What is your favourite part of the W Trek?
This is a very common question that numerous guests and friends have posed to us during these years of living and guiding in Torres del Paine National Park. In this article we give you our opinions as well as those of our friends’ and guests’ regarding this famous 5-day trekking itinerary in the Chilean Patagonia, hoping that this might help you to plan your next trip to Patagonia.
Marco’s favourite section of Torres del Paine W Trek is the trail that runs parallela to Nordenskjöld which normally we hike during our second day. “I think this part of the trek is the most spectacular for two reasons: first of all I’ve never seen any trail where you hike for 5-6 hours along such a marvellous turquoise lake as Nordenskjöld; the path is fairly easy as you walk up and down rolling hills, on the right side the view and sights of the mountains are constantly changing as move East, starting with mount Almirante Nieto southeaster face, you then spot Paine Horns (Los Cuernos) and you walk below them until you finally get to see the monstrous buttress of Paine Grande. At the same time you keep the lake on the left during the whole trail and despite being the same body of water from the beginning of the day till the end you’ll never get enough of it since its colour continuously changing while the sun moves along the day.
If you have any chance to gain elevation, for instance by walking a little bit up on the trail that leads to Bader Valley, then the view gets even better.
The other reason why I love this section is that when it’s windy you really get to experience the truth Patagonian weather; observing the gusts moving west to east and sweeping the lake’s surface lifting up the water and creating small localized rainbow is something unique and worth the experience of travelling in Patagonia.
In order to better handle the wind gusts and appreciate the colour changing of the lake, my suggestion is to do the hike east to west.
Our friend Alexandra has hiked Torres del Paine self-guided three times so far and she never stop marvelling at the Grey lake and Grey glacier trail; according to her every time she hiked this section she had a different experience. The first time she walked in this area was right after the 2012 wildfire which destroyed more than 17.000 hectares (35.000 acres approx.) of the National Park; there was some sort of sadness in the air and you could feel the damage and sorrow mother nature was experiencing, however the trail was still beautiful especially once you start to see the snow capped Patagonian Andes over the greyish waters of Grey lake and as you approach the Refuge the resplendent reflection of the glacier gives you hope. In a windy day this part is also very interesting she says, you’re at the mercy of Nature with powerful wind gusts blowing right into your face the cold air that is coming from the Southern Patagonian Icefield.
The last time she trekked the trail it was late spring of 2019, most of the recovered Fire-bush were in bloom with their intense crimson flowers and when she got at the bay right after Grey refuge the area was filled up with hundreds of floating icebergs; a gorgeous day she’ll remember forever.
Adele visited us in the spring 2016, it was her first time in Patagonia and as many other travellers she ended up picking Puerto Natales as a take off base to explore Torres del Paine; with her husband they were looking for Patagonia hiking tours and they bumped on us. “I vividly remember those days hiking in the park with Marco” she says “most of the time the wind was quite strong and made us doubting whether to kayak or not in front of Grey glacier, but Marco insisted and the weather co-operated on our last day. It was a memorable moment, the highlight of our trip!!”. They had never kayak in any lake, river or sea, however that day the weather conditions were excellent and we couldn’t avoid kayaking.
“The W trek is marvellous, don’t get me wrong however rather than the trails and the landscape what I brought home with me of that trip to Patagonia was mostly the kayak experience. I was in a double kayak with Marco and felt fine since the beginning, besides, the lake was very quiet, and I still vividly remember the moment we started paddling and after 15/20 minutes we turned around a rock outcrop and, whosh, right in front of us the eastern face of Grey glacier surrounded by huge floating iceberg. I almost burst into tears for the joy I felt!”.
Pelin’s favourite part of the W trek is the upper part of Torres del Paine French valley. Most of the hikers stopped at the French lookout (also called the French Plateau), a good spot to have lunch while hearing and observing the frequent avalanches running down from Paine Grande’s easter slope; however, the best part of the this long and green valley is the section between this lookout and Británico. She particularly likes this area, it’s quiet, few trekkers are around, in spring and summer the forest is lushly green and vibrant with Rayaditos, Treerunners, Austral Parakeets and the crimson crest of the male Magellanic Woodpecker.
In fall the upper part of the French Valley is just superb, once you reach the British lookout you’re surrounded by an amphitheatre of granitic craggy peaks such as Fortaleza, Catedral, Espada, Hoja, Mascara and Aleta de Tiburón; down below the Magellanic forests is a kaleidoscope of autumn colours with the leaves changing from the intense red and orange hues of the higher elevations, to the yellowish and brownish tones of the lower part of the woods. It’s totally worth the extra four hours you need to hike back and forth to the French lookout, after all you don’t come to visit Torres del Paine every day, do you?
Whether your favourite section will be the French Valley, the Grey lake trail or the viewpoint of Base Torres depends on you and is a matter of time; certainly we’ll be pleased to guide and show you the beauty of our Middle Earth!
You find our trekking itineraries in Torres del Paine National Park in the following links: