Torres del Paine National Park, Day 1

Confession: I had great intentions to finish my South America trip series and wrote the first post about TDP a long time ago. When I hit “save,” wordpress made an error and lost my post! I was super frustrated and just couldn’t bear to try again until now. Here goes…

There are two main backpacking trips in Torres del Paine: The “W” and the “Circuit.” The W is shaped like a W, naturally, and the Circuit basically closes the loop from both tops of the W, around the back side of the park. We went with the W, which is much more popular because it’s shorter (46.5 miles vs 93 miles). We chose to take the W from west to east, over 5 days/4 nights.

The bus picked us up at our hostel around 7AM to head to Torres del Paine. When we arrived, we were so floored at how beautiful it was and so excited to be there, that we thought we’d still be satisfied if something happened and we had to leave immediately. Here was our first view of the tips of the Cuernos when we exited the bus:

We had a little time to kill before our catamaran left for Paine Grande, so we hustled up the hill to see Salto Grande (it was windy, not cold!):

We had a beautiful view of the Cuernos from Salto Grande:

We headed back down just in time to board the catamaran, where we saw the best/most iconic view of the Cuernos we’d have:

When we landed at Paine Grande on Lago Pehoe, we began our first leg of the trip, the left/west side of the W, traveling to Glacier Grey. This was the shortest day I believe, but my feet were still feeling pretty bad!

The places you can stay along the way are either refugios (bunk houses $$ and paid camping $), or campamentos (free camping but not nice). Some people stay and/or eat at refugios the whole time to avoid camping and carrying all of their gear. We chose to carry our gear and camp, which is cheaper and also avoids questionable conditions we heard of at some of the refugios.

When we arrived at the refugio at Glacier Grey, we were really surprised at how fancy it was. It had just opened up a few days earlier, and we were a little jealous of the folks staying inside! Since it was paid camping for us, it included the use of a decent bath house. We figured we should take advantage of the hot showers while we had a chance, even though it was funny to shower on our first night of backpacking! Here is our camping spot:

You can’t actually see the glacier from the refugio area, so we ended our evening with a short walk to view the seemingly never-ending glacier. We didn’t realize we’d be so far from the glacier, and we wished we had time to go all the way to it.

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