Torres del Paine and Chile’s famous W Trek

Torres del Paine, Chile

Postcard of the Week #24

Is it possible to have too many exceptional experiences? Surely we’re going to max out on some invisible quota at this rate! We followed up our amazing Antarctic adventure with a four-day, 45-mile* hike through Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. The trail we took is called the “W Trek” because it’s literally in the shape of the letter “W” (and there’s a longer trail called the “O Circuit” which includes the “W” portion). While Eagle Scout Justin was a seasoned hiker, Minh had never attempted a multi-day trek before and certainly not while carrying a travel backpack. Both of us survived in one piece, though, and were rewarded the entire way with a truly spectacular and varied landscape.

The trail itself and long distance turned out to be not all that difficult–the challenge came in the unpredictability of the weather. It’s quite common to experience all four seasons in a single day (like in Iceland), from a mild autumn breeze to beating hot sun to an icy hail storm, aka: our “Day One.” Then there are the sudden and powerful winds that had us facing gusts of up to 65 mph at times. We heeded the advice of others and simply crouched down for a moment before continuing on, being mindful not to let our belongings get swept away. Overall, we felt fortunate weather-wise for somehow managing to be indoors for the times it was torrential downpour and getting a clear view of Las Torres (the three peaks featured in the postcard) on our last day.

Although we hope to put together a “How to hike the W Trek” post, detailing where to sleep each night, what equipment to bring, etc., we’ll say now for our American friends that before you book a trip down to Southern Chile, make sure you’ve already been to places like Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. You can definitely get the same “wow” factor by visiting our own National Parks. But when you’re thirsty for more, the W Trek should no doubt be on your short list of incredible nature sites to visit.

*The full W Trek is 50 miles, but we cut it a little short by only going up to the first viewpoint in the French Valley (the middle tip of the “W”). Other hikers suggested that was a good turn-around point.