Hiking the W-Trek in Patagonia, Part 2: Route, budget and logistics 3


Posted by Beth | December 12, 2015

One of the highlights, by far, of our South American adventure has been hiking the W-Trek in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. It was a challenging but rewarding experience with the most stunning scenery we’ve ever seen.

We weren’t able to find a lot of info pre-trip on Patagonia trekking, so decided to do a little series on our personal experience with the W-Trek. If nothing else, hopefully it will help our friends headed to do it in a few weeks! Yesterday we focused on our packing list, and today we’ll review more logistics, including our route, transportation options, and total costs. We thought the most helpful way would be to start by breaking down our schedule. As always, feel free to comment or send us a message if you have specific questions. All prices are for two people. 

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Pre-hike day:

  • 8:30 a.m. Depart El Calafate, Argentina for Puerto Natales, Chile (1,760 ARS, $118 USD)
  • 2:45 p.m. Arrive at Puerto Natales bus terminal, walk about 20 minutes
  • 3:00 p.m. Erratic Rock lecture-highly recommend!
  • 4:30 p.m. Check in to hostel, El Patogonico. Paid 22,000 Chilean pesos ($33) for private room. We booked in advance on Hostels.com. The hosts were lovely, we would recommend this place.
  • 5:00 p.m. Visit ATM, camping store, get groceries, dried fruit store, etc.
  • 7:30 p.m. Cook dinner at hostel, shower and head to bed early

Day 1:

  • 7:00 a.m. Walk 15 minutes uphill to bus terminal
  • 7:30 a.m. Bus to Torres del Paine National Park. We booked our round-trip bus the night before through our hostel, any hostel should be able to book. (30,000 pesos, $46)
  • 9:30 a.m. Arrive at park entrance, get out to pay entry fee (36,000 pesos, $55).
  • 11:00 a.m. Get off at Pudeto bus stop. If you have more than an hour to spare, there’s a waterfall hike you can take if you walk straight up the road. Otherwise you can stay warm in a small café on the lake.

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    Most scenic boat ride we’ve ever taken

  • 12:00 p.m. Catarmaran departs. Line forms pretty early because there’s limited seats. It’s cold on the upper deck but worth the views (30,000 pesos, $46).
  • 12:30 p.m. Arrive at Paine Grande Refugio and campsite; start hiking
  • 4:00 p.m. Arrive at Glacier Gray campsite. Register and pay (6,000 pesos, $18.50).
  • 5:00 p.m. Set up camp, then continue along trail for better views of Glacier Grey. It’s only a 15 minute walk or so to the first viewpoint, but apparently an hour, or two hours, up the trail you come across even better lookouts.
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  • 6:30 p.m. Cook dinner in designated camp cooking area (NO open fires allowed, taken very seriously).
  • 8:30 p.m. Settle in to our tent way before sundown

Day 2:

  • 7:00 a.m. Wake up, cook breakfast and tear down camp
  • 9:00 a.m. Depart camp in order to arrive back at Paine Grande by noon, before catamaran of new hikers arrives
  • 12:00 p.m. Arrive back at Paine Grande, can stop to use facilities, or continue up the trail.
    IMG_0913 (1)
  • 2:30 p.m. Arrive at Camp Italiano (free campsite-only allowed to stay one night)
  • 3:00 p.m. Make lunch, set up camp, play cards with other hikers, read
  • 7:00 p.m. Cook dinner
  • 8:30 p.m. Walk pretty far to the rustic outhouses before retiring to tent

Day 3:

  • 6:30 a.m. Wake up, cook breakfast, tear down camp, store bags at shelter

    Much easier to hike through the French Valley if you leave your big pack at the campsite

    Much easier to hike through the French Valley if you leave your big pack at the campsite

  • 8:30 a.m. Begin trek through the French Valley.
  • 9:15 a.m. Arrive at the first 360 degree viewpoint. If you hear a loud noise, look left for avalanches on the hanging glacier.
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  • 11:00 a.m. Arrive at Mirador Brittanica for excellent 360 degree views of the towers. Keep your eyes peeled for orange signs marking the route, we got a little lost at one point.
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  • 1:30 p.m. Arrive back at Camp Italiano, cook soup, pick up our packs, set off in other direction
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    Beautiful lake views on the way to the campsite

    Beautiful lake views on the way to the campsite

  • 4:00 p.m. Arrive at Refugio Cuerno. (Paid campsite-15,000 pesos, $23). Some of the campsites here are on wooden platforms, so you’ll want strings to tie it down. We ended up on a site on the ground and it was warmer, and our best night of sleep of the trek.
  • 5:30 p.m. Cooked an early dinner, read in our tents, went to bed early.
    beautiful site for a campground at Cuerno

    beautiful site for a campground at Cuerno

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Day 4:

  • 7:00 a.m. Wake up, cook breakfast, tear down camp
  • 9:00 a.m. Hiked 4.5 hours along the lake, mostly uphill. (Take the shortcut to Chilaneo!) I thought this was the hardest section of the whole trek.IMG_1035

    Someone came untied and was blocking the trail

    Someone came untied and was blocking the trail

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    The trail to Refugio Chilaneo

    The struggle is real

    Stopping to examine how I got blood on my sleeve.

  • 1:30 p.m. Arrive at Refugio Chilaneo. Stop for quick break and indulge in a coke.
  • 2:00 p.m. Hike one more hour to Camp Torres (free campsite).
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  • 3:00 p.m. Arrive at Torres, set up camp, cook dinner, hang out with people we’ve gotten to know over the past few days along the route.
  • 8:00 p.m. Prepare pack for early morning hike, set alarm and head to bed.

Day 5: 

  • 4:00 a.m. Wake up call
  • 4:30 a.m. Leave camp to hike 45 minutes to an hour to Torres, steep uphill climb. We carried our sleeping bags so we’d be warm at the top while waiting for the sunrise to hit the towers.
    Worth the 4:30 a.m start

    Worth the 4:30 a.m start

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  • 7:00 a.m. Leave the towers to hike back down to camp. Pack up tent and cook breakfast.
  • 9:30 a.m. Hike the final leg-about 45 minutes back to Chilaneo, stop for quick break, then finish with about 1.5 hours all downhill to the hotel parking lot.
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    We made it!

    We made it!

  • 12:00 p.m. Arrive at the end, only to have to wait two hours for the shuttle.
  • 2:00 p.m. Shuttle back to bus stop (5,600 pesos, $8.60).
  • 2:30 p.m. Get back on the bus we took to the park, as we had purchased roundtrip tickets.
  • 4:30 p.m. Arrive in Puerto Natales, walk back in to town to our hostel.
  • 5:30 p.m. Enjoy a hot shower like I have never enjoyed a shower before!
  • 6:30 p.m. Eat a huge dinner at Picardo de Carlitos.
  • 9:00 p.m. Crash in bed so thankful for an actual bed.

Lodging:
We camped all four nights during our trek, but there are options to stay in refugios, and even a few hotels along the way. These type of accommodations are way over priced and fill up far in advance.

Transportation:

  • The bus from Puerto Natales into Torres del Paine National Park takes about two hours and can be booked from either the bus station or basically any hotel or hostel. They all seem to leave at either 7:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. We opted to take the 7:30 bus. Within the National Park, all of the transportation waits for the previous mode, so you don’t have to worry about missing your boat, bus, shuttle etc.
    • There are a few places you can get off the bus. Administracion, (5 hours of extra hiking), Pudeto (where we got off to catch the catamaran), and the third I can’t remember, but don’t think it related to the W.
    • The Catarman cost 30,000 pesos ($46).

      line for the catamaran--get in line early to get a seat.

      line for the catamaran–get in line early to get a seat.

  • If you end the W at the hotel, then you can take a shuttle (5,600 pesos). They leave at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., or 7 p.m. We arrived to the hotel around noon so had to wait a few hours in a grassy area for the shuttle.
  • The shuttle drops you off at the bus station where you can hop your bus back to Puerto Natales, which you likely already purchased as an open-ended roundtrip.
Torres del Paine is featured on the 100 Chilean peso bill

Torres del Paine is featured on the 1000 Chilean peso bill

Total Costs:
Again, all prices in this post are for two people.

Groceries: $65
Park Fee: $55
Camping: $41.50
Transportation to and within park: $101
Subtotal: $262.50

Two nights lodging in Puerto Natales: $77
Roundtrip bus to Puerto Natales from El Calafate Argentina: $118.50
Post hike meal and wine: $44
Subtotal: $239.50
Grand Total: $502

We were pleased that we only spent around $500 for the week of our W-Trek (average $72/day) for an incredible trek.

Keep your eyes open for condors!

Keep your eyes open for condors!

Extending the trek: 

We completed the five day W-trek, but if you’re looking for a longer hike then you can do the full circuit, which includes the more difficult back side, which can be an “O” trek, or a “Q” trek, which is the longest option (7-10 days).


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