Torres del Paine O Circuit
Trekking in Patagonia around Torres del Paine
Paine Massif Big Circuit, also known as the O-Circuit, is for daring trekkers seeking for a truly Patagonian experience. On this 7-day trekking and camping adventure, you'll camp in remote areas and hike more than 110 km along one of the world's classic trails; continually accompanied by granite mountains, impressive glaciers, untamed weather and spectacular views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Starting with a hike up to Torres del Paine, we'll move to a more remote area following Paine River upstream till reaching the backyard of the National Pak: Dickson Lake and Glacier. From here we'll then start ascending through Austral Beech forests reaching the highest point of the Circuit, John Gardner Pass and its infamous unstable weather. From the Pass a crazy descend will lead us along Grey Glacier and Lake to leave the chance to explore the amphitheater of the magical French Valley at the very last of our efforts. Crossing Pehoe Lake will be our way to bid farewell to Torres del Paine National Park thus ending this unforgettable experience of your travelling to Patagonia.
DAY 1: PUERTO NATALES --> BASE TORRES
22Km (13,5 Miles) - Elevation Gain: +/-770m (+/-2550ft) - Hiking Time: 7-8 hrs
Departing Puerto Natales early in the morning we travel to Torres del Paine National Park via unpaved accompanied by jumping guanacos, elusive grey foxes and black-necked swans. Our first challenge is the ascent to Base Torres lookout, following the Ascencio River into the Ascencio Valley. After our first hour-an-half trek we'll pause to observe the magnificent valley filled up with beech forests, glaciers and waterfalls. We'll then continue uphill for another 90 minutes and prepare to ascend a gigantic terminal moraine. At the top, we'll be rewarded by the arresting sight of the Towers themselves. At this lookout point 900 meters above sea level, the three granite spires appear to burst dramatically out of the rocky landscape, while at their base a green-blue lake provides a counterpoint of stillness. Here, we'll have lunch and take pictures before beginning our descent down the same path and to our mountain lodge: Refugio Torre Central.
DAY 2: TORRE CENTRAL --> SERON
14Km (8,7 Miles) - Elevation Gain: +/-250m (+/-850ft) - Hiking Time: 4-5 hrs
Depending on the weather, our early morning start will be lit up by orange-tinged views of the Towers. Our path takes us through a very old forest of beech trees where we may hear woodpeckers or the noisy Austral Parakeets feeding on the fruits of the trees. Today's 14 km hike is the Circuit's easiest and takes us via a well-marked, slightly sloping trail. Along the way, an exceptional view of Paine Chico Mountain will accompany us. Our destination is Serón Campsite, where we'll set up camp and enjoy a replenishing dinner.
DAY 3: SERON --> DICKSON
19Km (11,5 Miles) - Elevation Gain: +/-200m (+/-660ft) - Hiking Time: 6-7 hrs
Today's leg shows off the Park's hidden backside and its less known although equally impressive craggy peaks marking the border with Argentina; gorgeous and colourful flowers as orchids, calceolarias, and violets will accompany our steps. After a bit more than an hour we'll reach the Horseshoe Lake, thus the only climb of the day which won't take us more than half an hour and will gift us with a m arvellous view of Paine Lake and the surrounding mountains like Cerro Diente, Agudo, Cerro Onhet and Stokes. From this vantage point the trail slightly descends towards the valley of Paine River till reaching our lunch break, Camping Coiron after almost 3 hrs. From Coiron campsite we follow the river upstReam alongside grassy meadows and boggy marshes till reaching a lateral moraine which it'll give us sight of the geometrical peak of Cerro Cubo, as well as Lake Dickson and its glacier. Right below us Dickson refuge and Campsite for the night.
DAY 4: DICKSON --> LOS PERROS
12,5Km (7,5 Miles) - Elevation Gain: +450m (+1480ft) - Hiking Time: 4-5 hrs
Today is a day to train our muscles with a nice hike uphill before tackling the John Gardner Pass that awaits us the next day. Often touted as one of the most beautiful sections of this wilder side of Torres del Paine, we'll hike through ancient beech forests, wander undulating trails and follow Los Perros River. Mountains, waterfalls and lush vegetation will never be far away, as our trail crosses the river via suspension bridge and arrives at the base of another terminal moraine; this time belonging to Glacier Los Perros, a hanging glacier that feeds the glaciar-flour-fed lake at its base. A final half hour hike takes us to today's destination, Los Perros Campsite. Tonight's campsite is the only one on the Circuit without hot showers and standard bathroom facilities such as flushing toilets.
DAY 5: LOS PERROS --> GREY GLACIER
19Km (11,5 Miles) - Elevation Gain: +650/-1100m (+2140/-3600ft) - Hiking Time: 10-11 hrs
The most strenuous day of the Paine Circuit has arrived, bringing demanding trails and variable weather conditions. Of course, your efforts will be more than rewarded with some of Torres del Paine's most heart -stirring landscapes, experienced by very few visitors to Torres del Paine. We'll begin along a muddy and swamp-like section of the trail through the forest very early in the morning; after about an hour an half we should be clearing out of the tree line and start to ascent through boulders and scree towards the John Gardner Pass, which we should be reaching after 3-3,5 hours of good hiking pace. At this Pass, 1200 meters above sea level, Patagonia's famous winds are strong and the views across Grey Glacier and of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field still unexplored peaks are astonishing. The trail now steeply descend back to the beech forest and takes you alongside the glacier, ascending and descending through the woods and going across three spectacular hanging bridges that gift you with the view of the almost muscular granite walls of Cordon Olguín. As we come closer to Grey Glacier Eastern front we may see an ice calving (where chunks of ice break off a glacier's edge). Tonight we'll recharge at Grey Campsite.
DAY 6: GREY --> PAINE GRANDE
11Km (6,5 Miles) - Elevation Gain: +/-250m (+/-820ft) - Hiking Time: 3,5-4 hrs
Depending on your energy level and weather conditions, we give you the option to choose from completing an ice hike with the aid of crampons across the central section of Grey Glacier or kayaking on Grey Lake, paddlingg around icebergs and in front of the glacier. Later, we'll have lunch at the Refugio and hike to Pehoe Lake for about 3,5 hours leaving behind us the immensity of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and approaching the monstrous-like granitic walls of Cuernos del Paine. Night at Paine Grande Campsite.
DAY 7: FRENCH VALLEY --> PUERTO NATALES
26Km (16,2 Miles) - Elevation Gain: +/-600m (+/-2000ft) - Hiking Time: 8-9 hrs
Today's destination, the French Valley, is a spectacular natural basin surrounded by peaks and hanging glaciers. This is a return hike, so we will be able to leave our packs behind and trek lightly. We start by walking around Paine Grande, the highest peak in Torres del Paine, through native Patagonian firebush and evergreen beech forests. At the suspension bridge over the French River, the arresting hanging glacier atop the valley will come into sight . From here, we'll walk for another hour, ascending 300m through a section of an old moraine before arriving at the lookout point (the "Plateau"). Your reward is the bird's eye view of granite peaks and hanging glaciers. To one side, the French Glacier and Paine Grande (3050 m ); while to the other, La Espada, La Hoja, La Máscara and the main and north "Horns" of Los Cuernos arch upwards.. If weather and time are on our side it's worth proceeding for another hour an half uphill until reaching the British Lookout where an amphiteather of granitic peaks like Cerro Fortaleza, Catedral, Castillo and the sharp Shark's Finn await for us. We'll take our time to have lunch at the viewpoint, surrounded by these imposing peaks and open skies. Our return hike is along the same track, and the catamaran will take us back across Pehoe Lake to meet our private transfer back to Puerto Natales.
Entrance to Torres del Paine National Park
6 Nights at Campsites with 3-Season Tents based on Double Occupancy
All Meals indicated in the program except for Breakfast on Day 1 and Dinner on Day 7
Private Transportation Puerto Natales - Torres del Paine NP Round Trip
Catamaran to cross Pehoe Lake
Certified Guide of Torres del Paine National Park
Any Additional Nights
Travel Insurance (Air/Ground Evacuation Costs)
Alcoholic and Non -Alcoholic Drinks Except the ones Included in the Menus
Ice-Hike or Kayak Activity on Day 6
Gratuities for the Guide
SEASON 2019/2020 (Valid until April 2020)
2 Members 2150 USD p.p.
4 Members 1490 USD p.p.
6 Members 1280 USD p.p.
Emily and Sam - February 2020
"By far one of the best experiences we have ever had! We did the Circuit-O with Marco in February 2020 at the end of a 6 month adventure across North America. Without a doubt it was the highlight of our trip. Hiking through the most stunning landscapes that get better and better each day, to chatting away the day with our fantastic guide Marco and having a picnic lunch next to one of the biggest glaciers in the world, followed by a well-deserved beer and game of cards at night– it is an experience not to be missed. We were both vegetarian, and one of us gluten free and Marco went above and beyond to ensure that we were well fed with delicious food. Even a real pressed coffee every morning! Marco & Pelin are so thoughtful and generous and will make sure that you get the experience you dream of well beyond any of the other guides in Patagonia. Would love to come back and hike more of Patagonia with you both."
Rachel and Declean - October 2018
"We hiked the Circuit or 'O' Trek in Torres del Paine in a very wintery (and snowy) October 2018, and we could not have done it without the guidance and expertise of Pelin and Marco. They are such wonderful people who made us feel comfortable straight away. Their knowledge of the park is fantastic; we didn't have to worry about a thing because they knew exactly what they were doing. We especially relied on Pelin and Marco when it came to crossing the John Gardner Pass - easily the most difficult point of the trek. The Pass was covered in snow and might have been dangerous if we had attempted it on our own, but Pelin and Marco had all of the appropriate safety gear including snow shoes and a satellite phone. We felt safe and were able to enjoy every moment. And the view at the top of the Pass was easily the best I have ever seen in my life! Thank you so much Pelin and Marco for all the laughs, great trek conversations and help along the way. We are so thankful to have trekked with you and will never forget our experience! ."
The Region: Torres del Paine National Park
Trekking the O - circuit in Torres del Paine
Patagonia is mainly shaped by three factors: tectonic forces, the Icefields and the Wind. The Andean Cordillera is the longest mountain range in the wolrd, stretching from Colombia to Chile for about 8000km; it represents the backbone of South America and shapes the landscape throughout the sub-continent, particularly in the southernmost part of it. The predominant western winds (the Westerlies) carry moisture from the Pacific ocean and as they slam into the Chilean coast the mountains force moisture-laden air up, drenching the western side of the range in rain and burying the summits in snow. Patagonia's extensive network of glaciers is thus built and shaped by the wind, and the delicate balance of glacial ice in these temperate latitude depends on the strength and constancy of the Westerlies. Towards the East lies instead a flat and drier landscape, the Patagonian Steppe or Pampa, dominated by yellow-cushioned bushes and grasses and where average rainfall is almost as equal as to a desert-like environment. Torres del Paine National Park lies right in the middle of this scenario, thus its importance as a special ecosystem and a worldwide recognized Biosphere Reserve; from one side the Southern Patagonian Icefield and from another the grassy Steppe, right in the middle the craggy granite peaks of the Paine Massif that we will discover during our trekking programs.
This multi-day trekking itinerary in Torres del Paine is the type of outdoor activity suitable for hikers who have done other trekkings in the past and are willing to endure longer days and more basic accomodation in camping tents. The O Circuit in Torres del Paine is not necessarily strenous in terms of distances to cover or elevation gains, however the lenght of the entire activity and the high level of weather variability require a good sense of adaptation and endurance. On average we are going to walk between 6 to 8 hours a day, covering a distance of roughly 14 to 22km (8,5 to 13 miles daily). Elevation gain in Torres del Paine is not an issue since the trails run along valleys and lake sides with small to average elevation gains; as well as altitude is not a concern, since the highest point we are going to reach during this 7-day trekking circuit is located at 1250m (circa 4100 feet).
Suggested daypack should have a capacity of 35-40 liters in which we will bring our lunch box, extra layers for rain and cold, a water flask and our camera. Water is plentiful inside the park and drinkable since no wild animals roam around the trails we hike, although for those who are use to purifying tablets you can carry them with you!
Perhaps the most challenging element is going to be the wind, this area of South America is very famous for its strong wind gusts which sometimes can reach up to 100km/h (60 mph). This is something you can only experience in Patagonia.
Torres del Paine National Park Camping
During the trekking journey the accommodation inside Torres del Paine National Park will be provided by 3-season tents for 2 people normally pre-installed at the campsites where we'll spend the nights. Bathroom areas are in common and separated between men and women, in most of the places with toilette facilities and hot showers.
Breakfast will be served inside the mountain lodge, with hot bevarages, cereals, bread, butter, jam, fruit, juice and scrumbled eggs. We'll then be provided with a box lunch to carry every day in which we find a sandwich, cereal bars, choccolate and fruit. Dinner normally starts with a soup of veggie cream, main dish with chicken, meat or fish with rice and veggies. Vegetarian and Vegan options are available.