How To Hike The W Trek In One Day

Torres Del Paine Landscape, Inca To Inuit

On our Inca to Inuit adventure, Jake and I have been fortunate to take in two of the most famous hike’s in the World: The Santa Cruz trek in Huaraz and The Inca Trail. As we travelled South towards Patagonia fellow travellers had told us to ensure we had enough time to take in the W trek in the famed Chilean National park, Torres Del Paine.

Torres Del Paine Granite, Inca to Inuit, The W Trek

The W trek is undoubtedly the most famous hiking route in Patagonia. Traditionally a 4 to 5-day hike, the route winds you through vastly different vistas from glacial valleys through dense emerald woodlands and, of course, the landscapes famed imposing mile high granite towers.

Torres Del Paine Landscape, inca to Inuit

Unlike some other South American hike’s the W is a hut-to-hut route, allowing you to walk from camp site to camp site without having to carry your tent or food. Each campsite has refugios which are similar to dorms. Sleeping up to 6 people, these dorms provide showers and kitchen facilities. Alternatively, you can hire a tent at each of the campsites which will be set up for you prior to arrival. Should you prefer to have more comfortable accommodation there are hotels on site, however, this may restrict the route you can take.

Lynds looking over Torres Del Paine, Inca to InuitHaving splurged on our 4 day Patagonian Navimag adventure, we arrived in Puerto Natales with a significant dent to our bank balance. Knowing we wanted to be in Buenos Aires for Christmas, we were also short on time but certain that we must make time to visit Torres Del Paine and hike as much of the W trek as possible.

Puerto Natales Dock, Navimag, Inca to Inuit

We found our usual online resources to be rather unhelpful in explaining whether it was possible to hike the W trek in less the usual 4-5 days. The reality is, it is possible and due to the way the park and camp sites have been designed, the W is the perfect hike to customise in order to suit your needs or the type of landscape you would like to enjoy. We decided to just do a one day trek, walking from the Torres campsite near the entrance of the park to the base of Las Torres (three granite towers).

The W trek follows a trail (normally from East to West), in a ‘W’ shape. It takes in the 3 main valleys, which will take you through three breathtaking vista’s.

  • Our chosen route, up the Ascensio Valley: Here you will trek from the entrance of the park up an 800m ascent through woodland and past glacial streams to the famed Las Torres (three granite towers). If like Jake and I you choose to do a return journey in one day, the full day is around 18km and will take between 8-10 hours including breaks and depending on your fitness.
  • French Valley: Although we did not venture to this part of the park, you will find a wide variety of flora and fauna here including opportunities to see condors soaring overhead. The French Valley also offers excellent views of the three towers from a different perspective that of the Ascensio Valley and the hike is possible in one day also, although an early start would be required.
  • Grey glacier: This part of the hike takes you to the Western-most edge of the park where you will see the huge Grey glacier. The hike from the French Valley to the glacier although long, is flatter and more easy going than other parts of the W. Possible to reach in two days there and back if you head West from the entrance and use a campsite along the base of the W, this part of the trek gives you the chance to see the Patagonian Ice Cap which can surely be nothing short of spectacular. It is possible to see the glacier in one day if you choose to take the catamaran across the lakes.

After heading to the Tourist information centre in Puerto Natales, we were advised to a local tour company who would arrange our bus and book us a slot at a campsite near the entrance of the park for that evening. After a quick supermarket sweep, bundling as many pot-noodles and biscuits into our bags as possible we jumped on the bus from Puerto Natales bus station to Torres Del Paine.

Jake in Torres del Paine, Inca to Inuit

The bus from Puerto Natales will cost you around 15,000 Chilean Pesos for a return journey and takes approximately two hours from door to door. Buses leave twice a day from Puerto Natales once in the morning 11 am and once in the afternoon 2 pm. You can buy your tickets at the bus station, however, some hostels will be able to offer you a cheaper rate, so check with your hostel before you head to the bus station. Upon arrival in the park, you will need to pay an entry fee and go through a security briefing. A second bus, costing around 2,800 Pesos, will then take you into the park from where you can start your hike.

Torres Del Paine, Inca to Inuit, W Trek

With nothing but warm clothes, our walking boots, food and sleeping bags strapped to our backs we arrived at the Las Torres Campsite. Impressed by the standard of the tents, cleanliness of the camp site and warm showers we happily snuggled up for the evening, ready to wake up bright and early to embark on our W trek adventure.

It took Jake and me from 6:30 am to 3:30 pm to do the round 18 km hike to the base of Las Torres and back to the Las Torres campsite. There are two camps between Las Torres campsite and the base of Las Torres if you fancy breaking up the hike into two days. Many choose to hike up to the closest campsite to the base on day one and then hike from 4:30 am on the second day to the base in order to see the sun rise over the granite peaks.

Lynds in Forrest Torres Del Paine Inca to Inuit

As you are hiking in Patagonia it’s worth remembering that the weather is very changeable and extreme in it’s conditions. Expect winds of up to 100 mph, snow, sleet and rain to randomly interrupt your hike.  Be sure to pack enough layers and wear suitable walking boots. The last two hours of the hike to the base of Las Torres is hard and involves some climbing. If it has been raining or snowing the rocks can be extremely slippy so be sure to have sturdy boots with a strong grip. I took walking poles which helped me considerably, plastic tipped are best due to the number of rocks you go over.

It’s worth noting that if you don’t fancy hiking the W in its entirety there are opportunities to horse ride or kayak elements of it.  You are also permitted to bring cars, bikes and motorbikes into the park however you will be restricted to the areas you can explore with a vehicle.

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  • Reply
    Colin Manders
    21st December 2015 at 8:23 am

    I want to do this , maybe next year…….

    • Reply
      21st December 2015 at 12:07 pm

      You most certainly should! It’s my favourite place so far. Need to return one day and complete the W, or maybe even the O which is the huge loop you can do around the park. Also want to horse ride along the Puma trais. Next time, however, I need to somehow trade camping for this

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