Torres Del Paine Full “O” Circuit

I just got back to Puerto Natales after an amazing 9-day hiking trip in Torres del Paine National Park. What a place!!

I decided to join a G Adventures group tour almost entirely due to the ridiculous shambles of an online booking system the companies have managed to create! But that issue is fairly well-known so I can focus on the positives.

My group was 16 people plus two guides, Christian and Jo, and we had 5 porters to carry sleeping bags and food for the remote parts of the trail.

Note: the following was written during my time on the trail itself and is a real-time flow of consciousness, expletives and all!

11 Feb – Day 1 – 23km – Chileno Sector to Torres del Paine viewpoint (out and back)

The day started with a fairly leisurely pace in Puerto Natales getting our things together, jumping on a minibus and driving 2.5 hours to the park entrance near the Torres del Paine Hotel. We stopped a few times to see some great wildlife.

First, a beautiful grey fox trotted right past me into a field when we stopped for a toilet break, then we stopped to see wild guanaco and lesser rhea by the side of the road and I shouted out to tell the guide that I had seen a puma stalking a guanaco. Needless to say he didn’t believe me as he had assured us they only come out at night so when we finally got the driver to stop we walked back up a hill and found a film crew who confirmed that I had seen a puma 😂 but the puma was nowhere to be seen.

My daysack seems ridiculously heavy today but I think my legs were just getting back into it. I was carrying lots of spare clothes (essential as the weather can swing from sunny t-shirt weather to blizzard in the blink of an eye), my Nikon D600 and Wilhelm the Penguin of course.

The trail starts out in a wide flat valley for 2.4 kilometres until you come to the first main trail marker after the bridge and then we started to climb and cross more rivers as the dramatic landscape unfolded before us.

The trail was well-trodden and was fairly tough with lots of uphill sections as you got further into the Chileno Sector. The last section as you climb up towards the viewpoint is a scramble over boulders but it’s not too tough. Unfortunately we had cloud but it was still a nice place.

We also walked through a Lenga forest. Lenga is a type of beech which can live to around 400 years old and occurs in many forms, from scrubby bushes to mighty trees depending on the soil. The leaves are interesting with two lobes per vein.

We stayed overnight just outside the park, so we covered a bit of extra ground to get back to the carpark where we were collected. But this meant we got a great view over the whole massif from our campsite!

Tomorrow we can give 5kg of our things to the porters to carry including our huge all-weather sleeping bags which weigh over 2.5kg.

12 Feb – Day 2 – 14km – Torres del Paine hotel to Camp Serón

I got bitten to shit by mosquitoes last night. Through my leggings while I was trying to get one photo of the stunning stars. Needless to say, the photo was rubbish and if it could capture everything that was going on, it would be totally full of swear words. I am able to give a few of my things to the driver to take back to Puerto Natales so I’m sacrificing 2 t-shirts, my yak-wool hat, my bikini [as soon as I wrote bikini I realised that I’ve got a day at a lake so I’ve repacked it in my bag!!]. Hopefully my duffel for the porters weighs less than 5kg still as I’ve moved my battery pack into it. Still got to carry my bloody 90g toothpaste tube 😂.

We got a super lay-in this morning and I didn’t get out of bed until 0810. My breakfast was amazing, so delicious and tonnes to choose from. Plus real coffee. The view of the mountains was incredibly clear this morning. It’s clouding over as I write but it was so beautiful.
I’m enjoying getting to know the group and I’m getting on with everyone.

It’s 1645 and I’m laying on the ground at Camp Serón while we wait to find out which tents we’ve got etc. The weather has been beautiful! Really sunny and warm for most of the day. We relaxed down by a river for about 45 minutes earlier because it was just so nice. It’s getting a little windy now but it’s still nice.

The trail was lovely today, about half of it was a level walk across a river valley. I was practicing my Spanish quite a lot this morning.

Our refugio tonight is amazing. My tent is the best tent I’ve ever been in. A real engineer’s dream. I spent ages examining how it was made and all the little features. Then it was still sunny so I grabbed a shower then I did some press-ups and a bit of yoga and exercises. I managed to do two pull ups on a tricky piece of wood and I had my first go at slack-lining too which was fun. It was difficult as my legs were so tired and I have poor balance but still nice.

Dinner was nice and afterwards I was a DJ while some people were playing cards and then we were allowed back inside and I taught people how to play Pass the Pigs. I’m having quite an early night and will listen to my book some more.

13 Feb – Day 3 – 19km – Camp Serón to Camp Dickson

I slept well in my awesome tent and got up just before 7. Breakfast was really nice and we had eggs again – such a nice treat. As we were setting off a pair of Black Faced Ibis landed with us and I got some good shots on my Nikon.

The trail today is nice mostly flat with a great view to our right as we are contouring around a mountain above a lake. Then we had a steep section and from the top we could see Lake Paine with gorgeous mountains all around.

We just stopped for lunch. About 1km back we stopped with a fantastic view and I was so comfy that I fell asleep. Lunch was kinda crap because the sandwich was tasteless but whatever! Half way now on our 18km hike. There are some mosquitoes here so I’ve got my hood up and long sleeves on!

I’m now in my tent at 1630 and it’s raining. We arrived here in good time and barely caught the rain. The walk this afternoon was really nice, no significant hills and a long section over a bog with logs, planks, ladders and all sorts to help us across. After that I walked slightly ahead as I found myself in a bit of a trance earlier following the guides footsteps almost exactly so I wanted a bit of space.

My tent mate is Susanna, also from England and we get on well. Our boots and feet smell pretty bad in the tent right now lol, but it’s way too wet to have them outside or to switch to flip flops this evening! Oops.

We were warned about the mosquitoes at Dickson by some people at Serón and they weren’t wrong. Once when I stopped this afternoon a mosquito bit my hand and I was quite unhappy about that but I’m ok now. Breakfast isn’t until 0830 tomorrow so plenty of time for sleeping. My calves are sore but they didn’t hurt at all today when I was hiking.

I just got into my sleeping bag now at about 10pm. This evening I listened to my book (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari) for a while, napped a tiny bit listening to the rain and then went into the main tiny building for dinner. It wasn’t actually very nice but it was totally ok and much better than the food I would have been eating if I had carried all my own gear. The mosquitos here are epically huge. They can probably bite through tyres. The rain worsened so it’s pretty heavy now. I do love listening to the rain. But I also hope the trail isn’t abominable tomorrow. After dinner most of us sat around squished onto some “comfy” seating and there were 5 people playing uno and I was trying some epic brainteaser puzzles with Sarah. Then we got a great game of Heads Up going. I love games where you have to describe something and everyone guesses what it is. One of my favourite types of game for sure. We got kicked out at 9:30pm so I had to brave the herds of mosquitoes to get back to my tent for my toothbrush. It was horrendous. Not that we weren’t fending the little b*$tards off while we were inside!

I’ll listen to my book some more and then sleep quite a bit hopefully. The hike tomorrow isn’t hugely far but it could be miserable in the rain plagued by mozzies so it’ll seem better after a good night’s sleep. I should probably try to photograph the mosquitoes. I guess nobody ever does that. It certainly isn’t possible to put into words how awful they are and how it feels to be bitten. One on my cheek and one on my hand today. Plus probably a million that I haven’t found yet. I braved the toilet before bed and there was a full swarm in there. I just went in, no lights, bum straight on the seat, wafting my hands everywhere (probably futile) and then pulled my trousers up as best as I could without tucking in too many mosquitoes and ran out, down the slippery steps into the mud. Frantic. But now I don’t need to leave here until daylight. (But these f*#!ers are day-biters anyway…).

14 Feb – Day 4 – 13km – Camp Dickson to Camp Perros

I’m on a break at a stunning Mirador right now.

This morning we set off nice and late and I had a lovely hot shower. The mosquitoes were horrible this morning too and I got bitten behind my ear and in my ear while we were walking in the woods. The forest is beautiful this morning, we are walking through a lenga (fake beech) forest. I’m on the lookout for Magellanic Woodpeckers today!! And I’m borrowing a wildlife guide from Christian so now I can geek out a bit more.
I was just practicing a bit more Spanish so I can speak about my trip, where I have been and where I am going. We stopped just now to check out a lovely waterfall. Today is an easy hike.

We reached an awesome rocky beach at the edge of the Perros glacial lake and spent ages hanging out. I ended up throwing some big rocks in and they made huge rainbows so we carried on for a while to get photos. I had to stop typing for a sec because we spotted a duck on the lake. The first bird all day except condors. Not wildly impressed as I wanted to see that woodpecker with the bright red head. The wind is getting up a little and it’s freezing when it blows. Crazy swing in temperature.

We just arrived at Perros Campsite and it seems nice. A Cuban guy (we call him El Cubano) who works here has the same buff from the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia (a tourist left it here). He is a dude and played great music in the kitchen tent.
I’ve had a great night at the campsite. I enjoyed a bit of a chill out time with Susanna in the tent then grabbed a coffee and a hot chocolate in the food tent and chatted with Karl and Mark. Then I went to do some stretching and exercise over at the chin up bar. Pancho, one of our porters was there and I had a chat with him and Cris while we were stretching and working out. Pancho wants to be a personal trainer so he was correcting my chin up attempts. Then Jen joined us followed by Susanna then Denise and we started a proper exercise class and it was great. Lots of legs stretches followed by tonnes of arm exercises on the bar. My hands are super sore now but it was fun.

Appetizers were served at 6:30 with a great cold platter and pisco sours then we had lentils with sausage followed by quinoa with cinnamon and condensed milk. It was nice. I stayed in there after we had finished chatting with Andrew, Denise, Karl and Susanna and the porters came in for dinner. I chatted with them in Spanish about things like languages, travelling and food. Now I’m listening to my book in the tent.

15 Feb – Day 5 – 18km Camp Perros to Camp Grey

Today is probably my favourite day. I was woken at 0530 just before my alarm by heavy rain!! Breakfast was in the same dome tent and was nice. El Cubano had some great tunes playing so I was really enjoying myself. I ate less than usual (probably a bad idea because today’s hike is the hardest one) and we set off at about 0715 in the pouring rain.

The first bit was really steep through muddy forest and we climbed up and up including some really long sections of logs and rocks suspended in mud which totally submerged when you stepped on them! Then we left the woods and crossed some tricky moraine all the way up to the pass (El Paso) crossing some rivers. It was windy at the top but not too bad most of the way up. Still really rainy

.

We cleared the pass and then the way down the other side was really steep and loose. It took us ages to get to Paso and I was hoping that our destination was close to there because I got my whole damned foot soaking wet in a river. But we were at least 8km from Camp Grey, which is home for the night. The weather eased off later in the afternoon and I was able to dry out a bit. And then we reached Glacier Grey. Incredible beauty and the sun came out to help us appreciate it even more. We crossed a huge suspension bridge and I got a great video!

Now we are sitting in the sun (still quite a long way to go) listening to Chris telling us about the Glacier. We walked through an area of burnt trees but they may have been burnt in the 80s.

The rest of the hike was really good too. My legs are knackered and my boots are soaking! We arrived at Camp Grey today beside the Grey Glacier and it’s a much busier place. The food was pretty good, I had a hamburger, and there’s a nice bar to hang out in. We are staying here for two nights so it’s great to relax tonight.

It’s after dinner and I’m talking with some of the people in my group and one of the other guides. I’m probably going to bed soon, ready to go kayaking in the morning. I ache like hell this evening.

16 Jan – Day 6 – Day at Glacier Grey

I just got back from kayaking on the glacial lake. It was awesome! I was so tired this morning that I wasn’t sure I would survive! My mattress is on a hill so I was rolling all night.

My kayak buddy was Andrew and we had a good couple of hours out kayaking. We paddled around an iceberg and in a narrow channel of ice.

I was talking to one of the guides in Spanish a lot and it was hard to hear him and paddle at the same time and it was also hard to concentrate on steering and speaking Spanish, so Andrew had to paddle a bit harder, lol. But it’s his birthday tomorrow and I got us an invite to his birthday drinks tonight at the Grey Bar.

I got back for lunch at a reasonable time and it was delicious! A lentil and rice dish with mince and veg.
I went for a walk in my flip flops this afternoon while my still soaking boots were drying in the sun. I climbed up this ..

.

To see this…

And also I was looking for birds. I am so shocked at the lack of wildlife in general but birdlife in particular there is in this stunning forest which is surrounded by shrubland with an abundance of berries!!

I really only wanted to see one bird, the Magellanic Woodpecker so I’m back out in the woods again to look for them and it’s about 7pm. Dinner is at 8 and I should go back to get a shower as they are only open from 7-10pm!! Dumb timings for us to all get showered and fed. It’s been a nice relaxing day too. I was doing some stretching near the tents earlier and Pancho asked if he could join me so I ended up being helped with my flexibility and my legs are like jelly 😂😂😂

Dinner was excellent – seafood stew with rice. I sat around chatting with Jen and Denise and we had quite a lot of wine, which was nice. Our hike tomorrow is short so we have a lay in with breakfast at 0830. My legs still feel good after stretching earlier 😁

17 Feb – Day 7 – 12km – Camp Grey to Paine Grande

Today the hike was really easy. It was an 12 km hike, half in the rain but on a nice trail past some cool lakes and we saw our last iceberg this afternoon.

Tonight we are staying at Paine Grande, the biggest Refugio by far.

We arrived at 2 and had lunch then plenty of time to chill out and enjoy the view of the lake and mountains. The view is phenomenal and photos can’t do it justice. The clouds only add to the drama.

There were also some upland geese hanging out around here so I went to take some close-up photos. There were some of my group in the bar upstairs watching me skip around and over the grass as I’m wearing flip flops and fleece trousers and the grass is soaking. We hung out in the bar for a while and also downstairs in the food hall. I brought out the speaker and we played Pass the Pigs and drank wine in the afternoon before dinner. I also gave Jen a lesson on using an SLR which she appreciated.

I was so starving hungry while we were queuing for dinner. It wasn’t bad. The asparagus soup wasn’t all that but the chicken leg with mashed potato was delicious with some garlic olive oil and merkén (roasted powdered chilli and peppers). Now I’m in the bar. I was playing a game with Jen and Denise, Susanna was watching and Nikolas joined us later on. It’s called Chicken Scream, it’s pretty weird but we found it hilarious. Denise passed an entire level by laughing her head off. Everyone else has gone to bed now except Nikolas. The music is the bar is really nice so I’m sitting and singing along.

It’s 2220 and now I am in my sleeping bag. Going to listen to my book to drown out the symphony of snores and help me relax. My socks are really wet still and I’m not really sure why. I don’t think they got very wet on the walk but I left them on my boots in the tent vestibule and when I checked them to move them into the tent they were soaking wet and freezing cold!! So I took them up to the main building and left them in the bar where it was warmer but they are still damp so they are in the end of my sleeping bag to dry overnight as my other lightweight pair is so dirty that they are actually stiff 😂

18 Feb – Day 8 – 17km – Paine Grande to Camp Cuernos via French Valley

We just arrived at Camp Cuernos, under the horns (three awesome peaks). Today was a long hike and lots of it was on loose, sharp rocks so it was tough on ankles and knees but it was absolutely amazing.

The sunrise was phenomenal this morning and I didn’t have to leave my tent for an incredible view of the mountains. Breakfast was at 0730 and I hiked up a nearby hill before we set off so I could get a lovely view of the turquoise lake.

This lake is Pehoe (said pay-o-way) which means hidden in the aboriginal language. It was one of my favourite views in the world and I haven’t often looked back so often at a view as I left somewhere.
For the first half of the trail we walked through the burnt forest which is actually very beautiful.

We walked 7.5km before reaching Italiano Camp where we headed steeply uphill into the French Valley for an amazing panorama after 2km. We had lunch at a great spot just past the main Mirador and I enjoyed most of my sandwich before having fun bouldering with the assistant guide Jo and Geoffery.

This is Jo holding himself up one-handed and eating an apple!! So impressed! We had some excellent views all day today, it was such a wonderful day.

We followed the rocky trail in the afternoon along a lakeside and ended up at a great pebble beach where we relaxed for a while. Karl was skimming stones and Jen and I were just throwing them in. A guide from another group, Jarec, who we have seen most evenings handed us a few dried figs. Then Jen and I had a throwing competition (which I won convincingly) before we headed off for the final half an hour walk which began along the beach.

We arrived here at Camp Cuernos at a really reasonable time and relaxed in the bar for a while before being shown where our tents were.

These tents are the fantastic ones again, just like at the last campsite run by fantastico sur. The one I had this time was a Marmot Thor 3person.
We had dinner at 1830 and it was lush!! Carrot soup with some added spices followed by a chicken curry with rice. I had a second portion of soup instead of pudding.
Then a bunch of us played a form of scattergories with my post-it notes with some wine.

Then we played

the post-it note game where we had to guess who was written on our forehead and giggled loads.

Check this out though. None of us were allowed look at the camera as I was taking this selfie so we couldn’t see what was in our own heads.

We aren’t as drunk as we look! It’s just past 10 and I’ll go to bed in a minute. Breakfast is at 8 so not an early start.

19 February – Day 9 – 14km – Camp Cuernos to Hotel Torres del Paine

Today was the final hiking day! The sky was beautiful when I woke up, it was cloudy but had lots of texture and plenty of blue sky too. We had a fairly leisurely breakfast, which was lucky because the breakfast stuff was all over the place and most of it had run out when I arrived but I managed to get some eggs on toast and a nescafe eventually. We said goodbye to the porters today as they would overtake us on the trail and then head back to Puerto Natales before we got back.

Then we set off. Our 12 kilometre hike was mostly Patagonian flat with fantastic scenery. We finally lost sight of the horns today as we followed the Nordenskjöld lake for 5 hours stopping a few times to admire the view. There were some friendly Rufus-collared sparrows at one of the viewpoints and they were super friendly.

We made it to this sign, and that was it, a full circuit! Still 2.4 km to get to the carpark but yeah, wow.

Back at the carpark I was playing music for the group whole we waited for everyone and then we got our bus back to Puerto Natales. We all went out for dinner to celebrate our efforts and I gave Cris this weather forecast stone so he can always know what the weather is doing.

And that was that, 130km, a great bunch of people and some amazing memories. Next stop for me is the Galapagos! Hasta luego x

One thought on “Torres Del Paine Full “O” Circuit

Add yours

  1. Just got around to reading the full blog and I loved it! Just the right amount of detail. I must also admit I loved the picture at Grey from the view point with the glacier in the background 😉

    You are having an amazing year of travel. Continue making these fantastic memories. The jealousy is extreme!

    Jen

    Liked by 1 person

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