Torres del Paine Circuit

Highlights

  • Wilderness Trekking in Torres del Paine National Park
  • Paine Massif
  • Grey Glacier
  • The Towers of Paine

Tour description provided by World Expeditions

This is an outstanding circuit for the trekker looking to complete a spectacular foray around the high peaks of Torres del Paine. On the initial stages porters carry some of our gear (and we carry some of our own gear) as we follow remote trails through undulating grasslands and woodlands to the least visited part of the national park. Hiking above the forests we enter a world of granite peaks, hanging glaciers and glacial lakes as we forge a route over the John Garner Pass. From the pass we are rewarded with magnificent views of the Grey Glacier and as far as the Patagonian Ice Cap before completing a rugged descent to the shores of Lago Grey. A day is set aside to explore the lake by the Grey Glacier on board a small boat. We continue our circuit to the south for a different perspective of the 'towers' from the 'W' trek. We enjoy forays up the French Valley and the Ascensio Valley before we finally ascend to the base of Torres del Paine for one of the most unforgettable mountain views in the world.

What's included

  • 13 breakfasts, 12 lunches and 10 dinners
  • Group medical kit
  • Transport - all group transport as detailed in the itinerary
  • Tours - all guide fees and park entrance costs on all sections mentioned in the trip itineraries
  • Group camping equipment – includes tents, sleeping mats, and cooking equipment,(sleeping bag is not provided)
  • 1 porter for every 2 clients on days 4 - 8 to assist in carrying gear.
  • Boat trip on grey lake
  • Boat trip via balmaceda glacier to torres del paine
  • Specialized bilingual guide

Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive Punta Arenas
You will be met at the airport and transferred to the group hotel. Otherwise, make your own way from the airport (refer pre-departure information for instructions) to the group hotel. The rest of the day is for rest and personal exploration of this town. An arrival briefing will be held in the hotel this evening.
Day 2 Drive to Puerto Natales via Otway Penguin Colony
Transfer to Puerto Natales (about a 4 hour drive). Enroute we will visit the Otway Penguin Colony where the Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) can be observed at close quarters. These penguins come ashore in spring to breed in burrows close to the coast, however are best observed between December and February when hatching commences. We continue on to Puerto Natales where we overnight. Puerto Natales is a port town located on the scenic Seno Ultima Esperanza (or Last Hope Sound). From here we access Torres del Paine National Park.
Day 3 Boat to Torres del Paine National Park via the Balmaceda Glacier
A spectacular day cruising to the head of the Fiord, en route we witness glaciers tumbling down from the mountains and a plethora of bird life. We continue on to the National Park by Zodiac. We skirt glacial blue lakes and pass herds of guanaco and rhea as we approach the towering peaks. The Horns of Paine are right before us, as is Paine Grande, the largest of this range. On arrival we transfer to Laguna Azul and our camp for this evening. The experience of trekking in Patagonia will spoil you for most other trekking areas – the scenery is truly awe-inspiring. Blue glacial and ice-berg strewn lakes combine with dramatic granite peaks and snow covered mountains which lead to the Patagonian ice-cap. Overnight camp.
Day 4 Commence Torres del Paine Circuit Trek (5 hours – 10 kms)
Trek from Laguna Amarga to Camp Seron. Trek with full pack – assisted with porters. Today’s walk is a great introduction to Torres del Paine as we follow the Rio Paine. The trails are well defined and not overly undulating. The mountain views, the rear perspective of the Towers, coupled with meadows of daisies, clear running streams and woods that smell of fresh beech, make it a great day. Overnight camp.
Day 5 Trek to Lago Dickson (6 hours – 19 kms)
We continue around Paine by heading north and then west towards Lago Dickson. Each stage of the trek provides a different perspective of the Towers as we head out into the most isolated section of the circuit. Photographers should be ready for the dramatic sunsets and sunrises at Lago Dickson. It is possible to buy cold drinks at reasonable prices on your arrival at the campsite; there are flushing toilets and showers available. Overnight camp.
Day 6 Trek to Campemento Los Perros(5 hours – 9.5 kms)
A short ascent brings us to a natural viewing platform where we obtain more comprehensive views of the mountains and glacier beyond Lago Dickson, and towards our evening campsite near Glacier Los Perros. We walk through dense forests for most of the day, over fallen trees. The Magellanic Woodpecker can be heard although it is sometimes difficult to spot the actual bird. The key is to keep still when you hear them and look for the male which is black with a striking red head. The trail meanders through the forest, over many streams and past waterfalls on the Rio de los Perros. We cross the river again and come to the base of the Glacier Los Perros, where a crater surrounds the lake in which it spills. Here we will be out of the forest and again exposed to the wind. Fortunately our camp nearby is sheltered by the elements, surrounded by beech forest. Overnight camp.
Day 7 Trek over John Garner to Refugio Grey (10 hrs – 22kms)
Today is the hardest day on the circuit. The first hour is a gradual uphill trek through the forest. Then we hit the mud, and in some places it will be hard to avoid getting your foot stuck in it. This section lasts about an hour, before we come to a large stream which we cross using a rope as a support. Another hour is spent ascending to the pass, over rocks and over snow drifts. The route is marked clearly by fluorescent orange markers on rocks and posts. On reaching the saddle of the pass we come to the view for which this circuit is famous, and more often than not the strong westerly winds will prevent you from lingering too long on the pass. Looking behind us the view is mainly of forest and in the distance the glacial lake we passed earlier is strewn with ice-bergs. However, ahead the view is of the Grey Glacier and it is truly stupendous. The Patagonian ice cap is visible in the distance and the mountains and glaciers below are even more spectacular. In good weather conditions, we can stay on the pass enjoying the view for up to one hour. Our descent is almost as spectacular as the view from the pass. It is precarious due to its steep gradient and concentration is required. We descend more than 700m in about one hour to Campamento Paso. This camp site is not popular due to little level land and water being available. We continue on down, and the terrain is difficult to negotiate with many fallen trees blocking our path which we need to climb over or walk around. The track ascends and descends the contours of the valley leading out to a natural rock viewing platform, from which a stream cuts through cascading to the Glacier below. This is a great place to have a well-earned rest and perhaps a picnic lunch (if we haven’t succumbed to our stomachs before this). Whilst we may believe that the hardest part of the day is over, we are soon enlightened by the most exhausting section. Here the trees we must climb over seem larger and the ascents and descents more frequent. Our walking is interspersed with a difficult ascent followed by steep ladders taking us out of one of the deep river gorges we cross. We may be tempted to stop for the night at Campamentos Guardas, however it is just one hour (mostly downhill) further to Refugio Grey, where the idyllic bay setting will remind you of a tropical beach, except there are icebergs floating in the water! Cold drinks and a hot meal will never have tasted so good. Overnight Camp Grey.
Day 8 Trek to Refugio Lago Pehoe (5 hours – 13kms)
A leisurely start is the order of the day however wind can make this section of the circuit more difficult. The first half of the day is gradual uphill with some steep sections. The views down to the glacier are spectacular and the flowers along the trail interspersed with mountain lakes make this a scenic walk. The second half of the day is gradual downhill and we soon reach the campsite by the iridescent waters of Lake Pehoe. The camp site rivals camp Dickson in its beauty, incorporating all that Patagonia is - wind, snow covered mountains, dramatic skies, emerald lakes, flowers and birdlife. We will farewell our porters at Pehoe. Overnight camp.
Day 9 Walk via French Valley to Refuge Cuernos (8-10 hrs)
The highlight of the first two hours of todays walk is the lovely lake we pass and the improving views of Cerro Paine Grande. We cross a new suspension bridge to reach Italiano Camp where we can rest by the thundering river of Rio del Francés. Continuing up the French Valley towards British camp, the scenery becomes even more dramatic. On one side of the valley is Cuernos del Paine and on the other side the aptly named Frances Glacier with Rio del Francés flowing from it. The whole area is quite unstable, being a glacial valley and certain sections of the path are quite treacherous and steep. The occasional ice falls from the French Glacier cause thunderous crashes onto the rocks below which reverberates off the valley walls. Within an hour the trail had brings us to a wide valley from where we have excellent views of the Torres and down to the emerald lakes below. The path ascends more gradually to British camp over waterlogged terrain and through alpine lenga forest to the view of the ice-formed horns of Cuernos del Paine. The Paine Grande reaches 3,248m and is a point of interest for climbers from around the world. As an option, you may continue up to two mountain lakes close to the tree line at the head of the valley, an hour and a half return journey. We return down the valley the same way we ascended, then continue on to Refuge Cuernos (2 hours), pausing to appreciate the waterfalls and to witness the river sculptured valley before us. Note: At busy times we will be camping in the grounds of this refugio. Note: If you would like to trek without your full packs for days 10 & 11, your main luggage can be stored at Refugio Pehoe and will be transferred to Torres on day 11. Please request this with your guide. You will still need to carry enough personal equipment for the next two days.
Day 10 Hike to Refugio Torres (3 hours)
This morning we continue to Refugio Torres. The remainder of the day is free to explore the area or catch up on washing and your diary. You may also like to see the visitors centre to see a model of the park and the trails you've trekked. Note: in busy periods we may camp in the grounds of Refugio Torres, or continue up to Refugio Chileno where we will either camp or stay in the lodge, depending on the size of the group and availability (this is one of the smallest refugio's)
Day 11 Ascend to base of Towers of Paine (8-10 hours)
Early this morning we ascend the Rio Ascensio to the base of the towers of Paine to hopefully glimpse the towers as the sun hits them, changing them from grey to a vivid red. This will be a long day, the ascent has some steep sections, however with no luggage to slow us (can be left at Camp Torres) we make good progress with just our day packs. We have plenty of time to enjoy and explore this dramatic area at our own pace before descending back to the refuge for dinner. Overnight Camp Torres.
Day 12 Navigation on Grey Glacier and transfer to Estancia
This morning we will take an early transfer to meet our small boat to explore the Grey lake. We will be able to glacier get up close to the majestic, tumbling ice formations we first saw crossing the John Garner pass. Being on the surface of the lake offers a unique and different vantage point of this calving glacier. We'll then transfer to Estancia Tercera Barranca (or similar) for a traditional Patagonian barbecue. Overnight Estancia.
Day 13 Drive to Punta Arenas
After breakfast we will embark on the 4-5 hour drive south to Punta Arenas. Overnight hotel in Punta Arenas.
Day 14 Trip concludes Punta Arenas
The trip concludes after breakfast. From Punta Arenas you can fly back to Santiago. An early transfer to the airport will be provided for clients travelling to Santiago. If your flight schedule does not coincide with these transfers then you will need to make your own arrangements. If you are planning to visit Los Glaciares, Perito Moreno and/or El Calafate, then please ask our staff for details of tourist buses that cross the border directly from Torres del Paine Park or from Puerto Natales. If you wish to visit Argentine Patagonia then it is not necessary to return all the way to Punta Arenas.