Discussion of Bushwalking, Hiking, Trekking, Tramping, Rambling and Camping elsewhere around the world.
Thu 14 Nov, 2019 10:27 pm
Hi all, thought I'd give a trip report of my trip to South America last year where I did the "O" trek of Torres del Paine. Having been inspired after seeing pics back in 2012 I finally got around to venturing there.
I booked the trip about 3 weeks out from actually undertaking it in December 2018. To do the trek you have to pre book each campsite well in advance. It's a bit tricky as they're not run by the same organisation but 3 different mobs with limited spots. It was a bit stressful finding campsites only 3 weeks out as many people tend to book months in advance. If you don't have campsites booked the park rangers will turn you around on the trek. Being only one path you can't evade the checkpoints. There is no camping outside of the campsites either. I recommend booking campsites before flights and at least 3 months beforehand. I got lucky with the 3 weeks
Having left the flights so late due to work I had to fly the long way round the globe from Adelaide-Dubai-Santiago-Punto Arenas. I then immediately bussed it from there to Puerto Natales. (Bus rides were booked online and very easy to do. Buses are often late). I then stayed at the Hostel Camino. Highly recommend doing so as great service and close to the town centre and bus station. The owner has walked the camino de Santiago a few times so we had stuff in common and he speaks a little English.
While in Puerto Natales all the shopping needs can be done here. Plenty of groceries in little stores where I discovered that kiwi fruit can be dried. Who would've thought. I highly recommend going to "Base camp" for one of their free information seminars which are held daily. Very good information to be had.
After 2 nights in Puerto Natales it was time to go. I caught the bus (2hrs) to the park entrance. Its very bleak and not much to see on the bus ride. At the park entrance everyone pays a small fee and you get the park entry visa as well as a very useful map detailing gradients. From the entrance you can for about 15 dollars taxi it the 8 or so kms to the beginning, or walk it. I chose to walk this as I had plenty of daylight. The walk in is pretty bare and much of it is along the dirt road.
The o trek itself must be conducted counter clockwise. My itinerary is as follows:
Night one Serron (20kms including walk in)
Night two Los Perros (30kms)
Night three Glacier Gray (I had originally bought accommodation at Paine grande but staff were fine with it. $10 for a site)
Night four Paine Grande (only a few hours and the windiest portion)
Night five Torres central (30ish kms)
Night six Torres central (summit day! well up to the lake)
The entire trek is simply breathtaking I thought. I was very fortunate with the weather only experiencing a few hours rain in that week. From Serron to Glacier Gray the path is very quiet with few people. From Gray to Torres it then quickly escalates in numbers due to those doing day trips and the W track. Is it worth doing the o over the w? I think so as the backside of the mountain and the climb up the pass after los Perros is rather beautiful (see attached pics). The only thing I can complain about with the experience would be the wind. I have never come across wind like that. I was picked up at some stages when it gusted. I'm talking 200kms per hour. The reason for the high winds the rangers said was because the wind goes all the way around the globe but because it's so far south it doesn't hit anything to slow it down except the park. People's tents tore at the Paine grande site. I did not manage to go up Valley Francais as it was rather foggy so didn't bother.
Each campsite had toilets and cooking areas (bring your own gas). Some even sold food but at rather expensive prices due to the isolation.
The climb up to see the famed towers and lake that represent Torres Del Paine is achievable in 4-5hours return. The trek is rather steep but worth it. Some people recommend going early in the morning to watch it as the sun rises but personally I wouldn't after going up that. The track becomes very ruggard and falls are steep.
The return journey from Torres to the park entrance I decided to taxi it. I saw very little in the way of wildlife and certainly no Pumas. When I got back to the hostel a chick there saw 5 on the taxi from the entrance to torres. 2 adults and 3 cubs. I was amazed. Don't expect to get the lucky
Trip overall. It was worth it. I was after a quick 2 week holiday on short notice and managed to make it fit the bill. It didn't feel overly rushed and the kms per day were manageable with an average of bit over 20. Water was plentiful as drinking from streams so packweight was around 13kgs max. I highly recommend doing it and hopefully the below pictures (taken with mobile) will convince you to. Happy to answer any questions
Sun 17 Nov, 2019 6:37 am
Thanks for the post - and the photos - I’m heading there in January so the post adds to the excitement !
Mon 18 Nov, 2019 11:18 pm
Beautiful, did that in the late 90s on the way overland from Ushia in the south to Santiago, Chile. Heaps of Puma footprints in the trail.
Wed 20 Nov, 2019 9:15 pm
Watertank wrote:Thanks for the post - and the photos - I’m heading there in January so the post adds to the excitement !
I'm heading there in January as well!
loganator - I had initially intended on doing the "Q" circuit, starting at Paine Grande, then spending a day in Grey to try to do a glacier kayak then finishing the Q leg down to the south. But the campsite availability wouldn't allow it. So I'm doing virtually the same as your itinerary.
Campsites were booked in September.
A couple of questions:
- Is that your Big Agnes Scout? How did you find the A frame hold up with the wind? I'm not sure which of my tents to bring yet. I had intended to bring my Nemo Hornet 2P but the floor is thin, and I wasn't sure on the rodent situation. I got rid of my Big Agnes Fly Creek, but I have an A frame hiking pole cheapie I might bring that has held up in about 150kmh winds when staked out properly. Or the Dan Durston if I get it in time.
- Did you encounter rodents at the Grey and Paine Grande sites? I've read other reports of quite the problem at a few sites.
- What were the conditions of the trail between Paso and Grey? Just wondering as I'm seeing if it's possible to make it from Dickson to Grey in a morning (by 2pm), to be able to take a kayak tour at 2pm from Grey.
- I'm also currently debating on whether to take my warmer Marmot 800 down jacket or my Unqilo UL down jacket, and also between an Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket or my heavier Goretex Pro shell.
- I am assuming no problems getting gas canisters from Puerto Natales? I had intended on picking some up in Punta Arenas as I am there for a few days beforehand.
Thu 21 Nov, 2019 10:12 am
[*]What were the conditions of the trail between Paso and Grey? Just wondering as I'm seeing if it's possible to make it from Dickson to Grey in a morning (by 2pm), to be able to take a kayak tour at 2pm from Grey.
Did this walk back in 2015. Spent 8 nights out allowing time for bad weather and side trips. The track from Camp Paso to Grey is fine with suspension bridges over the big gullies. You should easily make it from Camp Paso to Grey by 2 pm -its about 4 hours if that. We walked from Camp Paso to Paine Grande in a day.
NB I recall a great view point 20 mins or less south of Camp Paso- Over Glacier Grey . You could spend a lot of time here so do it the arvo before if you are pressed for time.
Sat 30 Nov, 2019 12:25 am
Yep it sure is the big agnes scout. It went alright. I was a little worried at Paine grande as it was very windy there. Someone else's tent did rip during the night but mine came out all good.
I didn't encounter any rodents. If you're worried about them I suggest making sure you don't eat any food in the tent and leaving no crumbs in wrappers. Not much else can be done there.
You'll be hard pressed to make Dickson to grey by 2pm. It's very steep coming down the pass. It took me 2.5-3hrs from Dickson to los perros. Allow 90mins up the pass. 2 hrs to get down it to Paso. (even though it's 2kms it is steep as) From Paso the going is rather easy but as said above its a few hours. Just lots of wind as you walk along the cliffs and only one person on the bridges at a time so you can be waiting 10 mins at a bridge as people who are doing the W come from the other direction. You could leave earlier before sunrise (bit of a no no in the park) but let's say an hour. (the first hour from Dickson is mostly forest so won't miss out on views and you'll hit the Los Perros as the sun rises which would be rather nice). I'm a bit of a slow hiker with bad knees when it comes to hills. You're looking at a big day
It gets pretty cold on the pass and at nights so I recommend you're warmer down jacket. I rocked the North face 800 down and was fine with a old goretex craghopper one on top for wind
Yep you can get gas in Puerto Natales. However you can only cook in designated areas in the park due to fire bans
Sun 01 Dec, 2019 5:35 pm
Re Gas canisters - Erratic Rock hostel in Puerto Natales had a few years ago a large box of gas canisters from people who have used them on treks and left them in PN rather than taking it with them. We found a few half-filled canisters which we used and and returned back after our trip. No guarantees there are any there, but worth a look if you have time (especially if you go for the 3pm talk).
Thu 05 Dec, 2019 10:19 am
Cheers for the responses.
I thought I might have been pushing it to make it from Dickson to Grey before 2pm. And I didn't know about not being able to set off before dawn.
I have gone ahead and cancelled my bookings for the 2pm kayak on the lake, and might try to do it when I finish.
I am still waiting for my Dan Durston 1P mid tent to arrive, so might take that instead of the Nemo Hornet or my cheapie Axeman hiking pole tent which might not do so well at the windy sites.
Thanks again for the trip report and the tips. Looking forward to heading to Patagonia, just a little concerned about the unrest in Santiago where I am spending a few days beforehand.
© Bushwalk Australia and contributors 2007-2013.