Day 1. Puerto Natales.
Arrive, meet for dinner and a briefing session about the upcoming days and what to expect. Night in Puerto Natales.
Day 2. Torres del Paine — The Trek Begins.
Following a van transfer to the park from Puerto Natales, we begin a 6-hour trek into the plunging Ascencio Valley through scented beech forest and undulating alpine terrain, until we reach a backcountry climber’s campsite, “Japones.” Here, we set up camp for the night.
Day 3. The Silent Valley.
Few visitors to Torres del Paine get the chance to visit this hidden wonderland of granite and ice, tucked deep inside a plunging valley of the Paine Massif on the back side of the Towers. This “cathedral” of imposing, sheer vertical rock rises high above a boulder-strewn glacier on the valley floor. We allow for a full day to explore this spectacular region in the heart of the Massif.
Day 4. Torres del Paine Lookout.
Today we’ll visit the base of the Towers that gave the national park its name. After packing up, we head out the Ascencio Valley, drop our packs at a ranger outpost, and head up a boulder-laden moraine until arriving at the Las Torres Valley, where we are treated to a sweeping view of the Paine Towers, considered by many as the highlight of the park. Then we begin our slow descent until reaching the Torres Campground, a 7-hour total trek for this day.
Day 5. Nordenskjold Lake.
Today we trek along a pleasant, flora-filled trail that skirts the impossibly turquoise waters of Lake Nordenskjold. After several hours, we detour off-trail and head up to the Bader Valley, a relatively unknown but no less spectacular valley rimmed with granite spires. We pitch camp in a small forest that affords spectacular, sweeping views of the Patagonian prairie and lakes.
Day 6. Bader Valley.
We have the entire day to walk deep into the Bader Valley, where the trail ends at a shimmering lake that brings life to the otherwise rocky alpine environment. We can see “Los Cuernos” from a perspective not many people are lucky to appreciate, other than the rock climbers who normally visit this area.
Day 7. Day of Rest.
Today we take it slow, breaking down camp and then heading down the high valley back to the W Trail, walking along Lake Nordenskjold to enjoy the views opening up of the Southern Ice Field and the Paine Grande mountain with its hanging glacier. We spend the night at the Los Cuernos campground.
Day 8. The French Valley Lookout.
After packing a daypack, we’ll head up the French Valley to penetrate deep into one of the park’s most spectacular valleys. We are in no hurry as we walk along the French Glacier and Paine Grande, the highest mountain in the park, passing through a forest of miniature Antarctic beech before arriving at a stunning amphitheater of tall granite peaks.
Day 9. Paine Lakes.
The W Trail continues along the base of the Paine Massif, on a relatively light hike that puts us at Lake Pehoe and the Paine Grande Lodge for lunch. After resting, we gear up for a more difficult hike into the Grey Valley, bordering Lake Grey and approaching the area’s massive glacier, which will come into view as we approach our destination for the evening, the Glacier Grey campground.
Day 10. Glacier Grey.
Today’s adventure involves ice and all of its shapes, colors and forms. After crossing the lake in a zodiac inflatable boat, passing floating icebergs, we reach the Nunatak island, hike to the glacier and strap on crampons, then begin our spectacular walk across the glacier peering into crevasses colored a range of blues.
Day 11. Goodbye Torres del Paine.
In the morning we will hike to a viewpoint to take in the sweeping view of Glacier Grey’s vertical ice wall and the gargantuan Southern Ice Field behind it. This is a relatively long day with a 4-hour hike back to the catamaran at Lake Pehoe, which will take us to the other side of the lake and where our van will be waiting for the drive back to our hotel in Puerto Natales.
Day 12. A Day with a Patagonian Pioneer/ Gaucho.
We’ll spend today experiencing Patagonian “pioneer” life at the Estancia Mercedes, a sheep ranch reached by boat and van. A short day-hike will have us searching for condors and other wildlife today, with a trailside lunch prepared with ingredients from the e