patagonia hike w torres del paine chile 2017 Trekking Guide trail trip tips by daniel ernst photo travel

In April 2017, my dream came true – I embarked on a journey to Patagonia, aiming to hike the famous W in Torres del Paine National Park (Chile).

I was joined by three friends – Eeva Makinen @eevamakinen, Daniel Taipale @dansmoe and Hannes Becker @hannes_becker – with whom I’ve had a lot of inspiring backpacking adventures in the past.

We all were so stoked to go on this 120 km and 8-day hike through one of the most beautiful places on earth!

Our adventure started with a 29-hour trip to the small airport Punta Arenas in Chile.

Upon arrival, we grabbed some beers to get over with the jetlag and then drove to a small village named Puerto Natales to stock up on food and gear up for the hike kickoff.

For all of us, it was going to be the longest hike we ever did, none of us had hiked 120 km without a break day before, so we all were excited about how it would turn out.

photographer instagram Daniel Ernst Eeva Makinen eevamakinen, Daniel Taipale dansmoe Johannes Becker hannes_becker 2017 travelers

Patagonia can be an unforgiving place in terms of weather.

The latter is very changeable, so gusty winds, heavy rain, and sunshine – all in one day – are not unusual.

We were ready for fierce storms, torrential rainstorms and cold.

We were going to spend nights in a tent, so we knew staying motivated would be a real challenge.

patagonia photos by daniel ernst

But the idea of getting the shot fired us up so much that we did not care about the worst-case scenarios.

From the photos I had seen prior to the trip, the hike promised to be epic: skyrocketing mountains with jagged peaks, deep blue glaciers and a hauntingly beautiful forest – and the fall with all its beautiful colors is already there.

The W’s famous route meanders through some of the most  breathtaking sceneries on earth.

It would lead us along the best of Torres del Paine has to offer.

We were going to see places such as Grey Glacier, French Valley, and the base of the Towers – it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us!

Day One

Our first day started early.

We took a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine.

The first stop was at Amarga, where everyone had to register at the Torres Del Paine National Park entrance and watch a safety video about how to behave in the park.

Once registered, we jumped on our bus and were back on our way to Pudeto.

There, we took a nice catamaran journey across the huge Lake Pehoé to the first back country hut – Paine Grande.

That was where the W trek began!

Ahead was a 3.5-hour hike to Refugio Grey, our first night stop.

The path led us across the forest of Torres del Paine, which, unfortunately, had burned down a few years ago because of an unwary tourist who decided to make a fire.

Nevertheless, the forest still looks fascinating and unreal with all these charred trees.

After a few hours, we arrived at the camp, set up our tents, checked the area and had some quick meal.

We packed smaller bags and hiked straight to the Glacier Grey lookout.

And here it was, this massive chunk of ice lying right in front of us – an unbelievably gorgeous sight.

The glacier comes down straight from the Patagonian Icefield – the Campo de Hielo Sur, one of the biggest ice fields on the planet.

Its shiny blue ice looks truly magical.

We sat down and watched the sunset before going back to our tents.

The French Valley

The next day we got up early to hike to Campamento Italiano, which was sort of in the middle of the trek.

A long day of trekking – almost 20 km – was kind of painful with the backpacks weighing over 20 kilos.

Luckily our sore legs got used to it and the views of Los Cuernos made us glad we decided to go for this trip in the first place.

The campground lied next to the French Valley – the heart of the national park.

Upon arrival, we set up camp, left most of our heavy stuff there, and moved out toward the valley right away.

Unfortunately, that evening Patagonia wasn’t so nice: a storm hit us with strong gusts and a heavy rainfall.

We made it to the valley, and, I should say, the views, combined with the fallen leaves, were just beautiful.

We were soaked but happy!

The Adventure Goes On

The following days were tough.

We were moving uphill from Los Cuernos to Camp Torres – all with heavy backpacks, through rain and storms.

Can you imagine?

That was when our motivation got really tested.

But thanks to a good laugh and a lot of chocolate, we did it.

Mirador Torres del Paine

We saved the best for the last right.

Mirador Torres del Paine – this was the reason we hiked all the way up there, this was the place that had been occupying our minds for the last 7 days.

The alarm went off at 4 o’clock in the morning.

We had to hurry – sunrise was about 3 hours away, and the weather looked great.

The sky was clear, and our motivation – sky high.

Indeed, we kicked off our last day on the trek in good spirits.

Although our legs ached after all the uphill hiking we had done – the sunrise was totally worth the effort.


I know how hard it is, especially when your sleeping bag is cozy and warm, but it is always worth it!

More than 700 meters of altitude were separating us from the famous “Base de Las Torres”, so we decided to pack light and try to be as quick as possible.

We only carried our camera gear, food, water and some warm layers in a smaller pack.

On our way up the mountain, the weather started to get better, and our spirit was going up with each step.

Eventually, we made it up, and it took our breath!

Watching sunrise up on the lagoon and seeing the three granite towers slowly begin to glow red from top to bottom was
one of the best experiences ever!

After such a beautiful start of the day, we went back to the campground, had breakfast and packed our stuff.

The last miles of our hike had begun.

We made it back to the national park entrance, where Patagonia Eco Camp is located – an ecologically and environmentally neutral hotel where you sleep in photogenic, cozy dorms.

In the end, I can only say that this was a lifetime experience and the greatest thing I have ever done!

Now you go pack your bag and do the same – believe me, it will be worth it.

Some Tips

Let me give you some tips.

1. There are lots of mice!

If you decide to camp (and probably you will), beware these small beasts.

They will come after your food and bags, and maybe even visit your tent.

The easiest way to avoid them is not to leave any food in your backpack or tent.

Put it in a bag and hang it up on a branch of a tree.

There is no guarantee they won’t find it there, but it’s still better than waking up next to a mouse.

2. Trekking poles are a savior!

Without them, your knees will get really bad after hiking with a heavy backpack for so long.

They take pressure off your knees so they don’t get overextended.

Additionally, they help you keep balance when crossing rivers or trying to withstand a fierce wind.

You can’t imagine how unstable you can get when a heavy gust kicks in, and here you are, hanging out with a large backpack!

P.S. Good luck with your travels!

Ask me if you have some questions!