W-Walk, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
One of the most popular multi-day hikes in Torres del Paine National Park is known as the W-Walk, due to the ‘W’ formation of the trail. The walk of around 80 kilometres requiring at least four days, can be made year round, but is most popular in the summer months, December to March. Gale-force winds may need battling during November, December and January. Days can be long over undulating track with some steep sections.
A ferry from Pudeto, at the park entrance, takes visitors across turquoise Lake Pehoé to Paine Grande. Trail sights include Grey Lake where chunks of blue ice bob and Grey Glacier from Grey Lookout. Closer views of the glacier, which appears to flow like icing around rock and into the lake, can be seen from Grey Lodge. French Glacier is not so spectacular but the gunshot sounds from cracking ice are. At the end of French Valley, Británico Lookout is a 360° theatre of granite spires zigzagging and plateauing across the skyline. Views over several topaz and aquamarine-hued lakes with backdrops of snow-covered mountains are numerous. Walk swing-bridges above cascading rivers which provide sparkling water to refill drink bottles. The leg to Base de las Torres lookout culminates with the famous vista of Patagonia – Torres del Paine back-dropping a brilliant blue lake. It’s a ‘wow’ moment after a steep climb.
Torres del Paine National Park is remote. Flights are available to Punta Arenas (direct from Santiago) then a 3 hour bus journey to Puerto Natales is required. Alternatively, fly to El Calafate, Argentina and take a 5-6 hour bus journey crossing the Argentinian/Chile border, to Puerto Natales. From Puerto Natales it’s a 2.5 hour bus journey to the park. It is worth it!
Many guided tours include transport from Puerto Natales, lodge or pre-pitched tent accommodation and meals. Alternatively, the W-Walk can be hiked independently with accommodation/campsites requiring advanced booking and all food having to be carried in.