My hike in Torres Del Paine National Park was one of the most memorable experiences I have had yet. Not only does it have its reward of overcoming a physical feat, but the scenery is sure to move you. You can read about my experience here. We were limited on time, and chose to hike the 5 day “W-Trek”, although there is a longer 7 day hike called the Circuit. Our trip went remarkably smooth considering our lack of knowledge or preparedness. It must be my Irish luck! However, there were a few things I wish I would’ve known ahead of time. Hopefully it can help prepare you for your hike!
1. Torres Del Paine is a PAIN to get to. Odds are you will start your journey in Santiago, Chile. If you are not on a tight budget feel free to fly your lucky booty all the way down there, otherwise expect to embark on a LONG “please be worth it” journey. There are a few different options, but I recommend not taking the overnight bus through Argentina because you have to pay a hefty repriprocity fee. From Santiago, catch a 14 hour bus to Puerto Montt. Then fly to Puerto Natales with Sky Airlines (about $120). Stay the night here and get prepared for your hike. To get to the entrance of the park you need to take a 2 hour bus ride and then a short boat ride. Anybody in town can you help you figure out where the bus leaves and what boat to get on.
2. Stay at Erratic Rock Hostel. We ended up getting incredibly lucky by randomly arriving at this hostel in Puerto Natales. There is no way my hike would have been as succesful if I had stayed somewhere else. They have a gear rental shop, free informational meetings everyday and an awesome staff! This is a great place to find fellow hikers to tag along with if you are a solo traveler. Click here for my full review. Trust me on this one, you NEED to stay here. They don’t take reservations so be sure you arrive early in the morning if you are hiking during the high season.
3. Mice are the spawn of Satan. How did I not come across a single post talking about these squeeky four legged monsters? Well listen here, mice will greet you at every campsite just as the sun goes down. And by greet, I really mean chew through everything you own to eat your precious food supply. Your one solution will be to hang your food and anything with a scent off a tall tree branch. This won’t always be enough though, you will also need to fashion a “rat guard” out of a paper plate to keep the little devils from climbing down the string. Expect to hear the ominous screams of frightened men and women awoken by the pitter patter of mice feet across their skin. DO NOT HIDE A SNICKERS BAR IN YOUR SLEEPING BAG.
4. “Today is easy, it’s all flat” is a blatant lie. I suppose this is a matter of perspective, but unless you were raised in a tribe that collects food from the tops of mountains I think we have the same perspective. I am an athletic young lady with the heart of a lion and let me tell you, there are some SERIOUS hills. Everyday of the hike has it’s challenges and no day was flat or easy. With this said, I think the hike is doable for almost anyone at any ability, just take your time and don’t pack 10 pounds of trail mix and fresh produce in your pack. (Whoops!)- my pack was so light by the last day that I literally ran down the last section of trail.
5. You can never have enough oatmeal. It is so light and so filling, pack more than you think you will need. This stuff was like gold when it came to making trades and bartering with other groups at camp. It is warm and can be spiced up with any of your favorite toppings or seasonings. On the topic of food, there is a grocery store in Puerto Natales where you can stock up and also a little shop designated to trail mix!
6. Pick the direction of your hike wisely. The “W-Trek” is actually a trail in the shape of a “W”. So you can start at either end. In my opinion, which also happens to be the more popular choice, you should hike west to east. This sets you up to see “Los Torres”, the towers, on your last morning. It’s what you have been looking forward to for the last 4 days and you will cry out of sheer exhaustion. But most importantly you will feel like a real bad ass and so accomplished.
7. Let it all sink in. Patagonia is a place like no other. Make sure to take some time to fully soak in your surroundings. It’s easy to put your head down as you huff and puff your way up the never ending hills, but give yourself break and take it all in. Literally every single corner offers a new spectacular view!