Visiting Torres del Paine has been on my bucket list for many, many years. I don’t exactly know when or how I became fascinated with it, but for me, Torres del Paine was a non-negotiable as we thought about spending time in South America, so I couldn’t wait for our trek to begin. We didn’t quite have enough time to commit to doing the 7-9 day Circuit, which takes you around the backside of the park, and we figured 5 days would be plenty for us, so we chose the W, a 55km trek through the highlights. We learned that there are many ways to plan your time in the park, but we chose a 5-day trek, going from west to east. Based on the distribution of the camps along the route, we thought that choosing this route made the most sense for the following reasons:
- the first day of hiking would be the shortest, making it an easy first day for us to carry our packs the shortest distance when they were at their heaviest, full of all our food for the next 5 days;
- hiking towards the east, we would have the best view of the Torres as we came closer and closer, rather than having our backs to the towers the entire time;
- the last push up to the towers, featuring some pretty dramatic altitude gains, would be tackled on the last full day of hiking, when we had eaten most of our food and our packs would be at their lightest; and
- setting out on the first day it seemed like the weather was pretty bad, which meant the towers would probably be fogged in if we started on the east side and tried to see them right away.
It turns out that we were basically wrong about everything, mostly about the weather. But, we’ve now learned that in Patagonia, the weather has a mind of its own. Most of the rangers we spoke to on the trail wouldn’t even talk about the weather – they had signs that said “Don’t even ask”. The only thing predictable about the weather in Patagonia is that it’s unpredictable. Day One: We were up bright and early to jump in the car with Don Pepe. We arrived at the bus station after a few stops to pick up other backpackers – the place was a total madhouse.