And so, to the trek itself. We completed the 4 day ‘W Trek’ in Torres Del Paine National Park, and it was amazing! Probably one of the toughest things I have ever done (and ever will do) but also some of the best scenery I’ll ever see, and the satisfaction of completing such a big challenge is pretty huge!
Before embarking on the trek we went to a talk at the local trekking HQ called ‘Erratic Rock’, where we also rented all of our gear. The talk was pretty nerve-wrecking. We were told we’d be constantly wet, to prepare for all weathers, that the trails were pretty tough, and were advised what to bring in terms of food, clothes etc. We were pretty excited when told the water is so pure that you can drink straight from the lake, and also excited to hear you can eat loads of calories whilst trekking (and planning all the high calorie wraps and chocolate were were gonna eat in our heads)
Terrifying pep talk at Erratic Rock
Our 5-day supply of high-calorie FOODS for the trek!
To summarise the 5 days of trekking, it was a combination of amazing scenery – all unbelievably turquoise lakes, snow-topped mountains, glaciers, lush woods, fast-flowing rocky rivers, pebble beaches, and hiking all combinations of these.
First day scenery looking over Lago Grey
The days were tough, hiking 20-25K each day, mostly up and down steep hills, over big rocks, uneven woodland, sometimes sheer rock faces we had to clamber up and down, slippy gravel, soil, dirt.. the occasional smooth trail making our knees remember what regular walking felt like, but mostly it was up and down, aided by trekking poles!
Trekking poles: our new best friends
By day 3 we’d hit our stride and got really into the trekking, bounding through woodland and up mountains, and the consistently beautiful scenery (always by a lake, a river, surrounded by snowy mountains or approaching a 360 degree stunning lookout) kept us motivated. That, and trying to shave more and more time off of the suggested times on the maps (we were super speedy by day 5!).
We were also super lucky with the weather, as Patagonia is known for its crazy changeable climate, and trekkers had told us before that it can change from sunshine to hail in a matter of minutes, but other than some spotty rain on the first day, we were blessed with pure sunshine.
Day 3: reaching the top of the highest mirador thus far…
Drinking water fresh from the stream!
The glamour of trekking life: living on noodles and soup!
There were emotional highs and lows. The highs: the miradors (lookouts) always providing great highs en route, and the unbeatable satisfaction at the end of a trekking day, once we’d pitched our tent and hobbled into the cooking area to have a meal of noodles and cheap chocolate. It helped that all the campsites were in pretty awesome locations… Two were right next to huge glaciers and running streams, and we could hear the ice breaking off the glaciers from our tents, and in the morning we’d scavenge fresh water and wash our pots in the fresh running river.
Another great thing about the ‘W’ is that it involves some points where you camp, dump your stuff, then trek up to a mirador and back (the middle of the ‘W’) so you do get a couple of stints where you’re relieved of your big bag and tent, and just trek with some food/water, which is a nice relief in the middle.
Then the lows, all in all, were mainly exhaustion-related. At the end of day 4, after a particularly ruthless hour’s uphill climb at 60+ degree slope, an ill advised carb crash happening at the same time, I literally burst into hysterical tears once we reached the campsite. I thought I was at my breaking point, but I’d pushed through. The last couple of hours of each day was pretty tough, and both of us cracked at least once a day due to the relentlessness of the long 8+ hour days. But the high at the end was so good, I can see why trekkers get such satisfaction from it.
There were also quirky little parts of the trek that provided a fun change of scene, like the ‘French woodlands’ which was a patch of the trail that was full of purple flowers. Later on, we came across a field of silver trees that I nicknamed the ‘disco trees’. And at one point, we were trekking along a pretty pebbly beach on the side of the lake…!
The whole trek culminated in an early morning hike up to the ‘Torres’ themselves – a group of iconic granite spires with a clear turquoise lagoon underneath, which were just stunning. We didn’t make it in time for the sunrise (which would’ve involved a 3.30am start, as we’d forgotten to book the closest campsite to the climb!) but caught a break in the mist to see them in all their glory once we’d reached the top, and it made the 6am hike up a mountain all worthwhile!
A rainbow at the start of our 6am hike… a good omen?
Reaching the ‘Torres’ themselves, and the weather cleared!
The trek gave us lots of time to chat and disconnect from travel plans, technology, all outside civilisation. We also made some ace friends on the hike (as you meet up with fellow hikers along the camp points on the trek) – two couples from Missouri, and a Brit couple called Tom and Jen who were braving it sleeping in bivvy bags (without a tent!) which was pretty impressive! We all celebrated with a beer at the end of the hike, and have met up since as we coincidentally ended up in the same hostel at our next location!
So that’s a wrap on Puerto Natales… and onto more glaciers at El Calafate…