How difficult is the W Trek in Torres del Paine?
One of the most common questions we receive while guiding in Torres del Paine or by e-mail from our clients are: How difficult is Torres del Paine W Trek? Do I need any previous trekking experience? Do I have to carry a heavy backpack with me? What’s the average elevation of the hike?
In this article we’re trying to answer to all this questions so that creating a sort of guidelines for your doubts, convincing you to join us on our next season 20/21 trekking adventures in Patagonia.
How Difficult is the W Trail?
The W Trail is a 4-to-5 day trekking circuit where you’ll hike circa 65 to 80km (40 to 50 miles) depending on whether you’ll decide to hike the whole French valley to the British lookout or if you have to hike the Grey lake trail back and forth if you decide to take the boat on Pehoe lake instead of the Grey lake catamaran which as a plus, allowing you to visit and experience “The bluest Grey ever!” that is the Grey glacier itself.
In the last five years we’ve been guiding regular W-Trek program with all sort of groups and ages, from mid-twenties to early thirties young groups, to mid-sixties to early seventies experienced hikers; in fact I still remember a legendary 78-year-old Japanese man who completed the whole itinerary with patience and determination just because his son had made him a gift and wanted him to turn his dreams into reality.
Overall hiking the W is an easy to moderate trekking itinerary in which probably the toughest trail is the Base of the Towers path, which is however very popular among day hikers and therefore with the good pace we set during the hike and a nice and motivated small group can be tackled without any problems. I’d say this is the toughest part of the trekking since is the day with the longest distance to cover (22 to 23 km round trip) and with the maximum elevation gain (circa +/-800m), that’s why in all our program we decided to put it first, so that the other days will be easier.
Do I need previous mountaineering or trekking experience?
Well, the short answer would be NO, although previous experience of hiking in mountain trails where sometimes the terrain is irregular, skiddy, there obstacles like roots or boulders to avoid is preferable. Torre del Paine National Park trails are well marked and trodden therefore there is no bushwhacking or off-trail to perform.
However, while technical passages are non-existent, you must take into account that this is a multi-day activity which requires a little bit of endurance. There is plenty of time to rest in the nice accommodations of the park in order to recover from the fatigue of the long day, and indeed we tend to observe that trekkers do show tiredness especially during the last day. Our suggestion is that if you are use to do day hikes in the mountains or day walks in your city, try to train yourself for 3-to-4 consecutive days in order to improve your resistance a little bit.
Do I have to carry a heavy backpack?
Trekking in Torres del Paine gained popularity in the last two decades mostly due to the improvements on the accommodations and facilities that we find along the different trekking circuits. Having Mountain Lodges (Refugios) every 10km or so in which you can find shelter, take a shower, eat and rest in a cozy bed, makes the whole experience a lot easier and closely enough to the majority of travellers.
Thanks to this improvements and services you can hike with a simply 35-40 litres backpack since we don’t have to carry supplies, cooking facilities, camping equipment, etc… Just make sure you’ll have with you extra layer for cold or rain, a 1-litre flask for water which is fresh and abundant throughout the park, a towel and some extra clothes for the night. Follow the link to find out more precise information about how to prepare your backpack to trekking in Torres del Paine.
What’s the average elevation of the hike?
Best thing about hiking in Torres del Paine is that you don’t have to worry at all about the altitude. Mountains in Patagonia are generally quite low, with only the highest peaks reaching 3000m (approx. 9800 feet) or beyond, but those are off-limit for us. The hiking trails generally don’t go above a thousand meters, in this particular case of the W circuit the maximum elevation we reach is 900m (approx. 3000 feet) during the day we hike to the Base of the Towers.
The rest of our program runs at an average of 200 to 400m (650 to 1300 ft) and most of the time Mountain Lodges are located near lakes at an elevation of 50 to 60m (160 to 190 ft) above sea level. If you’ve hiked in Colorado or in the Alps it’d be like trekking on rolling hills!!!
Find out our guided and self-guided trekking programs in the following pages: