We went hiking again! This time for 8 days in Torres Del Paine national park in Chile. Torres del Paine is probably the most famous park in Patagonia and for good reason. It is a huge place filled with amazing glaciers, mountain passes, mirrored lakes, crystal rivers and famously temperamental i.e. ferocious weather. Most people who visit the park come here to hike either via day hikes from the lodges, or they opt for a multi-day trek of generally 4 nights (called the W trek) or the full “O” circuit, a 7-night trek that circles the entire park. Since we have the time, we set out for the “O”.
Hiking in Torres del Paine is pretty straight forward and very well supported with several refugios/campsites along the way. You hike on a clear path from one refugio/camping zone to the next, generally hiking from 4-6 hours per day, and opting to either carry all your gear and food, or lodge and eat in the expensive refugios each night (we opted to carry our gear and food). Because of the crowds and the irresponsible behavior of past hikers who have burnt much the park with illegal camp fires, the camping and cooking is strictly controlled. So while we didn’t see many people on the trails while hiking, the camping situation is pretty crowded and you can only cook in tiny designated areas, which is stressful to manage after a long hike. If you can do the trek after college summer break ends (around early March) then you’ll have a lot less people to deal with. We instead went at peak season (Mid Feb), but despite the camping stress, it was incredible, and as beautiful as you could imagine. Luckily we also had near perfect weather.
After Rich Roll, Tim Ferris is my favorite podcast. During this hike, I started listening to his one of his podcasts featuring letters from the Stoic Master Seneca (65 AD). The first letter I listened to, On Groundless Fears (Letter 13), Seneca talks about the importance of facing your fears of losing all of your possessions, fancy feasts, entertainment and importance in society. Basically, if you practice going back to the basics of life then you realize how little you truly need and you will face life with less fear of losing it all.
Tim Ferris says he practices this principle by each month wearing simple clothes, not using technology and eating simple food like beans and rice. While that is one way to approach it, I realized that going out on a multi-day hike in nature is a much better way to experience the simple beauty of life and to unattached ourselves from our things. Hiking is a humble and modest activity that almost everybody can do. Additionally, you force yourself to live and enjoy life for multiple days with very little. You sleep in a tent, you cook simply, you have no entertainment besides the beauty of nature and maybe a good book, and most importantly of all, you detach from being connected all the time. You live on a few dollars a day (depending on camping fees) and you are completely happy. Not only that, it feels like the best thing you’ve done all year. A 3 day hike every 3-6 months is going to be our routine after this “trip”, and I recommend it for most people. I think it is necessary to unplug, spend no money and live on the basics, if only to remind yourself of how little we really do need. Before this trip we had never done an overnight hike and in the past 18 months we have done 11 multi-day treks. Grabbing a backpack and heading for the hills has been one of the life changing practices of this trip.
Because of the crowded camping, I can’t say Torres Del Paine was the best hike we’ve ever done, but it was absolutely the most beautiful. The night before we started our trek, when we were sleeping inside Titus in the parking lot, torrential rain and 60 mph winds were shaking our 9,000 lbs van so hard we couldn’t sleep. We were both terrified of what this hike was going to be like in weather like this. But in the morning we woke up to birds singing and the sun shining. For the next 8 days, we’d have mostly great weather. We were so lucky!
Day 1 we had an easy hike up into the French Valley (where we saw an avalanche!) and ended up camping on a platform at Frances Camp.
Day 2: We headed to Cuernos Camp, a brand new and beautiful camp. There was a beautiful lodge here where you can rest up and the views were great.
Day 3 hiking to the famous Torres! Our third day we hike to a high camp near the famous 3 towers of Torres del Paine. Our plan was to see the Torres in the evening and then wake up before dawn to see them at sunrise the next day. It was going to be a lot of hiking, but we were feeling really good.
On Day 4 we popped up an hour before sunrise to do a short hike up to greet the Torres at Sunrise, and hopefully see the amazing colors that bounce off the towers during a clear sunrise.
Day 5 and 6 – Heading to the backside of the park. The first 4 days were spent on the frontside or “W” part of the trek. It is the most popular trek, and therefore the most crowded. The final 4 days we would be on the backside of the park, which was a little less crowded, but not very much so. On these first two days on the backside we would hike through some amazing scenery, and fight fierce winds to get over the Dickson pass. I’m surprised Jenine didn’t blow away.
Day 7 and 8 – This part of the trek was amazing as you trek over the famous John Gardner pass and see the massive Grey Glacier from above. We were so worried after the winds we encountered on the little Dickson pass, what the infamous John Gardner pass would be like, but again we got super lucky with near-perfect weather.
Day 8 – We had an easy hike out and one last look at Glacier Grey, and our first iceberg spotting of the trip.
Torres del Paine. One of the greatest parks on the planet and a perfect way to cap off our adventures in Chilean Patagonia. I hope this made you want to hike!
All of our many, many photos of this beautiful place: