Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia
Torres del Paine in a Glimpse
Torres del Paine is a National Park in Chile with a unique geography, its granite hills where studied by geologist decades ago and with it in time, got a World wide fame. Climbers are today the ones who enjoys it special and difficult conditions.
The Park is much more that just the Torres, it has glaciers, lakes, beautiful valleys, and hips of treks where you can explore it safly with diferent camp sites and even a few basic refugios where you can lodge in after a long day of excersice.
There are a few circuits that are more popular among travellers; the W that takes hikers around 3 to 5 days to do it, or The Circuit called the O because of its shape that takes you around 8 days. Although once i tried to do it running with a friend, I had to stop half way in and didn't finish it, but he did it in 18 hours.
Before we dig in into the treks in this National Park, there are a few more things you need to know about it.
Daily buses run from Puerto Natales (2 hours), the main connection with civilization. Their itinerary depends on time of year, from November until february there are 2 frecuencies: at 7.30 AM arriving at 9.30 Am to Laguna Amarga entrance, and in the afternoon at 14.30 PM arriving at 16.30 to Laguna Amarga Entrance. From this point there are shuttles available to gest into Las Torres sector, where Base Of Las Torres trek (the most famous one in the park) starts.
There are no direct buses for El Calafate but many tour operators offer them, in particular Chalten Travel Web. It is thus possible to go directly from El Calafate to the park and even return another day, although this is expensive (count 80 US$ return, +40 US$ when returning another day).
A catamaran runs between Refugio Pudeto and Refugio Paine Grande. A one-way ticket is CLP 11.000. Round trip costs CLP 19.000 (Nov 2010).
Another boat runs between Hostería Lago Grey and Refugio Grey, but you need to book it on advance (about 80 US $ p/p).
A minivan runs between Laguna Amarga and Los Torres (to connect to the big busses, 4 times a day, the last one at 1930). The price is CLP 2.500 one way (Nov 2012).
The rest must be done by foot.
The park itself is impressively big and don't be ilusive thinking you are going to explore it all. Not even locals guides have explored even half of it, and they live year round there.
The weather is a big question there. I been there MANY times and I can talk with knowledge when I say don't believe any forecast! Every day pack your bag for a sunny, rainy, warm, windy and cold weather. Even the park rangers have a board with the weekly forecast inside the park for the most annoying tourists, but the truth is they just don't change it, ever! Haha
The second thing is to be cautious. Every year there are a couple of dead corps in the park. Always for miss precautions of the hikers. At the park there nothing dangerous at all. You don't have to worry for bears, snakes, spiders, there are no poisonous predators at all! You just have to make sane decisions.
Because of the changing weather, you could be crossing a little creek, but after an hour of intensive rain it will look like a real river. That is how a japanisse died a couple of years ago. He went for some photos crossing some creeks and little streams. And because of the rain he couldn't went back, so he had to stay there with no food or proper clothes to escape from the extreme cold.
If you are going out of the trail, tell a park ranger, tell more people: where are you planning to go, how long are you going to be there and how many people is going with you.
Prepare for the trek of your life
Another subject is your preparation. What to wear, what to eat there, what to pack, how to pack and so on.