On Sept 13 we took a bus from El Calafate, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile. The bus ride and border crossing are very easy and way less expensive than flying! For the rest of the day on Sept 13 and all day on Sept 14 we rested up since we had a big trek coming up on Sept 15!!
Day 1: Sept 15
We started our journey to complete the W Trek in Torres Del Paine with a company called Chile Nativo. The Chile Nativo van picked us up from our lodge in Puerto Natales (Kau Lodge) and then we drove about two hours to the eastern entrance of Torres Del Paine National Park. The drive was beautiful: the sun was rising, the sky was pink, and there were many llamas and cows grazing on the side of the road. We also passed a huge group of condores encircling a dead mammal, most likely a puma.
About five minutes past the entrance to the park, we arrived at our Refugio for the evening (Las Torres). We dropped our big packs off, quickly put on our layers, and started off on our trek. We were told the previous day at orientation that the estimated trekking time would be 8-10 hours and we were to bring headlamps, since we would most likely be finishing our trek after sundown.
The trek itself wasn’t too difficult, but the weather conditions made it extremely challenging. For the first hour, the terrain was mostly flat and then a bit uphill. It was warmer than we were expecting, so we actually started shedding a few layers. However, as we approached the valley, we saw a few people heading back down to the Refugio because they couldn’t make it through the wind tunnel and therefore they would need to try again tomorrow. Our guides, Armando and Chumo, explained that we would go to the valley, see if we could withstand the wind, and then make the decision whether or not to cross. We were a bit apprehensive, but Armando has been guiding tours through the park for 22 years, so we decided to trust his judgement 😬.
The next hour was pretty scary! We pushed through insanely strong winds (~120 km/hour) while scaling an extremely steep cliff in a valley. There were times where we had to hold onto one another and just stay still and wait for the huge gusts of wind to pass. Not only was the wind strong, but also the rain was coming down sideways! Luckily, we all pushed through and made it to the other side alive!!
After the valley, we trekked through a forest for about two hours. The path got steeper and steeper, but luckily there were trees surrounding the path to help lessen the strong winds. We stopped for snacks at Chileno Lodge, trekked up a bit more, and then had lunch at Torres Ranger Station. While we ate lunch, the rain started coming down harder than ever. Armando suggested that we shouldn’t do the last, highest part of the trek 1) because it wasn’t safe and the winds were too strong for helicopters to come if we had an accident and 2) because the rain and fog yields crappy views anyways. So, we decided to listen to him and start our descent.
We thought the trek down would be easier, but it really wasn’t. The weather was getting worse, our raingear was soaked through, and we started getting pretty cold and uncomfortable. Luckily, the wind had subsided and the valley on the way back was a lot more manageable. By about 5pm, we made it back to the Refugio.
We showered, put all of our equipment and clothing out to dry near the fireplace, and played cards and Jenga before dinnertime. Everyone in our group is awesome and hysterical. There’s 8 of us + 2 guides: us, a mother and daughter from Germany who now live in Qatar (Carmen and Alisha), two Aussie pilots who currently live in Hong Kong (Justin and Brendon), and a father and daughter from Australia (Anna and Steven). The two guides are Armando and Chumo. Both of them have been trekking in the park for years and are very informative and entertaining. They explained that tomorrow’s trek won’t be as strenuous as today’s, but the weather might still not be so great! 🌧
P.S. It’s SO nice to not have wifi and cell service!
Day 2: Sept 16
Today was a much clearer day. We introduced peanut butter to everyone at breakfast (yes, we brought our own mini jar of it 😎) and then we set off for Los Cuernos. The trek was much easier then yesterday (due to the nature of the trail and also due to the weather being much less extreme). The trek was about five hours and this time we were able to actually take some pictures!
We also passed many different plants on the path. There is “chowda” which look like micro apples and taste very bitter. Chumo also pointed out a plant that is used as natural viagra! We all got a kick out of that.
We got to the Refugio around 2pm, had lunch, and introduced the game “Heads Up” to everyone. After an hour, we checked into our cabins. The cabins are very nice; they have a big bed, a fireplace, and a skylight!
We relaxed, had dinner, played BS with Justin, Brendon, Anna, and Steven, and then went to bed early! 😴
Day 3: Sept 17
Today was another long, challenging day. At 9am we started our trek towards the French Valley. We trekked for about 3 hours to the Italiano campsite, which is in the middle of the base of the “W.” There was a shelter there where we could have lunch and avoid the rain. Then some of us went up to the French Valley viewpoint to see the Glacier! This trek was quite steep and very slippery. Our hands and toes were numb, but it was definitely worth it!
As we continued to trek onwards towards Paine Grande Lodge, the wind started to subside and the sky cleared up a bit. We made it to the lodge by 6pm, showered, and had dinner at 7pm. After dinner we played BS and” Guess that Celebrity” with Brendon, Justin, Anna, and Steven.
P.S. We keep learning more and more hysterical sayings from the Aussies! They say “let’s go and smash that out!” when they want to go do something quickly and with a lot of effort.
Day 4: Sept 18
Today was awesome since there was no rain or fog!! We started from Paine Grande Lodge and slowly made our way along Grey Lake to Grey Lodge. The views were amazing today!!
We got to the lodge around 3pm and relaxed, drank some wine, and played some cards before dinner. Armando and Chuma even made us some guac and cheese plates as a pre-dinner snack!! At dinner, Jason and Brendon kept buying Armando and Chuma whiskeys. After both Aussies had more than 7 whiskeys each, the twister board came out..! Let’s just say it was a very entertaining night! 🤣
Day 5: Sept 19
For the last day, we did a mini trek up to see Glacier Grey from another perspective. Chumo took some great pictures of us crossing the large, wobbly bridge!
We got off the boat and took the van for two hours back to Puerto Natales. We spent the evening having burgers and beers at an amazing microbrewery in town called Bagueles with Brendon, Justin, and Carmen!
All in all, the last 5 days have been challenging and very rewarding. We trekked over 90km and met some amazing people that we will definitely keep in touch with!!
Sept 20 is a full travel day: Bus Sur from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, then fly from Punta Arenas to Santiago. On Sept 21 we will explore Santiago!