My crew of three finished the infamous W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park in early October in five days. We stayed at refugios and ate our meals at the refugios as well. As a result, we didn’t have to carry too much.
Here was my personal packing list:
- 1 backpack
- 5 shirts
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of ski pants
- 1 down jacket
- 1 pair of hiking boots
- 1 water bottle
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 camping towel
- 1 poncho
- 1 camera (w/ charger)
- 1 tripod
- 1 converter
- 15 KIND bars
Once I was wearing the jacket, pants, and boots, all of the above items fit pretty comfortably inside a regular-sized backpack. While annoying, the weight of the backpack was very manageable. The load also got slightly lighter as each day passed as the number of KIND bars in my backpack slowly decreased from 15 to 0.
Speaking of food, I strongly recommend booking your meals during the refugio reservation process. The only way to be served a meal at a refugio is if you pre-reserve it by a certain cut-off time. Even if you’re willing to pay, you won’t be able to show up to a refugio and be presented a hot meal. You will be sad too because the food served at the refugios is actually really good!
On the subject of refugios, the refugios along the trail are confusingly owned by two independent companies: Vértice and Fantástico Sur. The first two refugios on the trail are owned by Vértice (Vértice Grey Shelter and Vértice Paine Grand Shelter) and the last two are owned by Fantástico Sur (Refugio Los Cuernos and Refugio El Chileno).
Before you even get to stay at one of these refugios though, you’ll likely spend a night in Puerto Natales which is a city close to Torres Del Paine National Park. (You’ll probably stay a night at Puerto Natales at the end of your trip too.) I highly enjoyed my stay at Weskar Patagonian Lodge. I have nothing but nice things to say about the lodging, the food, and the staff. They even helped us with ordering a taxi to the bus terminal where there are a couple of different bus companies that will all bring you to the park. We arrived at the bus terminal and purchased a round trip ticket from Buses Gomez and boarded the 7:20am bus which brought us to the Pudeto stop at 10:45am which was the only bus early enough for us to make the 11am catamaran ferry ride to the W Trek. Make sure you bring Chilean Pesos (15.000 CLP for the bus ticket, 18.000 CLP for the park entrance fee, and 15.000 CLP for the catamaran ride).
Day 1: Puerto Natales -> Vértice Grey Shelter
The first half of the day is simply just getting to the W Trek. As mentioned above, you’ll leave Puerto Natales in the morning and head for the bus station. The bus will bring you to the park where you’ll take a quick stop to pay an entrance fee. It’ll ultimately bring you to Pudeto where you will board the catamaran to Paine Grande. If you have time before the catamaran departs, you can take a quick walk to the nearby waterfall to kill time.
When it’s time to board the catamaran, you’ll want to get yourself a nice spot on the top deck. The views during the catamaran ride is a highlight of the trip. Lago Pehoé is stunning with its turquoise waters. The mountains in the backdrop are equally impressive. Prior to the catamaran arriving at Paine Grande, you’ll need to pay the 15.000 CLP fare.
When you disembark, grab a quick bite to eat at Vértice Paine Grand Shelter. If you were able to reserve a lunch here, great! If not, you can scavenge for food in the mini-market at the refugio. It’s kind of slim pickings though, so if you’re a picky eater, come prepared.
Once you’re semi-fueled up, it’s time to start the hike! The hike should take 3-4 hours. This first leg wasn’t really too scenic in my opinion. It also rained along the way which was pretty miserable.
Once you check in at Vértice Grey Shelter, you can rest your feet for a bit, but I would recommend taking a small trek down to Lago Grey to check out some of the icebergs. If you desire, you can also schedule a kayaking tour for the next morning where you can get up close and personal with the glacier.
Day 2: Vértice Grey Shelter -> Vértice Paine Grand Shelter
If you choose not to take the kayaking tour, you can also do a 1-1.5 hour hike to see the glacier. Our group figured we would be doing plenty of hiking, so we decided to give our legs a break and make our arms do some work. No regrets.
Once you’re done kayaking, grab lunch at Vértice Grey Shelter and start heading your way back down to Paine Grande where you started the previous day. The hike will likely go by a lot faster since it’s essentially the same hike you did the previous day just in reverse.
Day 3: Vértice Paine Grand Shelter -> Refugio Los Cuernos
Today is a big day, but it’s #worthit. Wake up early and start your 2-hour hike to Campamento Italiano. There’s no refugio here though, so you will need to figure out what you’ll do for lunch beforehand.
Once you get to Campamento Italiano, you can drop off your heavy backpack and hike up Valle del Francés with just a water bottle and camera. While you’ll be carrying a lot less stuff and the hike itself isn’t very long, this next leg up the middle of the W is still a bit of a challenge as it’s entirely uphill. Depending on how ambitious you are, you can choose how far north you’d like to hike. My group hiked up to Mirador Frances. Mirador Britanico is quite a bit further up north if you feel so inclined. Once you’re satisfied, start heading back down to Campamento Italiano to grab your backpack and continue making your way another two hours to Refugio Los Cuernos.
Day 4: Refugio Los Cuernos -> Refugio El Chileno
The fourth day of the hike is another long one but it’s a nice one as it’s relatively flat and there’s lots of blue water along the way. About 3.5 hours into the hike, there’s a shortcut on this trail that you won’t want to miss.
Once you reach the shortcut, you’ve only got about two more hours before you reach Refugio El Chileno. If you’re feeling ambitious and have good weather, you can take the hike to the Mirador Las Torres after dropping your backpack at the Refugio. We got rain, but decided to do the hike anyway since the weather is kind of fickle and we thought maybe the rain would stop once we made it to Mirador Las Torres. We ended up getting turned away by park rangers. Oh well.
Day 5: Refugio El Chileno -> Puntas Arenas
If you’re adventurous, you can wake up extra early to make the hike to the Mirador Las Torres to catch it during sunrise. If you’re not, you can sleep in and do the hike at a more reasonable hour which is of course what we did. It was a pretty cloudy day, but again, the weather changes pretty quickly. We arrived and the sky was filled with clouds and everything was blanketed in white. We sat and waited a little over an hour and the sky turned blue to reward us with an amazing view.
Once you’re finished soaking in the scenic views at Mirador Las Torres, head back to the refugio to begin your 3-hour hike towards Hotel Las Torres. Note: The shuttle bus to Laguna Amarga does not pick up at the hotel. You will need to continue walking past the hotel to Refugio Las Torres. From there, you can take a minibus for 2.800 CLP back to the park entrance where you can use your return-trip bus ticket to catch the 2:30pm bus back to Puerto Natales to conclude your long but rewarding trip.