My first vacation trip within Chile was to Patagonia, a dangerous choice if only because it’s incredible and now I’m officially obsessed. The first week of November, I did the W trek with some of my Chilean friends, backpacking through the wild beauty of Torres del Paine National Park for six days. (If you’re interested, I also wrote a post about what I’d do differently next time.) Honestly I thought I was going to see more foreigners on the trail (and thus get to make friends in English) but it was mostly Chileans, probably because the Chilean borders were only opened to foreigners recently.
I’m not going to recap the adventure day-by-day, but here are some highlights along with the requisite pretty pictures. The first thing to mention is our group, which ended up being fantastic even though we didn’t all know each other when we started (friends of friends and such). Shout-out to my friend Natalia for bringing us all together and for making us laugh way too much.
The best part of the trip was the weather, a full week of sunny blue skies and low wind. I think it drizzled mayyybe once or twice at night. In other words, we got incredibly lucky and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to pack up a wet tent or tromp along in soggy boots or get blown over by the infamously strong wind.
It’s hard to pick a favorite part of the trip, but one of the things we did right was take our time, both when hiking and when planning the route. For example, we stopped for an hour at a beach in the afternoon just before Camping Francés to take a dip and relax and enjoy the scenery. We also staying for two nights at the last camp (Camping Grey) so that we could do both a kayak excursion and a glacier walk. I had never walked (or more accurately, stomped) in crampons before, and I embarrassingly didn’t realize how many features glaciers have. I mean, it seems obvious now, but I was picturing more of a flat meadow of ice, not the wildly wavy and cave-ridden icy landscape that we explored. I highly recommend both activities (in our case run by Bigfoot Patagonia) if you’re planning a trek. Plus staying for two nights in the same camp meant we didn’t have to pack up our tents and packs that day which was a lovely break near the end of the trip.
I also was the one tasked with planning the dinners for our group of five, and if you know anything about me you will not be surprised that I neatly separated and packaged each meal into its own Ziploc bag, including spices and such. There’s food available to buy at the campsites but we did it the old-fashioned way and carried everything with us, and it was fun to cook and eat a hot meal (with lots of sundried tomatoes and oregano) as a group after a long day of hiking.
Being able to see several giant granite rock formations at any given time while both hiking and camping meant that I spent a lot of time daydreaming about climbing in the park. It’s an achievable goal, I just need to bring my trad gear down from the US and make some friends in Patagonia that trad climb (as opposed to the sport climbing I generally do in La Serena). On the bright side, I did get some climbing in both before and after the trek with a friend that just moved from La Serena to Puerto Natales (the city just outside Torres del Paine National Park). Highly recommend Laguna Sofía for any climbers looking for a super fun single-pitch sport crag and the option to camp in a cave.
The scenery was also just incredible, everywhere. I would have happily re-started the trek the day after we finished to experience it all again. The W trek is the shorter version, and I definitely want to go back and do the full O route one day (10 days instead of 5), but in the meantime I’m already planning my next trip down there to climb and camp in places outside the park with my friend who lives there. I might or might not have bought a my next plane ticket before I even got home from this trip (and I might or might not be literally on my way back down to Patagonia right now). [Edit from the future: It was awesome!]