Tag Archives: Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine – Post 2

Never have I been to a park with so many annoying rules.
Nor have I ever been to a park where the rules are so little enforced.
I think we broke every rule the park had. And no one cared.

A few examples:
Trails have closing times.
What?! Apparently they don’t want inexperienced people on the trails after dark. We obey this rule for about a day, until we see others break it with impunity. I have a feeling that we never again obeyed that rule. Jeff and I prefer (okay mostly Jeff) to get up late and hike later in the day. Many days we didn’t get on the trail until 2. We developed a bit of a reputation among our fellow backpackers. One day we started on a section of trail probably several hours after its closing time and were approached by a ranger as we started. I figured for sure he’d make us turn around, but after talking to him for a minute, he waved us on. Clearly the rangers don’t care too much about their rules either.

(I don't have a picture for this one, so here's a pretty flower)

(I don’t have a picture for this one, so here’s a pretty flower)

Camp only in designated camping areas.
Okay, I understand this one. Given that there are at least 40 – 200 backpackers on each section of trail every day, if camping anywhere were allowed, the park would be destroyed.  Still annoying. Nearly all designated camping areas are privately run and cost anywhere from $8 to $16 per person per night. Talk about expensive back country camping! We only broke this one once. On a section of trail with a ridiculous span between viable campgrounds. We later discovered that the closed campground we would have preferred to camp in actually accepts campers if you arrive late enough. Probably to avoid what we did. Oops.

Never hike off trail.
Anyone who knows us well will understand how hard it is for Jeff and I to obey this one, as we love to hike cross country. We did a good job until the last day, when we had an extra day and decided to see if we could climb a peak near the towers. I was nervous about being caught all day (Jeff is better about breaking rules than I am), but we had an awesome hike and saw the best views we had all trip. We also saw some deer that we later discovered are very endangered.



Other thoughts:
We came away with a renewed appreciation for the maintenance of American trails. Chile’s CONAF did a ridiculously poor job of maintaining sections of the trail, ultimately creating more work for themselves in the future as the trails get torn up.




Really hope those ropes hold!

There are two main backpacking options in the park – the ‘W’ and the ‘O’ (also known as the circuit). We chose to do the ‘O’, which is the ‘W’ plus the backside of the park. The W section was awesome and well worth doing. The rest of the O, however, was not worth the extra time with one exception – the Grey Glacier as viewed from the pass was great.



Torres del Paine (Feb – Mar 2013)


What an excellent way to spend eleven days.

Our first stop in Jeff and Kristen’s great adventure was to Torres del Paine national park in Chile. After quick stops in the very windy and cold Punta Arenas and the tourist heavy (but much more charming) Puerto Natales, we made our way by bus into the park. Guanacos and nandu (llama and ostrich-like respectively) made appearances on our way in.


We started up into the park with all our gear + food for 11 days.  All that food makes for awfully heavy packs.

Our goal was to complete the ‘O’ circuit around the park, and we had enough food to spend an extra couple days doing it. Our first several days were iffy on weather, with rain through two of the first five days and nasty mosquitoes for a couple days. We got lucky with the rain, though, and got it on the best possible days.

P1000104Torres del Paine






Most of the back portion of the trip was underwhelming until we came over the highest pass to an overlook of Glacier Grey spread out beneath us. Wow!


Glacier Grey


The front portion of the trek, known as the ‘W’, was much more spectacular. Particular favorites were the view of the cirque and of Paine Grande’s glaciers in the Valle del Frances and the towers from which the park derives its name in the second valley. Watching the alpen glow build on the towers at sunrise was beautiful (and a departure from our usual 10am wake up time).

Valle del Frances

Valle del Frances Panorama (click to expand)


Paine Grande

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine



Our biggest highlight was something very few people get to experience. Mostly because it is technically not allowed. There may be a later post about annoying park rules, but one of them was to always stay on trail.  With one day left to spend in the park and nowhere else on trail we really wanted to go, Jeff suggested we make our way off trail and up a nearby peak.  Excellent decision, as we got the most spectacular views we would see with panoramic views back behind the back section of the park to heavily glaciated peaks.


Click to expand

On our final day, we took the bus further into the park to a short hike to a classic viewpoint of the ‘horns’ and of a waterfall. We were short on time, so I ran up to the viewpoint for a few pictures.




On our way back through Punta Arenas we took a ferry tour out (with all the other tourists) to see nesting penguins at Isla Magdalena. So cute. Just like the movies, actually.