As temperatures drop and mountains and valleys sleep, trekkers in-the-know take to Torres del Paine’s trails. The winter W Trek connects Grey Glacier, the French Valley and Towers lookout on five days of superb hiking fuelled by crisp air and still landscapes – minus the jostling crowds and cramped Refugios.
• Have Torres del Paine almost to yourself
• Trek to Grey Glacier, the French Valley and Towers lookout
• Five days of winter hiking
• Peaceful, almost empty trails and Refugios
• Crisp, clean landscapes
• Stay in mountain refugios
Chilean Patagonia is famous for its unpredictable weather and the possibility of experiencing the four seasons in one day. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared for anything. The winter climate is dry and cold with temperatures of between -10º C and 10º C. Weather conditions are more stable between May and October. Because trails may be covered in snow and/or ice, it’s highly recommended that hikers bring appropriate gear to accommodate these conditions.
Your private transfer will pick you up early in the morning and drive you to Torres del Paine National Park’s administration area, where our first hike will begin. This is a 6-hour hike along Las Carretas trail to the shores of Pehoe Lake, tucked at the base of the Paine Massif. The Grey River will accompany us along the way and we’ll have a picnic lunch before arriving at our Refugio. Once there, you’ll settle into your dorm before meeting again for dinner.
Today our destination is Grey Glacier: a stirringly beautiful ice giant ending abruptly in the glacial lake of the same name. We’ll set out early, ascending 200 meters through the winding path that takes us to Laguna Negra. Here, we’ll see sections of the massive Southern Patagonian Ice Field, a geological phenomenon that still guards many unexplored sections. You’ll continue on to Grey Glacier’s lookout point, passing forests and rivers, with possible sightings of the spectacled and flying steamer ducks that call them home. We’ll have lunch at the lookout with the mammoth Grey Glacier at our feet, and might be lucky enough to catch sight of ice calving from its huge walls into the freezing waters. We return along the same path, accompanied by views of Paine Grande and the muscled granite walls of Cordon Olguín, to our Refugio where we’ll spend a second night.
Today’s hike is a challenging trek to heart of the Paine massif. Our destination, the French Valley, is a spectacular natural basin surrounded by peaks and hanging glaciers. After breakfast we’ll set off on a 2-hour hike through firebush and beech forests to the suspension bridge over the French River. At the entrance to the Valley - a glacial moraine - you’ll scramble over huge boulders and catch the first sight of the hanging glacier atop the valley. From this point, you’ll ascend for an hour through a dreamlike Japanese garden landscape before arriving at the French Valley viewpoint (the “Plateau”). Your reward is a heart-stirring bird’s eye view of granite peaks and hanging glaciers. To one side, the French Glacier and Paine Grande (3050 m); while to the other, La Espada, La Hoja, La Máscara and the main and north “horns” of Los Cuernos arch upwards. In the upper section of the Valley, Cerro Catedral and Cerro Fortaleza loom like turrets above the landscape. We’ll have lunch at the viewpoint, surrounded by these imposing peaks and open skies, then return to our Refugio via the same route for our final night there.
Today we’ll make our way across the park, hiking the Las Carretas trail to the park’s administration area. Here, we take our transfer to Rio Serrano where we’ll stay the night in a cozy cabin located in the Rio Serrano Sector.
In the morning, we take a transfer to Las Torres area to begin our hike to the three Towers base. The trail takes us through beech forests and past views of glaciers and waterfalls until we reach a gigantic terminal moraine (the ridge formed at a glacier’s end point). We’ll ascend this boulder-strewn moraine and be rewarded by the arresting sight of the three Towers themselves. At this lookout point 900 meters above sea level, we’ll rest, take photos and have lunch. Our descent is along the same path, then on to Estancia Las Torres where we’ll board our return transfer to Puerto Natales.
Paine Grande is a large and modern refugio set on the banks of the Lake Pehoe, including internet connection and full service bar. It’s the jump off point for the catamaran crossing Lake Pehoe and the walks to the French and Grey Valleys part of the “W” and “Circuit” hikes.
There are 6 beds to each room (bunk-bed style) and have shared bathrooms with hot water.
PRICES FOR SEASON 2019/2020: (valid until September 2020)
2 guests: USD$1.995 per person
3 guests: USD$1.795 per person
4-8 guests: USD$1.695 per person
It was a wonderful and amazing experience with a great group of people – trekkers and guides. The late winter timing meant we virtually had the trials and sites to ourselves. One thing in particular is worth mentioning. When issues arose with trekkers, e.g., inability to keep up with the main group, muscle pulls, aches and pains, etc., the guides seamlessly and very expertly handled the issues with glee and pleasure never making anything a “big” issues; they almost made it seem as another fun thing to do. Perhaps it was personality or professionalism, but they were masterful accommodating everyone without unduly impacting (in spirit or labor) the other party members.
I am very happy with the service Chile Nativo provided. First of all, the experience during the trip itself was amazing, the accommodation was more than I could ask for, the snack was delicious and our guide was not only very friendly but also extremely intelligent – he could answer all kind of questions we threw him about the park, animals, and geography! But the best part of Chile Nativo came up when a crisis hit. I got on the wrong bus the day before the tour started which prevented me from getting to the tour in time as a result. Daniella and Johana from the team were incredibly resourceful and kind to help me out of this situation. They worked after hours to help me find a private car that was willing to drive me from El Calafate to Puerto Natales in Chile. Johana even came to the office early morning to greet me and attend to me. I was beyond grateful for their professional service that really goes the extra mile in making sure I get to make to my trip and enjoy it thoroughly. Highly recommend Chille Nativo to everyone visiting Patagonia!