Here’s how we (first-timers/non-hikers) hiked and survived the Torres del Paine W Trek from West to East in 4 days and 3 nights. We walked a total of 65.5km, averaging 6 hours of walking each day in the wonderful Patagonia weather. All the timings below are ours and the distances are from the national park map and Adventure Alan.
Day 1 (Easiest Day – 11 KM)
We took the 7am bus from Puerto Natales to Laguna Amarga. Two-way bus tickets cost CLP $15.000 and we went with Bus Sur because we could pay by credit card and we had assumed all buses arrive and leave the park at the same time, we were wrong. We had no issues with going into the park, but leaving the park was not as straightforward.
At Laguna Amarga, we paid the park entrance fee of CLP $21.000, showed our camping reservations (a mandatory requirement) and watched a fire safety video. Once that was all done, we hopped back on the same bus and continued on to Pudeto where we boarded a catamaran (CLP $18.000) to Paine Grande refugio. After checking in, we took our very first walk up to Grey Glacier lookout in the rain and returned in time (4 hours up and down) for a quick shower and hot dinner, and slept early to prepare ourselves for a hard day ahead. The official W trek involves going all the way up to Grey refugio, but we only went to the lookout at the half way point. We could still see the glacier though not as up close and personal as when we saw Perito Moreno Glacier.
Day 2 (Hardest Day – 16.5 KM)
Straight after breakfast, we left Paine Grande refugio for the Italiano ranger station (2.5 hours, 7.5km) to drop off our bags and proceeded to Frances Valley lookout (3 hours, 4km roundtrip – the ranger told us we could do it in 2 hours!).
The hike up was really difficult, climbing rocks and crossing rivers, but it was worth it. When you’re up there, you’ll be surrounded by mountains and even a hanging glacier! This was one of our favourite parts. Again, the official W trek goes right up to Britanico lookout, but we went halfway to Frances lookout. Actually, the mountains can be seen just a short walk away from Italiano ranger station, but you’ll get a much closer and better view at Frances lookout.
We had our lunch and enjoyed the view before making our way back down to pick up our bags and continued to Los Cuernos refugio (2.5 hours, 5km). The walk was a very pleasant one, we even went past a beach.
At Los Cuernos, we had our worst night in a tent. The campsite, beside a lake, was pounded with strong wind the whole night and it came in waves which you could actually hear before it hits your tent. If you can afford it, you can opt for their lodge instead. At breakfast the next day, there was a clear difference between those who managed to get some sleep in their lodges and those who didn’t get their rest, people like us in our tents.
Day 3 (Longest Day – 24 KM)
The walk from Los Cuernos refugio to Chileno refugio was relatively flat but long (5 hours, 18km), even with the shortcut.
Once we arrived at camp, we had a quick lunch, found our tent and went up to the Torres lookout. On our way up, the wind was crazy strong but we continued anyway. Our nightmare came true when we arrived at the Torres camping area (2 hours, 3km) AND THE PATH TO BASE DE LAS TORRES WAS CLOSED!!! The rangers decided to close the path early for safety reasons, but pointed out an alternative lookout for us and a few other disappointed hikers.
Day 4 (Fastest Day – 14 KM)
Since we didn’t get to the Torres lookout the day before, we woke up at 5am to make our way up again (2.5 hours, 4.5km), hoping to catch the sunrise. We were literally hiking in complete darkness. It helped that we had our headlamps and had done the same route the day before, but it was still pretty scary. Do be careful and try to follow other hikers who are going up too, you can form a group during dinner the night before.
The last 45 mins up is the hardest section of the entire trek, it’s a steep uphill climb over rocks and boulders most of the way, but we finally made it and were greeted with thick clouds covering the Torres. While we didn’t have the best view, we don’t regret going up. It was freezing and we stayed for about an hour in front of the lake before making our way back down to our tent, picking up our bags and heading straight for Las Torres Hotel (1 hour, 5km).
We (mostly Mag) turned on our “Singapore morning rush hour MRT walking speed” mode the whole way as we were trying to catch the 1:30pm Bus Sur back to Puerto Natales and also treat ourselves to some coke. We felt really sorry for the hikers ascending in the opposite direction because it’s pure uphill the whole way from Las Torres Hotel to Torres lookout. We definitely recommend doing the W trek from West to East so you end up going downhill on the last day. It will still be hard on the knees but it’s much more bearable.
All the other buses leave Laguna Amarga at 2:30pm and this meant we only needed to be Las Torres Hotel at 2pm to catch the 30min shuttle out. No idea why Bus Sur’s schedule is different. As the shuttles don’t operate before 2pm, we could either (1) walk 8km (no thank you) or (2) hitch-hike. We’ve never hitch-hiked before but prayed before trying with the first car, and they said YES! THANK GOD!! Once on the bus, we slept all the way back to Puerto Natales.
Hope our experience is useful for those who are thinking of going for the W trek. We read heaps of travel blogs on Torres del Paine, but most are pro hikers so we were not sure if what worked for them would work for us as well. Looking back now, although the trek was challenging, it’s really doable even with extremely low fitness levels. We were glad we did it and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to experience the beauty of this wonderful park.