Hiking in Patagonia – W Trek Trip Report
So, for this trip, I went with a group I know from work. We hired a guide and went through an agency which is definitely more expensive. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it worth every penny. However, you could absolutely do this without a guide. If you are looking to save money or just live by your own schedule, it’s completely doable. For me right now, my job is very demanding and it’s nice not to have to do all the pre-planning.
Just be prepared though, Patagonia costs are similar to costs in the US. First, because it’s very remote and secondly, because it’s highly touristed. If you want to hike, you need to reserve spaces ahead of time and have your permits in order. It’ll take a bit more planning than other destinations but it’s totally worth it.
We saw so many beautiful landscapes. I was blown away by how amazing it is here.
W Trek Day 1
I think I’m glamping. This is so much nicer than I thought it would be! I was expecting some pretty sparse accommodations like the tea houses in Nepal; cold showers, minimal bedding and freezing cold. This is so much nicer! The Refugio is like a beautiful hostel! I have a view of the towers out my window and I can see them from my bunk bed!
The food was amazing at dinner and there is a full bar. This is nothing like I’ve had hiking before. Not only that, but the hike is much easier than I anticipated. Today we only hiked two hours across a meadow. Tomorrow is a longer day at 8-9 hours up a steep hill but the good part is we only need our day packs, not our entire packs with clothes and supplies. It’s a very nice way to ease into things.
As for the landscape, it’s so beautiful. I’m in shock of the views of the mountains we got today. As I type this I’m watching out my hostel window to see the sunset over the towers. I’m hoping for good light so I can get a picture of them in the sunset.
W Trek Day 2
This was going to be the most difficult day of the hike, even with just our day packs. We were hiking to Torres del Paine or the three tower mountains we saw yesterday. Our guide told us not to bring rain gear, we wouldn’t need it, he said.
So this morning we started out at about 8:00 AM for our 8-hour hike, four hours uphill and four down. They always say you see all four seasons a day here and we really did today. The morning was bright and warm. I was sweating through my tank top on our way out of the valley. By halfway through we were all getting a good workout but the weather quickly turned blustery and windy. Sand blowing off the mountain provided free exfoliation facials. I pondered the meaning of life and where I might procure a bag of Doritos as thoughts nachos cheese clouded my mind. Clouds covered the mountains. By the time we reached the spires it definitely felt like winter.
As we got closer it felt like the wind would blow someone off the rocks and into the valley below. The spires were incredible close up. They reached into the clouds but even then, we could see two climbers making their way up the base from the binoculars. With how hard the wind was blowing we all guessed they’d have to give up the climb today. We ate lunch on the edge of the lake in the wind.
As we started to head down the mountain it started raining, and raining, and raining. Even though the woods were really beautiful and peaceful in the rain no one was talking much. Walking quietly through the rain has to be one of the most peaceful experiences you can have. Rain water washed down the trail as we all got progressively more soaked. By the time four hours had gone by we were completely drenched.
We made it back to in the pouring rain, all in pretty good spirits. And you know the nice thing about glamping? We all got to have hot showers when we got back and the cantina sold me a giant bag of Doritos.
Today was awesome.
W Trek Day 3
I think I like glamping. This morning we left for our third day of the hike at 10:00 AM which left time for an after breakfast nap. Today, it was raining when we left and after yesterday no one was willing to risk being caught in the rain without rain gear so we were suited up as though we were prepared for 2 inches of rain and hurricane force winds. But the cold only lasted about half an hour and the rest of the day was comfortable.
We hiked up and down hill along side the lake for 5 or 6 hours with our full packs. It was “chile flat” which means hilly but nothing as steep as yesterday. The mountains were intermittently covered by clouds but when they finally cleared out we were able to see Cuernos, which I didn’t even realize we’d be able to see on this trip. It is absolutely breathtaking with dramatic peaks and valleys and the contrast of black against white. I can’t believe that it’s just around the bend from the towers we saw yesterday.
The lake we paralleled was a teal blue and when the wind died down the air was warm and still. The calm here is unlike anything I’ve felt before. It’s tranquil and relaxing to the point of lulling you to sleep if you sit still too long.
We were to our refugio before I was even sufficiently miserable to be craving a break from my backpack. Not only that, but we don’t stay in large dorms tonight. We have small cabins to share. Also, there is a skylight above the bed so I can watch the stars.
I’m going to take a nap in the sun while someone else makes dinner…
Glamping is the way to go.
W Trek Day 4
The fourth day was the hardest. It was full packs up and down steep trails over rocks in the wind and rain. We hiked up the French Valley between Cuernos and some of the most jagged peaks I have ever seen. We got up to the lookout point by lunch. I tried to stand on a rock to take a panoramic of the view but the wind kept blowing me off. We got some shelter under a boulder and watched avalanches off the mountain as we ate. They sounded like thunder. Off in the distance you could still see the turquoise lake from yesterday. When the wind died down and the avalanches stopped it felt like most peaceful place in the world.
As we hiked down the mountain and to our last refugio we went through a mossy Japanese forest with dark gray barked trees and waterfalls trickling down the rocks. I can’t believe this place even exists in the world. The contrast of the mountains and the woods, the roaring wind and peaceful silence, the storms and the sun, the jagged cliffs and variety of wildflowers; it’s all so dramatic and so beautiful.
My god, we were all really tired and footsore by the time we got done for the day. It’s the uphill and downhill that get you. You go over rocks and washed out trail and through mud until you’re pretty beat but it is completely worth it. When I think back on he hikes I’ve done that had longer days or more elevation gain, although they were beautiful, they weren’t as impressive as Patagonia. You see so much in a day here and the landscape is the most unique of anywhere I’ve been.
W Trek Day 5
The 5th and last day sounded fairly easy. It was about four hours up and downhill to a beach where we would catch a boat to go see the glaciers coming into the Grey River. We set off at a good pace but soon we had to stop for rain gear.
As we started again our guide was hiking as fast as he could to outpace the storm. Or maybe he just had to use the restroom, I don’t know. That meant we were almost sprinting to keep up. We passed through forests that were burned by a forest fire in 2012. We hiked as fast as we could through the wind the pouring rain. When we arrived at the beach we had hiked almost 7 miles in a little over three hours which is pretty good for a group that big.
We all said our goodbyes as my group got on the boat to see the glaciers. It’s funny but I’ve been on quite a few hikes like this and you all get to be friends and you part knowing you will most likely never see one another again. It’s somber and strange.
And I was sad it was done, and damp from the rain but really, really happy I had been fortunate enough to see this corner of the world.