It is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, but logistically there is a bit to plan. The highlights of course are the amazing Torres Towers, the ‘horns’, Glacier Grey and mountain pass John Gardner. Below are a few bits of advice based on my experience to help you attempt this mighty 130km trek. The views and mountain air are absolutely worth the hassle.
Day 1 – Visitor Centre admin to Camp Las Carretas
Day 2 – Camp Carretas to Camp Paine Grande
Day 3 – Camp Paine Grande, Ascensio Valley, Camp Los Cuernos
Day 4 – Camp Los Cuernos, Torres del Paine, Camp Torres
Day 5 – Camp Torres to Camp Seron
Day 6 – Camp Seron to Camp Dickson
Day 7 – Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros
Day 8 – Camp Los Perros, John Gardner Pass, Camp Grey
Day 9 – Camp Grey to Camp Paine Grande, catamaran out.
1. Give yourself the time
The Torres del Paine circuit takes 8-10 days, so allow yourself 12 days from the time you get to Puerto Natales in Chile’s South. A full day for preparation in Puerto Natales is recommended. Use it to hire equipment, do trek briefings, buy food and meet trekking partners.
2. Weather warning
Even in peak season the conditions can be harsh. 90kmph winds are possible, and the rain, snow and mud can dampen spirits. Prepare by getting a -10C sleeping bag, rainproof/windproof jacket and plenty of warm layers. The easiest way to regulate your walking temperature is by shedding or adding layers.
3. Hunger games
You can access basic food at many refugios and campsites on the trail, including those on the back of the ‘O circuit’. Carrying food for 10 days is probably too heavy to carry for most, so be strategic. Generally pack food/snacks from Puerto Natales that you can’t get on the trail. (Nuts, dried fruit, salami etc.) Take some pasta, oats, cheese etc, but you can always top up the essentials on the trail. I packed 5 days worth of food and restocked on the ‘W’ side of the trail before tackling the backside of the ‘O’ trail.
4. You shall not pass
John Gardner Pass is one of the highlights of the ‘O circuit’, but be warned. It may be closed when you want to cross it due to bad weather. Many trekkers were turned back when I completed the ‘O’, it was only the group’s patience that meant we made it over. My group encountered thigh deep snow on some areas of the trail, and visibility was less than ideal. When the pass is closed, don’t try to cross. One German guy did it and was banned from the park for life. Great story for him though.
5. Be adaptable
Have in mind an idea of what order you would like to do the trek in, but be prepared that weather may influence your game plan. If weather is good, take the opportunity to see the Torres first, then complete the rest of the circuit. The sunrise over the Torres is amazing for those lucky enough to see it. (I say this because weather prevented it when I was there) Always keep in mind great views and photos are not guaranteed. It’s all a part of the adventure.
Overall this experience was my most adventurous of all my travels in Patagonia and I highly recommend. Hope my experience can inspire others to head to South America to try this out. It’s epic.