) and seems to have more reasonable rates.
The prices per day for a 1-man tent and stove are 2000 Ch Pesos and 500 Ch Pesos respectively. Sleeping mat and pots and plates are provided free.
For camping gas, most shops sell at around 2500 Ch Pesos. Walk down Av M Bulnes towards the water channel. There is a large camping store at nearly the last block. The burners are on display at the window and are sold at 1650 Ch Pesos each.
There are a few supermarkets near the east side of the Plaza de Armas, around the Av Baquedano and Av M Bulnes to stock up on groceries for your hike.
La cueva del Milodón es una gran caverna que está dentro de un grupo de rocas denominado la Silla del Diablo
Nos sorprendió este sitio , por el tamaño de la cueva y por los paisajes que tiene al rededor . Hay varios paseos interesantes y un museo
5crThe Milodón cave is a big cavern that is located in a group of rocks called the Devil Sadle
Thisplace syrprised to us , for the cave size and by the landscapesaround it
There are several interesting paths to walk and a museum
Puedes darte un paseo y aprovechar para llevarte algún recuerdo de la Patagonia Chilena pues hay bastantes tiendas y con cosas interesantes
You may take a walk and buy some Chilean Patagonia Souvenir as there are many shops with interesting things
Cuando llega el ferry a PN , lo primero que hacen es bajar parte de los camiones que interfieren con la salida de los pasajeros ( 1 hora )
A partir de este momento bajan todos los pasajeros a buscarse hotel
Lo más cómodo es dejar las maletas en el barco , para que las bajen los de la compañía , y luego las recojas en sus oficinas . PN es pequeño y es mejor ir a recogerlas cuando tengas solucionado el hotel
When the ferry reaches PN , the first thing they do is to unload part of the trucks that interfere with the passengers exit ( 1 hour)
From this moment all passengers go down to get their hotel
The most convenient is to leave the luggage in the ship , the company will take them down and latter you may take them in their office . PN is small and is better to go to pick them up when you have arranged your hotel
Es muy agradable darse un paseo por La Costanera , que está al borde del canal Señoret y desde allí se puede ver la cordillera de los Andes y se puede entrever Torres del Paine y el Campo de Hielo Sur
It is very nice to take a walk in the Costanera , that is besides the Señoret channel , and from there you may see the Andes range and you may distinguish the Torres del Paine mountains and the South Ice Field
Of course Torres del Paine means: huge and impressive mountains, glaciers and lakes. But there is a lot more to see on the ground. The flora of the park is varied due to a micro climate and shows several kinds of vegetation: bushes, forest, steppe and alpine flowers.
Just walk around, keep your eyes open and you will see the most interesting species
Although we saw grey foxes and some birds, for us it was really stunning to see lots of guanaco’s in the national park. It seemed if they were everywhere from the moment we were entering the park.
We were surprised these animals were absolutely not scared of us if we stopped along the road. They ignored us and kept playing, fighting or eating. We had no problems making pictures and made the nicest at the end of the day when we were on our way back and saw some mothers with their ‘baby’ guanaco’s.
After entering the National Park the road follows more or less Lago Sarmiento at the left and the rugged mountains of the Torres at the right hand side. Everywhere small lakes, guanaco´s along the road, Chilean fire bush, a hilly and winding road and almost no other people or traffic. We stopped at the 'Mirador del Nordenskjöld' and had a view of this beautiful lake with the mountains rising above the turquoise water and grey foxes strolling around. Really impressive.
Coming down a hill we suddenly reached Lago Pehoe and I think we never saw such a breathtaking mountain scenery. The yellow broom, the coloured water with the waves and the impressive Cuernos. We just walked around and enjoyed this view a long long time.
A little bit further is the Salto Chico (Small Fall), which we found with some help of a Chilean. Left of Hotel Explora starts a walking path to a viewing point for this waterfall; use the car park of the hotel.
We walked a couple of times along Seno Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound), starting at the pier along Pedro Montt, also called the Costanera. We passed the old landing stage, an ideal site to shoot some pictures!! Just outside the town is the information office of Sernatur.
The views over the bay of the surrounding mountains, still covered with snow, and further away even the Balmaceda Mountains are stunning. Everywhere along the waterfront we saw lots of seagulls and other (water) birds.
Most fascinating were the ‘living skies’ in the afternoon over this breathtaking scenery.
(It is possible to walk to Puerto Bories - about 5 km’s – in the older days an industrial complex; nowadays only a cold-storage plant and a slaughter house.)
The yellow coloured cathedral at the south side of the Plaza de Armas is an outstanding building between the other structures in Puerto Natales, built in 1930 and paid for by the Explatadora, the company which ‘owned’ almost the whole town.
The outside of the building is not too impressive, but going inside we admired the very beautiful altar and the mural with an impressive painting of the Virgin and Child, some local Indians in front of the Torres del Paine.
Plaza de Armas (or Plaza Arturo Prat) is the main square in Puerto Natales, just one block away from Bulnes, the shopping street in town and opposite the cathedral and the ‘town hall’. It is more or less a green lung with a lot of bushes and trees. It was nice to sit on one of the benches and just to relax and enjoying the Patagonian sun !!
In the middle of the square we saw an old locomotive, which was used to transport workers from town on the railway between Puerto Natales and Puerto Bories, with its meatpacking factory.
Its blue emerald or plomizo green color gives account of the virgins of its waters. The color of the water is because it comes from glaciers and the minerals contained give that color him
Su azul esmeralda o verde plomizo dan cuenta de lo vírgenes de sus aguas. El color del agua es debido a que viene de glaciares y los minerales contenidos le dan ese color
Horns of the Paine you can observe in its ends black rock; this is due to the tectonic forces and glacial that carved this bulk. It does something more than ten million years, this type of sedimentary rock covered ample areas in the region. At some moment these rocks had contact with the magma of the interior of the Earth which gave form to granite rocks. Soon, the colossal pressures of the planet made raise these impressive mountains that today we know like the Towers of the Paine.
When the glacial eras arrived, the ice covered the entire region. They only excelled the tops of the highest mountains. When retiring the ice, in the open left the granite, on which the black rock was conserved that had not been covered by the freezing.
Due to the previous today we can appreciate enormous Towers with different colors in a same bulk, which without a doubt is one of the greater quiet spectacles of the Patagónica nature
Cuernos del Paine puedes observar en sus puntas roca negra, esto es debido
A las fuerzas tectónicas y glaciales que esculpieron este macizo. Hace algo más de diez millones de años, este tipo de roca sedimentaria cubría amplias áreas en la región. En algún momento dichas rocas tuvieron contacto con el magma del interior de la tierra lo que dio forma a las rocas de granito. Luego, las colosales presiones del planeta hicieron elevarse estas impresionantes montañas que hoy conocemos como las Torres del Paine.
Cuando llegaron las eras glaciales, el hielo cubrió toda la región. Sólo sobresalían las cimas de las montañas más altas. Al retirarse el hielo, dejó al descubierto el granito, sobre el cual se conservó la roca negra que no había sido cubierta por la glaciación.
Debido a lo anterior hoy podemos apreciar enormes Torres con diferentes colores en un mismo macizo, lo que sin duda es uno de los mayores espectáculos silenciosos de la naturaleza Patagónica.