For people who are in peak physical shape and want a really challenging mountain trekking experience at Torres del Paine, point them in the direction of the W Express.
Available until the end of April (2018), this four-day, three-night Fantástico Sur itinerary is basically a speed hike along the legendary “W” Trail in Patagonia.
And you dive right into the hiking. After transferring from Puerto Natales and clearing park protocol at the Laguna Amarga Gate, trekkers check-in at Fantástico Sur’s welcome center at Reserva Cerro Painerro Paine and then launch into the demanding 13-km (8-mile) trek to Base Torres Lookout.
This initial leg of the W Express takes 7-8 hours and includes a stop at Refugio El Chileno to drop off backpacks.
After an early breakfast the following morning, hikers strike out before 9 am on the 11-km (7-mile) leg between El Chileno to Los Cuernos. During this moderate-level walk — which generally takes around 5-6 hours — trekkers can take in spectacular views of Lake Nordenskjöld, hanging glaciers on south face of the Paine Massif, and interesting or unusual local flora like the “ciruelillo” or “notro” trees. The second night is spent at Refugio Los Cuernos or Domos El Francés.
The third day is the most challenging of the entire trek — a 25-km (15-mile) ascent into the Francés Valley and Paine Grande viewpoint which will take about 11-12 hours. Leaving their backpacks at Domos El Francés, trekkers climb to Británico Lookout, which offers one of the national park’s most impressive views. Descending via the same route, the trek continues to Campo Italiano and then onwards to Paine Grande Lodge.
Day four offers a 22-km (14-mile) trek across moderate terrain to a viewpoint overlooking iceberg-filled Lago Grey and Grey Glacier. The trek ends with a ferry ride across Lake Pehoé to Pudeto Sector and then a shuttle bus back to Puerto Natales.
Included in this trek:
- Entrance ticket to Torres del Paine National Park
- Three nights accommodation at Fantástico Sur refugios (mountain huts); shared rooms with bunk beds, sheets, towels, shampoo and soap
- Round-trip shuttle bus transport from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park
- Lake Pehoé Ferry
- All meals
- Services not indicated in the program
- Medical insurance of any kind
Optional services available for extra cost:
- Regular bus ticket from Punta Arenas (airport or city center) to Puerto Natales, or vice versa
- Excursions offered on Day 5 in the Grey Sector, including kayaking on the lake and a walk across the glacier
- Sailing trip across Lake Grey
- Accommodation in Puerto Natales for the first or last nights of the program
- Private transfer from Punta Arenas (airport or city center) to Puerto Natales, or vice versa.
Here’s a useful video on what your clients should pack for the W Express: