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Backpacking W Trail, Patagonia, Chile

  • Nov 15, 2012 · 7:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

Disclaimer: I am not a guide or travel agent. The W trail will be a backpacking trip and I generaly stay in hostels. These dates were chosen to try to avoid the cost and crowds of high peak season, there is still a chance for inclement weather.

Fire Update

DETAILED ITINERARY, ESTIMATED COSTS, ETC

Everything spreadsheets, financials, what people are bringing, flights

[masked] Meeting Notes

[masked] Meeting Notes

[masked] Meeting Notes

[masked] Meeting Notes

$150/$50 kayakers/non-kakyakers deposit due Aug 1, 2012. Addn $82 deposit due Oct 1, 2012 for kayakers.

Nov 17th arrive Punta Arenas, Chile

Nov 18-19 Glacier kayaking trip

Nov 20-24 W-trail

Nov 25-27 Buffer days, penguin sight seeing if possible

Nov 27-30 Pucon, Chile, climb Villarica Volcano

Dec 1 Return home


General Info: Taken from http://www.besthike.com/southamerica/chile/paine.html

Torres del Paine

Hikes here known as:

  • Towers of Paine
  • the Paine Circuit (El Circuito)
  • the "W"

If you could trek only one place in the world, Paine would be a good choice. It is unforgettable!

WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE

  • CHILE is mostly coastline
  • the 100km (62mi) Paine Circuit is unique & gorgeous
  • circuit the stunning Paine massif if you can
  • shorter, easier 5-day alternative called "the W"
  • astonishing, jagged mountainscape
  • Towers of Paine, spires of pink granite
  • Horns of Paine (see photo below)
  • fantastic glacier views but no risk of altitude sickness
  • accommodates all levels of hiking ability & experience
  • easy to hike independently
  • no need to speak Spanish, though it helps
  • unique Magellenic forest
  • wildlife includes condor, guanaco, fox, & nandu (rhea)
  • no need to filter water
  • it's a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • one of National Geographic's 50 places to visit in your lifetime
  • even a chance to see a puma
  • it's close to the excellent Fitz Roy trek
  • ... add a comment here


image available as wallpaper

CONSIDERATIONS

  • most hikers carry their own heavy packs. Porters and pack animals are not used in Paine except for horse treks.
  • Carrying a huge pack for 10 days is what convinces many hikers to do the "W" instead
  • tenting is far easier to organize than trying to get a space in the crowded huts (refugios)
  • November to April are the best months
  • in January & early February first-come, first-served campsites are crowded
  • you need to plan for horrible weather
  • rain, sleet, even snow
  • winds over 100km (62mi) / hour are common
  • it can get cold, though hypothermia is not typical during the hiking season
  • summer average temperature is 11C (52F)
  • summer lows drop to 0C (33F) plus wind chill
  • summer highs maximum of 24C (75 F)
  • the days are long in Patagonia during their summer — it is light until at least 10PM
  • hiking is possible any month though you will be considered loco if you go off-season
  • Chile is the most expensive country to travel in South America. Budget at least US$30 a day. Closer to US$50 is more likely. Days on the trek will save you money.
  • meals, food, drink and supplies are available in the Park but they are very expensive. Carry as much with you as you can. Buy the rest as you go.
  • many find it difficult to organize an independent hike over the internet. Important websites are down or confusing.
  • ... add a comment here

Those who find Chile overpriced yearn to cross the border into Argentina as quickly as possible.

LOGISTICS

  • Paine is far from Santiago, the capital of Chile
  • the park is in Patagonia about 51 degrees south
  • many hikers fly into Punta Arenas but the jumping off point for hikers is the small town of Puerto Natales, closer to the park.
  • many hikers trek Fitz Roy in Argentina on the same trip. Access to Fitz Roy is out of El Calafate, Argentina. It is easy to bus between El Calafate and Puerto Natales.
  • another interesting transport option is to take the Navimag ferry to Patagonia. It disembarks in Puerto Natales.
  • many hikers would like to bus directly to Paine from El Calafate. We keep hearing rumours that such a route runs during high season but we've never found it.


REI.com Paine & Fitz Roy

  • the complete Paine Circuit is 100km (62mi) plus many excellent sidetrips
  • we recommend 9 days, 8 nights minimum for the Circuit
  • if you do not have that much time, hike the W — 5 days, 4 nights. The "W" is far more popular than the Circuit though we like the Circuit better.


larger version on i-needtoknow.com

  • the "W" is the red section of the Circuit
  • from PN you travel by bus or mini-van to Torres del Paine National Park
  • park entrance fee (US$14) is the same for every visitor, regardless of how long you stay in the Park
  • no special trekking permit is required
  • shuttles take you to any of a number of trailheads
  • start at Hosteria los Torres if you want to do the entire Circuit
  • for the "W" the most popular start is Lago Pehoe

For Paine, most hikers need budget:

  • bus Puerto Natales - Park return = about US$21
  • park entrance fee = 8000 pesos (about US$14)
  • tenting = 3500 pesos (about US$7 / person / night) or free
  • optional boat tour of Lago Grey
  • rental gear, if needed, in Puerto Natales
  • add a comment here

Very expensive meals & treats (3-6 times the cost of the same items in Puerto Natales) are available at many of the refugios and are almost impossible to resist. You need carry a substantial wad of cash to do the Paine Circuit.

TENT OR BUNK BEDS?

  • on the treks you have only two choices
  • we strongly recommend you carry a tent, if you possibly can
  • tenting you have complete freedom to do what you want each day. No reservations of any kind are required.
  • getting a required reservation to stay in the crowded refugios (cabins) is difficult and relatively expensive. Moreover, there are not enough refugios to easily do the entire Circuit.(It is possible.)
  • if you decide on refugios or rental refugio tents — you need to reserve them. This can be a hassle in high season. Reserve in Puerto Natales as soon as you arrive at the Andescape or Fantastico Sur offices. So far it seems near impossible to do this on-line or by email.
  • if you have any advice, please use the link below. Booking refugios is the biggest single hassle on Paine.
  • ... add a recommendation here

INDEPENDENT OR GUIDED?

The Paine trails are often rated medium difficulty. We would agree but be aware that there are very difficult sections. The scramble to the Towers of Paine, for example.

The north side of the Circuit is muddy & rough in places. Evacuation by horse would be difficult.

That said, even children & non-hikers will not only survive, they will thrive in this magnificent environment.

If you can carry a pack & tent, there is no reason why you need sign on with a tour. There are plenty of people around. You cannot get lost.

If you do prefer to have a guide, there are no shortage of companies eager to take you.

The easiest way to hike Paine (we think) is to sign on with Pathagone : a "W" 5 day, 4 night trek staying in refugios cost US$330 / person in a quote we got Nov. 2006. Email Path@gone to get a quote for your own adventure.

If you prefer to dayhike independently, consider taking trips out of the Paine Grande Mountain Lodge and campround, managed by Vertice Patagonia . They have an ideal location.

LOCAL INFORMATION

Management of the wonderful Paine resource is convoluted & confusing. Two private companies (Andescape & Fantastico Sur) share responsibilities with the Park & run the Refugios. A third company Vertice Patagonia runs one large Lodge and campground. Pathagone has some role, as well. Some of these websites have been down and / or confusing in the past though they are getting better.

We found it difficult to get accurate, up-to-date information in Puerto Natales, as well. The agents at the Park gates were no help either.

It is best to ask hikers in Puerto Natales who have recently returned.

Looking for trekking partners? Plan an extra day or two in Puerto Natales. Put a note up at your hostel & check at the popular gringo restaurants. It is fairly easy to hook up with others for this trip. And easy to hook up with other hikers on the trail.

BEST TREKKING GUIDEBOOKS

BEST TRAVEL GUIDEBOOKS

OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS

BEST MAPS

  • JLM Mapas Topographical map 1:100,000: Torres del Paine Trekking Map

Browse a number of on-line maps listed on the i-needtoknow Paine maps page

BEST WEBSITES

After this site, the best links are


Join or login to comment.

  • Salve

    Awesome people, awesome trails, awesome good time.

    1 · December 2, 2012

  • Russ

    Good luck to you world travelers. Have a safe trip. Watch out for those hidden crevasses!

    1 · November 13, 2012

  • Steve S.

    Salve, both my international and domestic flights are now booked. I can send you the info but they are all the same flights that you are on. Anybody who has not booked their international ticket should do so today. The flight is down to $898.00. It has been $[masked] for the past two weeks.

    August 15, 2012

    • Salve

      Oh steve, people will now hate you for telling them that!!

      August 15, 2012

  • Salve

    Q: So how are we packing for this trip? Any luggage?
    A: we should be able to store luggage in the hostel during both kayaking and backpacking trips, but depending on our rental car situation, we may have to limit it to 1 regular/carry on size duffle bag and one fully packed backpack.

    July 27, 2012

  • Salve

    At the top of the event description I've posted an excel sheet with estimates on cost and schedule, https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0An7b6SWwGUsOdENUbzg1X0JVTTdZbV9xc1NqblJlUFE

    April 4, 2012

  • Salve

    you pay the $140 fee when you arrive at customs, I'm looking at ticket prices daily and when I see something good I'll email everyone. I'm told you maybe able to try to hold out until 3 months before to get a good ticket, but I'll probably look for something less then the $1300 that I saw last Nov. and settle for that. tickets thru argentina are worse so I'll still look to fly thru chile.

    March 23, 2012

  • Salve

    Boo, there is a $140 fee to enter chile, probably good for 20 years but quite high. I may have to fly myself thru argentina as I've already paid the argentinian fee.

    March 23, 2012

  • Rob

    At least one change of clothes is good, but I would be comfortable with getting a little smelly (it's all part of backpacking!). Weight depends on how good a packer you are and I would recommend doing a couple backpacks before you go to suss that out. Also, people always bring a luxury item that isn't necessary, but loved. Food is probably the trickiest item for people. You don't want to end up carrying calories that you wont end up eating, but you don't want to run short on energy either.

    March 20, 2012

  • Rob

    I agree with the layers aspect. It seems like the temps could range from 40 to 70 that time of year, so a variety of non cotton, wick away and rain gear would be great. If your rain gear is older, you can pick up a spray at REI to coat the outside of it, ditto for hiking bots to help keep feet dry. Multiple pairs of socks is a good idea as it sucks hiking with wet feet if we get caught in rain. Sharing stoves and water filters is good to cut down on weight as well as tents(if we end up tenting)

    March 20, 2012

  • Salve

    REI dividends are out and so is their 20% coupon. Additionally, I've read, it's better to bring layers of warm clothes instead of a big heavy jacket, winter stuff should be on sale now. For the experienced backpackers, any suggestions for the volume of our backpacks? I know that it all depends on how much each person can/should carry but just some thoughts on your personal experiences would be helpful. How about changes of clothes? One set, none, etc? Pairs of socks?

    March 20, 2012

10 went

  • Salve
    Mis.Information, Organizer,
    Event Host
  • Angela
    "Bananas make me angry",
    Event Host
  • Steve S.
    Event Host
  • Maggie
    Event Host
  • Rob
    The Frontman, Assistant Organizer,
    Event Host
  • jay
    The "Wiz"ard,
    Event Host
  • Raj
    Mr. Go-Go, 8 lives and counting,
    Event Host
  • Althea
    The Bandit,
    Event Host
  • Ann +1

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