Pin me!The O Circuit in Torres del Paine Nationwide Park in Chile is well essentially the most well-known path in Patagonia. Although the towers within the park earned it such renown, it’s the ever-changing panorama on every day of the path that has made me fall in love with it sufficient to hike it twice. My first time, I backpacked it carrying all of my very own gear. The second time, I introduced a gaggle of 16 ladies with me and had a extra luxurious expertise. Each choices are detailed beneath.
Based mostly on two experiences on the O Circuit now, that is my good itinerary, which could be finished in Eight or 9 days, ending with the crown jewel, the Torres:
Day 1 – Resort Las Torres to Campamento Serón (13 km – four hours)
I extremely advocate starting the hike on the Welcome Middle, or the Resort Las Torres should you’ll be sticking round after, in order that your ending level is the Torres – the towers that made the park well-known and its namesake. The path will probably be apparent, because it all the time is on this hike, departing from the Welcome Middle and central camp.
The hike on day one is pretty delicate over a principally dust monitor, passing by transient forested areas and gaining and dropping some elevation earlier than flattening out for the ultimate stretch to Serón. The views are a pleasant indication of what’s to return, although I not often take my digital camera out on this present day since the perfect of the perfect comes within the following days.
Day 2 – Serón to Campamento Dickson (18 km – 6 hours)
Day two begins out alongside a beautiful blue river earlier than taking you up your first small cross early on within the day. I usually discover day two to be fairly lengthy, but when the climate is evident it may be spectacularly stunning, passing by the dazzling blue Lago Paine earlier than descending right down to the primary test level, the Conaf ranger station in Coiron. This can be a good place for a loo and potential lunch break earlier than persevering with on by a combo of open pampa and a marshy, usually muddy, path.
Put together for doubtlessly heavy winds on the cross and mentally gear up for a muddy traverse over a couple of wood boards and sometimes-narrow logs earlier than you make your method up the hill to Dickson – a very stunning sight.
That is my private favourite camp of the whole circuit purely due to the placement. You’re totally surrounded by glacier-covered peaks and on the lake with the Dickson glacier simply behind the campsites.
Day three – Dickson to Campamento Los Perros (11.Eight km – four.5 hours)
I stay up for the hike from Dickson to Los Perros for the chance to stroll within the forest all day and for the shorter distance following day 2.
That is the someday of the journey that you simply’ll spend virtually solely within the timber, with a beautiful viewpoint after a gentle upward climb inside the first 2 hours. From there you’ll meander by the woods – filled with moss-covered timber and a number of other small bridges, to the Los Perros glacier. Remember to cease by the mirador to the left earlier than stepping into camp.
Los Perros glacierI advocate taking your time leaving Dickson on day three, as Los Perros is a really primary camp and never almost as stunning as Dickson. Nonetheless I wouldn’t try the cross from every other camp than Los Perros, as day four is a protracted day with an early departure.
Day four – Los Perros to Refugio Gray by way of the John Gardner Cross (24 km – 11 hours)
There’s no sugarcoating it – day 4 is lengthy and tough, nevertheless it’s my favourite day of the whole trek due to the actually breathtaking views of the Gray Glacier. On a transparent day you’ll have the ability to see clear to the Southern Patagonian Ice Subject, the third largest frozen physique of contemporary water on the planet. That is one in every of solely 4 trails in Patagonia, together with the Huemul Circuit, the place you possibly can see the ice subject.
I’d advocate leaving Los Perros proper at dawn, and even barely earlier than, to tackle day 4. You’ll wish to go at a gentle march and take brief breaks to be able to make it to Gray.
The passI all the time pity those that solely do the W on this present day. There’s merely no substitute for the expertise of seeing the ice subject as you cross the cross, and strolling subsequent to all of it day lengthy.
My group on the high of the passI personally don’t really feel the uphill is all that dangerous, however you’ll descend double the space you ascend (almost 1200 meters), to be able to make it right down to Refugio Gray. The downhill could be steep, muddy, and unrelenting. Simply preserve trying on the view of the ice subject to get you thru!
One other half I like are the three suspension bridges. They make for an epic photograph op!
Observe: You’ll be able to actually break this present day up and camp at Paso as an alternative of mountain climbing all the way in which to Gray. Paso is much more primary than Los Perros with a gap within the floor for a bathroom and no tents, so it’s solely open to backpackers carrying their very own tents. If you can also make it to Gray, I’d advocate that over Paso primarily based on private desire.
Day 5 – Refugio Gray to Paine Grande (11 km – three.5 hours)
Day 5 could be shorter or longer relying on the way you assume you’ll really feel after the lengthy distance on day four. The primary time I did the O, I hiked it in Eight days by combining days 5 and 6. Nonetheless for my most up-to-date hike, I made a decision to take it simpler with the group and break it up into two, extra leisurely days, making it a 9 reasonably than Eight-day circuit.
Day 5 meanders by the a part of the park that was torched by the 2011 hearth. It’s eerily stunning as you climb previous the burnt, silvery tree stays previous a number of viewpoints that look again on the Gray Glacier and down on the Lago Gray, ending at Paine Grande.
Paine Grande is a large refugio that’ll really feel decadent after the smaller and extra primary camps. I additionally discover that it may be an amazing change going from the relative quiet of the O to the extra well-liked and populous W. Nonetheless, if you wish to get some WiFi and have entry to extra facilities, Paine Grande is a beautiful refugio proper on a lake.
Day 6 – Paine Grande to Campamento Francés (9 km – four hours)
Persevering with alongside the lake, the path is pretty simple with out a lot elevation achieve or loss as you make your method in the direction of Los Cuernos, the horn-like mountains that are available in second when it comes to fame to the towers.
The primary time I hiked the O, I stayed on the extra primary and free CONAF campsite, Italiano, as Francés was closed. This time the alternative was true, although having now stayed at each I can affirm that Francés is way nicer. It’s my second favourite camp after Dickson when it comes to lake views, the unimaginable showers and bogs, and the forest vibe.
In case you do hike to Francés, you’ll need to backtrack by about 30 minutes to hike again to Italiano and thru the Valle Francés to the Británico Lookout the subsequent day. I’d say that is value it and never an enormous deal as Francés is a lot nicer than Italiano, assuming each are open and you’ve got the selection.
Day 7 – Francés to Los Cuernos by way of the Valle Francés (18 km – 9 hours)
That is the hike that makes the W right into a W, with an out-and-back hike by the Valle Francés to the Británico Lookout. In case you slept at Campamento Francés, you’ll must backtrack to Campamento Italiano to hike up by the valley. The excellent news is you possibly can go away your heavy pack both at Francés or on the ranger station at Italiano because it’s an out-and-back day hike.
Within the Valle FrancésThis day can really feel fairly lengthy, with some steep and rocky components as you make your method to the Británico Lookout. Is it value it? I like this hike and assume it’s a stunning view of a number of glaciers and hanging rock formations, nevertheless I beneficial to members of my group who had been scuffling with blisters or sore knees to take a seat it out if it meant they’d wrestle to see the towers on the ultimate morning, which is the crown jewel of the park.
After ending, you’ll make your method again previous Francés to select up your pack and make your method to Los Cuernos. The hike has a quick uphill climb earlier than descending right down to the Lago Nordenskjöld. You’ll stroll alongside the rocky shore for the remainder of the hike.
Day Eight – Los Cuernos to Campamento Chileno (12 km – 6.5 hours)
Day Eight can generally really feel lengthy and unrelenting, particularly if it’s a sunny day. I discovered it harder the primary time I did it than the second time, maybe as a consequence of my pack weight.
The hike takes you alongside the beautiful greenish blue Lago Nordenskjöld earlier than coming to a break within the path that may both take you again to the Resort Las Torres/Campamento Central, or up in the direction of Chileno/Las Torres. That is the place you’ll begin to climb sharply upwards to make it to Chileno.
Campamento Chileno is my least favourite of the journey because it feels chilly and the mats within the tent had been skinny, although their refugio is good and has scrumptious meals.
In case you take your time you’ll in all probability arrive too late to attempt to make it to the bottom of the towers in the identical day, because the path closes at 3pm for any upward site visitors. In addition they prefer to have everybody off the path earlier than sundown, which is a change from after I hiked the path three years in the past.
On the time of this writing, Campamento Torres, the closest camp to the towers, is closed to campers, making Chileno the closest. It’s a small campsite and the toughest to get reservations at, in order quickly as you already know that you simply wish to do that hike, remember to reserve a spot.
Day 9 – Chileno to Campamento Central or Las Torres Resort by way of the Las Torres Lookout (13 km – 7 hours)
We had been the one ones there at this level!The subsequent morning, both hike in with the celebs or wait till the solar is out to make the ultimate ascent to the towers. It’s a couple of 2-2.5 hour hike solely uphill. It may be tough at the hours of darkness and I don’t advocate doing it solo as it may be simple to lose your method or encounter a puma.
Since I’d already finished this portion of the path twice I took the a part of my group that felt like waking up early (three:30am to be precise) and made a rapid march as much as the highest with headlamps. The rewarding Milky Method by Las Torres was awe-inspiring. Higher but, we had been the one ones there for about an hour till the solar began to rise.
In case you can probably reserve a tenting spot on the Torres campsite ought to it reopen, this is able to be a way more logical place to begin should you want to hike up for dawn. This is able to additionally add an additional three km to day Eight, making it a fairly lengthy day. Having finished each, I can’t actually give the sting to at least one over the opposite, although if I might make the selection I’d in all probability go for the Torres campsite for ease and placement as a backpacker, although it’s much more primary. In case you’re utilizing refugios and tents which might be offered by the camp, you’ll have to keep at Chileno.
From there, make your method downhill previous Chileno to select up your pack and onwards to the Resort Las Torres or Central Camp.
I personally keep on the Resort Las Torres for a few days after every circuit. It’s snug, provides you an opportunity to decompress, and the meals is unimaginable. I’ve finished the Full Paine bus tour with the boat experience to the Gray Glacier twice as nicely, and have loved it each instances. Sure, it’s costly however the central campsite is surprisingly horrible and there’s not a lot of a center floor within the park.
Timing and Issues to Contemplate
At a lookout on the Full Paine bus tour following the trek with my superior group.The instances listed on this publish are all subjective and don’t take any private pacing, breaks, and apparent stopping factors at lookouts or viewpoints into consideration. It’s going to most actually take you longer should you love images or transfer at a barely slower tempo. You can even do all of it far more shortly should you not often take breaks and hike at a quicker tempo, although I don’t see a lot level in arriving at camp tremendous early for no actual purpose.
The distances are additionally a bit blurry, as completely different maps present completely different distances for the very same path. On the John Gardner Cross day, for instance, I’ve seen as a lot as a 5 km discrepancy!
My greatest recommendation is to honor what you assume you possibly can realistically do and go away early sufficient within the morning to take it simple on lengthy days.
Methods to E-book
Torres del Paine Nationwide Park grows exponentially in reputation yr over yr. Because it’s a brief season, operating from November to the tip of March, realistically not everybody will have the ability to get permits and tenting spots.
Tenting reservations are required to be able to start the hike, and are strictly enforced. There isn’t a tenting outdoors of the campsites. It’s additionally important to get park permits. Since solely 80 individuals are permitted to start the O circuit every day, it’s important to ebook as quickly as you already know you’re going to do the hike. I met so many individuals on the path who had inconvenient or illogical tenting reservations since every part was booked out by the point they deliberate their trek.
You’ll be able to ebook about half of the campsites and refugios by Fantastico Sur and half by Vertice. They’re not tremendous responsive and this half could be very annoying, however you must simply preserve attempting! It’s additionally simpler to get assist from Fantastico Sur to ebook the whole journey, notably should you ebook with the Resort Las Torres for earlier than or after the hike.
*You can even join my e-mail record to be the primary to search out out after I run this tour once more – excursions are open to ladies of all backgrounds and are restricted to 16 members, together with reserved tents and nights within the Resort Las Torres.
Backpack, Reserve Tents, or Keep within the Refugios?
The subsequent factor you’ll want to consider is the place you’ll sleep every night time. A lot of the campgrounds have tents which might be already arrange with mats and sleeping baggage, in addition to towels for the showers. Once you purchase a package deal, in addition they present all meals, considerably lightening your pack load.
Alternatively, you possibly can keep within the refugios, that are heated and accessible in dorm-style bunks.
Although I’ve by no means stayed within the refugios, I’ve each backpacked and stayed within the offered tents. Backpacking is, clearly, a lot more durable because you’ll have a pack load of about 45-50 lbs, although it’s considerably cheaper. You can even elect to eat a few of your meals within the refugios on occasion, relying on availability.
Although I like backcountry backpacking and do it usually, I totally loved having the ability to have a lighter pack for this hike and to have the ability to sit again and let another person cook dinner for me. The sleeping baggage had been additionally cleaner than I anticipated, although I’d nonetheless convey a sleeping bag liner.
In case you do determine to backpack, take a look at this text on the best way to put together for a backpacking journey together with meals and kit.
One of the simplest ways to get to the park is to depart on the 7am bus from Puerto Natales. You’ll be able to ebook this in particular person a number of days forward of time on the bus station, or ebook on-line forward of time. You’ll be dropped of on the park HQ to look at a fireplace security video and test in. They’ll offer you a map of the park and double-check your permits.
From there, get on one other shuttle bus certain for the Welcome Middle/Resort Las Torres.
Methods to Put together
Relying on what you determine to do when it comes to lodging, your preparation will probably be completely different, nevertheless some issues will stay the identical. You’ll need to pack waterproof gear, lighten your load as a lot as potential, and put together for actually loopy winds and climate. You’ll be able to learn extra about the best way to put together for the O circuit in Torres del Paine right here, with extra backpacking ideas primarily based on my first expertise mountain climbing the O.
This hike was so stunning, it’s value doing again and again. The second time by felt completely completely different because of the climate, mild, and the corporate. The O is a very gorgeous expertise that you simply’ll always remember.
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