Trip Report    

Backpack Patagonia's Torres del Paine O Circuit

Ten fantastic days trekking the O Circuit in Patagonia's Torres del Paine

  • Road rough but passable
  • We traveled exclusively on-trail.  The trails were well marked, easy to follow, and in good shape.

    The most technically-challenging stretches of trail were the approaches -- on moraine -- to Mirador las Torres and Mirador Británico.  These stretches were easily trekkable with a little care/concentration; no scrambling skills required.

    We were expecting epic mud bogs that would pull at our boots, but there was nothing of the sort; mud was very minimal.

    The river crossings were easy rock-hops or bridge crossings.  We never needed to use water shoes to ford a river.

Our Patagonia trek was a "hut to hut" -- or, to be more precise, a "refugio/camp to refugio/camp".  Refugios are buildings with dormitory-style bunk rooms that each sleep ~6 people, while camps provide pre-erected 4-season tents that each sleep 2 people.

Whether we were staying at a refugio or at a camp, all of our bedding (sleeping bag / blanket, sleeping pad, pillow) was supplied for us.  All of our meals (breakfast, sack lunch, and dinner) were supplied for us as well.

This is a very European way to trek; unlike a traditional backpacking trip, we didn't need to supply or carry tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, stoves, or bear canisters/ursacks.  The only food we needed to carry was the day's lunch.  Our days on trail were essentially one day hike after another!

Our general itinerary:

Night 1: Camp Chileno
Night 2: Camp Central
Night 3: Camp Serón
Night 4: Camp Dickson
Night 5: Camp Perros
Night 6: Camp Grey
Night 7: Refugio Paine Grande
Night 8: Camp Francés
Night 9: Refugio Central

Our actual GPS tracks:

Day 1
5 miles, 1350' gain

Our trek started at the Torres del Paine Welcome Center.  Our packs were light, and we were excited to get started:


We trekked up over Windy Pass (which was *very* windy) to Camp Chileno.  Staying at Camp Chileno positioned us as close as possible to Mirador las Torres, which we planned to visit for sunrise the next morning.


Day 2
6.6 miles, 1850' gain (sunrise hike to Mirador las Torres)
5 miles, 450' gain (Camp Chileno to Camp Central)

After a rainy and windy overnight, which cast doubt on our hopes for a beautiful sunrise at Mirador las Torres, we woke at 3am to stars and no rain!



After a very cold but beautiful sunrise at Mirador las Torres, we returned to Camp Chileno for breakfast and brief naps.  We then descended to Camp Central for our second night.

Day 3
9.3 miles, 1150' gain

Our third day was a very mellow trek to Camp Serón, nestled in an area that reminded us of the "big sky" areas of Montana and Wyoming:



Day 4
12.7 miles, 1500' gain

We were treated to our first eye-popping glimpses of glaciers as we made our way from Camp Serón to the beautiful Camp Dickson.  The weather was downright hot, and I was regretting my decision to bring shoulder-season-weight trekking pants instead of summer-weight trekking pants.



Day 5
9.5 miles, 1750' gain

After a very hot and sunny day 4, we were "treated" to a cool and rainy day 5.  This was our first day of trekking in rain, and in the end it turned out to be the *only* day of the entire trip that we had to trek in substantial rain.  Luckily, this was also a day of trekking primarily in a forested valley, so we didn't miss out on any views.

At the end of our day, we were able to experience horizontal blowing rain as we ascended the moraine near Glacier los Perros:



Our night at Camp los Perros was *very* cold, with everyone wearing every layer they had with them.  Erica managed to wear 7 layers:


Day 6
12.5 miles, 2750' gain, 4400' loss

Day 6 was the hardest day of the trek.  We had a big ascent on rocky terrain to John Garner Pass, and an even bigger, punishing descent over tree roots from John Garner Pass to the edge of Glacier Grey.

But it was also by far the most rewarding day of the trek, with out-of-this-world views of the massive Glacier Grey.






Day 7
7.7 miles, 1250' gain

After a big day 6, we were happy to have a mellow day 7 as we trekked from Camp Grey to Refugio Paine Grande.  In hindsight, we should have spent 2 nights at Camp Grey to give ourselves a break after 6 days on trail.




Day 8
15.6 miles, 3100' gain

We had big hopes for day 8 -- a side trip up to Mirador Británico -- so we were disappointed to wake up to clouds and rain.

But the rain ended up not being too bad, and the cloud cover not too low, so we dropped our packs at Guardería Italiano and made our way up to Mirador Británico for lunch.





We then made our way to Camp Francés for the night.

Day 9
11.5 miles, 1600' gain

Day 9 was our final day on trail, as we made our way alongside Lago Nordenskjöld to Refugio Central.  This was an easy, mellow day.





Day 10

We had an early pickup at the Torres del Paine Welcome Center, and were dropped off in Puerto Natales so that we could return home or continue on other adventures.