The Joys of a Long Hike, Especially When That Hike is at Torres Del Paine

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”.

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Our first campsite in the park, two days before the hike, with the Torres in the distance

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!

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The night before we left on the hike, preparing hummus, peanut butter bars and other treats while 60 mph wind pounded the van outside

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Day one of the "O" circuit, waiting in line for the ferry

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.

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The start of the actual hike, first stop Campamento Italiano (French Valley)

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Look at those hikers!

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Jenine opts for a Ninja hiking aesthetic

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Let's head there!

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Night one camping at Frances, get there early to get a platform or you'll be sleeping on a mud hill

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.

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Hiking day two, rainbow over the lago

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Day two we camped at the spectacular Cuernos Camp. There are actually cabins you can rent here with balconies and hot tub access.

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.

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Day three, leaving Cuernos Camp

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Jenine is all smiles with this weather as we head off to hike to the Torres

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No need to hike carrying water, you just hit the stream when thirsty. A rare find in this world - pure drinking water that doesn't need to be filtered

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Day 3 we saw the Torres at dusk, we actually camped 45 minutes from the top and saw them at sunset (pictured) and at sunrise the next day

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Torres looks great babe...

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.

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Torres at 5am before dawn.

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Bundled up in our sleeping bags waiting for sunrise at the Torres

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The sunrise lights up the mountains and turns them a spectacular orange

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The sun is up, it was worth it to hike up here at 5am to see it!

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.

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Heading into the backside of the park, Day 5

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It is a lot quieter on the backside of the park

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Camp on Day 6 - the wonderful camp Dickson

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Those beasts are Mosquitos. Very easy to kill but totally unafraid to land on you. They don't seem to care that you can kill them easily and attack without worry.

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Drinking that fresh Glacier water at camp Dickson

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.

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Hiking up the John Gardner Pass

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Getting near the top of the John Gardner Pass

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On top of the John Gardner Pass, Glacier Grey in the background

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Glacier Grey extends for as far as you can see

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Jenine thinks it's awesome and it is!

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Look at those ripples, don't want to fall into those

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Heading along the suspension bridge, a very cool part of the hike

Day 8 – We had an easy hike out and one last look at Glacier Grey, and our first iceberg spotting of the trip.

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Glacier grey spills out into the lago

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Iceberg ahead!

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The end! back to where we started 8 days before! What a beautiful and absolutely memorable hike

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:

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On the way into Torres Del Paine

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Heading in with Titus to Torres Del Paine National park

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You always have to watch out for the Guanaco crossings

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Our first campsite, two days before the hike, with the Torres in the distance

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First night, we Titus camped with a view of the Torres

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Huge condors swoop through the park

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Driving through the park

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The night before we left on the hike, preparing hummus, peanut butter bars and other treats while 60 mph wind pounded the van outside

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Day one of the "O" circuit, waiting in line for the ferry

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Day 1, all smiles as the weather went from horrible to perfect overnight

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Riding the ferry to the trailhead

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The start of the actual hike, first stop Campamento Italiano

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Immediately the views wow

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Look at those hikers!

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Jenine opts for a Ninja hiking aesthetic

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Some amazing mountain in Torres del Paine

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Let's head there!

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Taking a rest in the French Valley

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Views from the French Valley

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Watching an avalanche come down the french valley

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Night one camping at Frances, get there early to get a platform or you'll be sleeping on a mud hill

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Hiking day two, rainbow over the lago

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Day two we camped at the spectacular Cuernos Camp. There are actually cabins you can rent here with balconies and hot tub access.

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Heading out on Day 3, a beautiful hike along the lake

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Day three, leaving Cuernos Camp

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On our way to Torres Camp, follow the ridge and up!

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Day 3 we saw the Torres at dusk, we actually camped up here and saw them before sunset (pictured) and at sunrise

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Torres look great babe...gotta do the from behind pic

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This is how I sit normally when taking a break from hiking

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Torres at 5am before dawn.

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Bundled up in our sleeping bags waiting for Sunrise at the Torres

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Sunrise torres del paine!

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The sunrise lights up the mountains and turns them a spectacular orange

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The sun is up, it was worth it to hike up here at 5am to see it!

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So many places to go

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Heading into the backside of the park, Day 5

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It is a lot quieter on the backside of the park

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Viento MUCHO viento

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Those beasts are Mosquitos. Huge and dumb. Very easy to kill but totally unafraid to land on you in packs. They don't seem to care that you can kill them easily and attach without worry.

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Drinking that fresh Glacier water at camp Dixson

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Day 6 morning at Dixson

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Hiking on Day 6

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Taking some time to see if I can still juggle

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Glacier Los Perros

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This lake and glacier mesmerized me, I think it told me some of the secrets of life

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Day 7, heading out early to go over the John Gardner Pass

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Hiking up the John Gardner Pass

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Getting near the top of the John Gardner Pass

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On top of the John Gardner Pass, Glacier Grey in the background

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Glacier Grey, just massive

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Glacier Grey extends for as far as you can see

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Jenine thinks it's cool!

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Look at those ripples, don't want to fall into those

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Heading along the suspension bridge, a very cool part of the hike

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Glacier grey spills out into the lago

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Our final campsite at Lago Grey

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Hiking out on Day 8

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The end! back to where we started 8 days before! What a beautiful hike

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8 comments on “The Joys of a Long Hike, Especially When That Hike is at Torres Del Paine
  1. Karie says:

    Absolutely spectacular especially the scenes coming down john Gardner pass. And I will check out those two podcasts too.

  2. Jason Griffith says:

    They’ve done quite a lot of improvements on the hike since 2000. I like the suspension bridge. It was a memorable and not very safe part of the trail back then. You had to climb down and out of the gorge while dodging rocks. Glad you had good weather, Paso John Gardner can be ferocious!

    • Jenine says:

      Thanks Jason! Wow glad we got the suspension bridges! Hope all is well with the family. Any more trips to Baja planned?

  3. Patty says:

    So spectacular SO AMAZINGLY SPECTACULAR!!! You two continue to blow my mind. What a courageous hike. Thank you for sharing. We love you both!

  4. Joe and Pam Lara says:

    Truly Beautiful, love these pictures. You guy’s are amazing! ! Love you both! Mom

  5. Tami says:

    Do I get a prize for noticing that it looks like Jenine has rocks for shoes in one of the pics??? Lol!!! Great pictures y’all! But still can’t wait to see ya in person!!! Much L♡VE!!! :-*

  6. Jacqui says:

    Amazing! We’ll have to go hiking together when you get up to the Hood!