Trekking Patagonia is some of the best in this entire world!! The Torres del Paine O Trek, and the complete Q Trek, is the ultimate Patagonia experience. It is the completion of the famous W Trek and worth every additional day!! I’ll help you get ready for your O Trek and experience the park like few others do.
Read the other article, about the Torres del Paine W Trek, to better understand that first portion of the hike. Also, in that post I review the logistics of transportation, food, accomodation, route choice, etc.
As I mention in the other, there is the Torres del Paine W Trek, the O Trek, and the Q Trek. The W is the most simple, the O completes the W, and the Q is the most complete version of the trek. Here’s a little map to help you better envision the circuits.
You need to choose if you go left to right or right to left. I highly reccomend doing the full Torres del Paine Q Trek, and going left to right. This allows you to walk into the park, with a fascinating view of where you’ll spend your next 2 weeks. And, it also allows you to do a sunrise view when you get to The famous Towers.
The ultimate trekking Patagonia experience –
Torres del Paine O Trek and Q Trek, from left to right
- Day 1: Puerto Natales to Las Carretas (Q portion of Torres del Paine Trek)
- Day 2: Las Carretes to Paine Grande
- Day 3: Paine Grande to Los Cuernos (start of W portion of Torres del Paine Trek)
- Day 4: Los Cuernos to Los Torres
- Day 5: Los Torres to Camp Seron
- Day 6: Camp Seron to Camp Dickson (start of O portion of Torres del Paine Trek)
- Day 7: Camp Dickson to Perros
- Day 8: Camp Perros to Camp Paso
- Day 9: Camp Paso to Camp Grey
- Day 10: Camp Grey to Paine Grande to Puerto Natales (end of Torres del Paine Trek)
Torres del Paine Q Trek Portion – Day 1
Campsite: Puerto Natales to Las Carretas, 1, 5 hours
We got up at 6:30am, excited and curious for what was to come. Our hostel in Puerto Natales, Erratic Rock, supplied us with an uh-mazing “trekker’s breakfast” – eggs, homemade bread, homemade peanut butter, granola, and delicious, hot coffee.
Puerto Natales is the small village that serves as a sleeping destination for trekkers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts like ourselves who are eager to hit the park. At 7:30am we hopped on the bus for our 2-3 hour journey to Torres del Paine. As the hours passed the mountains came to life and the alpacas, birds, rivers, lakes, and cowboys herding sheep and cows got left behind.
Once we eventually decided to start heading towards camp, it, murphey’s law, decided to start raining. Thankfully, it wasn’t too heavy but, on top of the grey clouds and chilly weather, I was internally praying this wasn’t a prediction of what was to come.
After all, the renowned tale of Patagonia is of the unpredictable weather. Here, you can easily experience all four seasons in just one day.
This first hike, by far the shortest, somehow tested me the most. The wind was soooooo strong- we basically were doubled over and simply trying, with all our might, to move forward.
My backpack was not adjusted right and I was carrying all the weight on my shoulders, which left me in a mere 1/2 hour aching like all hell. The rain drops were cold, the wind was cold, I was sweating, the ankle I broke a few months back started throbbing from the pressure of my boot, my shoulders were killing me…. It was taking all my focus to just keep moving forward.
I honestly had more than a couple fleeting thoughts of “what did I get myself into… what if I can’t do it?” Thankfully, when my body felt like it just couldn’t go any more, ahead, along the windy river, at the base of the clouded over mountains, was a tent. We were almost there!
We arrived, I dropped the backpack, and fell over…. I couldn’t have been happier. Once the backpacks were off and I had a chance to lay on the ground awhile, I felt much better. Carl and I hiked up some hills by the campsite and got a great view of the mountains we’d get to know well in the days ahead. It felt so exciting and so filled with anticipation!!!
That glorious tent we saw from the distance belonged to a lady from London who was doing a 5 day trek alongside a Colombian guide named John. After Carl and “London” retired into their tents for the night, John and I stayed up and had some awesome conversation about the great outdoors and it’s connection to our spirituality. By the time we went to our sleeping bags, I felt so rejuvenated and ready for whatever would come my way.
Torres del Paine Q Trek Portion – Day 2
Campsite: Las Carretas to Paine Grande, 6 hours
It rained during the night and got, what I soon discovered was the norm, pretty damn cold. Don’t fool yourself, summertime in Patagonia has very extreme temperature variations!
I slept on my side and woke up with what felt like a broken collar bone from being pressed onto the cold, hard ground. We used Carl’s camping stove to boil water and make our oatmeal breakfast, adding dried bananas, raisins, and almonds. It tasted pretty good!! To be honest, by day 10 it wasn’t soooo tasty but it still did the trick! haha.
Today was, again, very windy and quite hot. I had re-adjusted my backpack straps and the weight felt much better distributed between my shoulders, back, and hips. We walked up some large hills/mountain sides and, once at the top, looked down over a beautiful sight of a couple acres of flat land. Long, colorful prairie grass was blowing furiously in the wind, with the mountains crystal clear in the distance.
The grass below looked like waves in the ocean – it went on forever and was blowing in an alluring, continuous rhythm. Once we got down there, uuf, it was something else trying to walk against that wind, but I was grateful to be back on flat land!
This continued on for a little over an hour until all of a sudden we hit some areas that got burned in a big fire the year before. Miles and miles of burned down, charred forests and trees, with a wide, windy river flowing through. Eventually, we got up and around the side of a mountain and got hit with an unexpected view…. a large, cyan blue lake at the base of the snow capped mountains. The lake looked like it could have been a commercial for Bora Bora. Or Lord of the Rings.
For a couple hours we walked along its side and plotted where to take a break, soak it all in, and dip our feet. The wind was still very strong and knocked me right over. With all the pressure of wind and the weight of my backpack, I couldn’t get up! Carl needed to come over and give me a hand haha.
The last uphill part was very steep, very long, and very tight… not much between us and the drop-off so I was grateful for the extra balance/support given by the hiking pole. When we got to the top, we had a welcome sight – camp!
This view (aka: camp sighting) proved to be, each and every day, an amazing feeling. This one was at the base of absolutely humongous mountains and alongside another ice blue lake. About 45 minutes later we got into camp, set up the tent, and laid our tired backs into the sun for a much needed rest.
Torres del Paine W Trek Portion – Days 3-5
Campsites Paine Grande, Los Cuernos, Los Torres
During the Torres del Paine W Trek portion, we saw the French Valley and the one of the best sunrises of our lives at the famous Torres del Paine Towers. Read that link for my other article with details on that part of the trek.
Torres del Paine O Trek begins – Day 5
Camp Los Torres to Camp Serón
We came down from seeing the sunrise over the Towers and then got back our camp, where we slept the night before. We ate a bit and then trekked on.
It was 5 hours pure downhill, which, you’d think would have been such a welcome relief. Except, that puts so much pressure on your knees and joints, whereas the uphill is pure muscles. See!! All those squats, lunges, and workouts serve their purpose!! Regardless, our knees were really hurting.
When we got to the bottom we decided to take a nap- the sun was extremely hot, our joints were killing us, and getting up at 3am was starting to take its toll. We woke up, boiled some water to make our dry-freeze lunch, and then continued on. I must have gotten stung by a bug while sleeping because I woke up with a big, painful bite on my finger.
The next 5 hours proved to be the most mentally challenging of the whole trip. We went through acres, upon acres, upon acres of beautiful daisy fields. But, that lack of diversity in our scenery made it difficult to track progress. The land was much wetter, with many lower points that felt like mini-forests. Then, we’d rise back into the daisy fields.
The rivers were very wide and very high… which means, mosquitoes And, boy, they were intense!!! It started getting darker, and darker, and darker and still no sign of camp. We kept feeling like it HAAAAAAAAAD to be around the next bend. We started thinking… maybe we passed it?! It can’t, just can’t, be this far.
Our knees were hurting, my ankle was killing me, the mosquitoes were swarming, and we felt like we’d been walking for days on end. Finally, right when I though I might cry, we saw tents.
We pretty much crawled into the camp… and, surprise, the ranger station had hot water! So, we got a *much needed* shower 🙂 Yes, the tiny drip constantly went from scalding hot to freezing cold… but it felt damn good.
I boiled water for our noodle dinner while Carl showered and then we ate in our tent and enjoyed our little “cup/bowl” of wine. The mosquitoes were too ferocious to be outside, which was a shame, because now that I wasn’t so tired I could again fully appreciate those daisy fields and mountain tops.
Torres del Paine O Trek Day 6
Camp Serón to Camp Dickson, 5 hours
Like every morning, I woke up in the fetal position, in the middle of my sleeping bag, with everything I had completely flapped over on top of me, letting in and out as little air as possible. Like usual, my hips and shoulders were darn sore from rotating all night between sides. Stretching out on my stomach or back would have meant my head was exposed.. so I had to pick a sacrifice 🙂 At this point in my mountain climbing, I still hadn’t invested in a high quality sleeping bag. Brrrrr.
Now, this morning, on top of it all, I woke up and could hardly move my darn finger thanks to the bug bite! Thinking that the rangers would maybe know what bit me, I went over and asked showed them my finger. It was funny because I wasn’t sure who was a ranger and who was maybe just hanging out so I asked “does anybody work here?” and, in unison, they all said, “I do!”
So, I told them about my finger and each and every single one of them wanted to take a look at it. Then, teamwork! One went to get a safety pin, one got a match, one got some iodine, and then one pricked my finger to get all the bite/stinger out. It hurt terribly but it helped! And, later as I was getting ready to leave, each of the guys came by to make sure I was feeling better 🙂 That was nice.
Before I left they noticed my backpack wasn’t packed optimally and they showed me how to pack each item based upon weight. I did the Torres del Paine Trek when I first got to Chile, before I started climbing mountains. I was a novice and, when they were all done, boy, that thing felt sooo much easier to carry!
We all had a laugh because as they were packing my backpack correctly, I was chit-chatting and exaggeratng, talking about how unsupportable and heavy the weight was. Then, all of a sudden, they pulled out what was left of the wine box. Ha!
We all looked at eachother and laughed, as I shrugged, and said, “Well, that weight, it’s ummm, worth it!” Then, to top it all off, they told me I was pretty and that we didn’t need to pay for the campsite. Gosh, that day started out pretty darn well!
The hike itself was much shorter but still quite strenuous. Our first climb was extremely intense but provided an amazing view of a set of mountains with a glacier right in the middle. During this day we climbed over mountain sides, around hills, and across some rivers… and the mountains and the glacier just kept getting bigger.
It was an extremely engaging and exciting scenery to walk towards. After awhile, it looked like the glacier was right on top of us… which meant that camp had to be close. Up one more sharp hill and we saw, tiny at the bottom, a little campsite at the base of it all.
The excitement of seeing camp, and having it be in such a mind-blowing place, day after day, never got old.
Torres del Paine O Trek Day 7
Camp Dickenson to Camp Perros, 5 hours
With another relatively “short” hike in front of us today, we decided to take full advantage of our breath-taking campsite. We slept in a little bit, made our oatmeal, and enjoyed it while gazing at the clear skies and towering mountains.
Another set of campers gave us some manjar (the Chilean version of caramel) and rhubarb jam that they didn’t need any more. Both of these were little bits of heaven in our coffee and oatmeal!! Then, we packed up our tents, boiled some more water for coffee/tea, and went to see how to get to the water.
We got to the river and it was so quiet…. the brisk, cloudy day, slightly covering the mountain-peaks, added a greyish glow to the glacier spilling between the two of them. There were a couple softly flowing streams and it felt like peace at it’s finest. We found a fallen tree log and sat for almost an hour…. sipping our hot coffee, chatting about the trip, and just taking it all in.
The entire hike the rest of this day was through a thick, super green forest. The smell of the forest made me feel like I was somewhere so familiar. Not exactly like the ones in Wisconsin, but similar.
It was a nice change to be “inside” the elements, protected from the wind, the sun, and the cool air. It was a perfect temperature and the stillness of the forest allowed us to enjoy the variety of its sounds.
Since we were on our way to the next big mountain range, the forest had some nice hills, but, compared to what we had been doing, it was a piece of cake. The last stretch leaving the forest brought a view we weren’t expecting. The dirt ground started changing to rocks and soon we were climbing uphill… the air was colder and thinner outside the protection of the trees.
At camp this night we had a treat 🙂 To reward ourselves for all our hard work, Carl and I had brought marshmallows, an extra chocolate bar, and some butter cookies. We were saving them for the end of the trip and tonight was the night we got to break into them!
Torres del Paine O Trek Day 8
Camp Perros to Camp Paso, 7 hours
Today was the day of the John Gardner Mountain Pass, one of the most difficult days of the O Trek. With the severe, sporadic weather in Patagonia, it’s advised, for this part of the hike, to have other people around. The first few hours were zig-zagging up mountain through the treeline. The forest floor was so wet and muddy. Once we passed the treeline, we still had to face the top half of the mountain.
This was the Pass, consisting of 3 rotating sections of rockbed and snow-covered climbs. We were lucky to have a sunny day because I can’t imagine the difficulty of doing it while snowing or raining!
The wind, as usual, was intense and, on one of the rock sections, we found a big boulder to lay behind and take a rest. The sun felt so good and we stretched out to snack on trailmix and a piece of chocolate.
Our hiking poles really came in handy on these steep slopes. They added extra support on the snow covered stretches and helped test the rocks before stepping. The higher we climbed the steeper it got, and looking back was a magnificent sight. We could see the whole mountain below and, far in the distance, the mountain and glacier that had greeted us the day before.
Finally, I could see the top of the mountain. My legs could definitely feel the heaviness from the day’s work, but, since every mountain top thus far had revealed astonishing views, I was excited to see what this one had in store.
Sure enough…. I got to the top and couldn’t believe what was in front of me. Peak after peak of tall mountains, miles of glacier, glacial extensions in every mountain valley, and tons of fluffy white clouds. This was one of the best views yet, and I could hardly take it all in.
We went to find refuge from the wind behind a big boulder and laid down to soak in the sun. Sitting on top of that mountain, in the presence of that landscape, we ate made rice and talked in disbelief about what was currently our reality.
We laid there for a good hour, giving our tired muscles a break, listening to the wind, and basking in the rays. No words can really describe the beauty on the top of this mountain!!
Now, unfortunately, at the top of every mountain, you must also go down. This descent felt like a 90 degree angle! Down the rock/snow parts and then back into the forest we went, using our poles and hanging onto trees to keep us from tripping and rolling on down!
We got into camp to a very welcoming sight. One of the guides was playing a guitar and the sun’s rays were peeking through parts of the tree canopy. I relaxed a little with tea in hand, listening to music while Carl took a nap. Does it get better than that?
Tonight’s dinner was instant mashed potatoes… yuuuuum, right?! Only problem was, to save backpack room, I had thrown the box away and didn’t know how to make them. So, looking for suggestions, I asked some of the guides that were guiding a Colorado couple.
All of a sudden, they were busy making my potatoes…. mixing up the milk, adding spices and butter, and making sure they were nice and creamy 🙂 They commented that I’d still be hungry because it was such a strenuous day up the mountain. But, I told them that, actually, I was excited for the potatoes because it was a nice change from the noodles we’d been eating every night. haha! And, sure enough, they were the best instant mashed potatoes ever!
While eating, one of those guys came over and invited us to eat with them, sharing their lentil, squash, chorizo, potato, and onion dish. Ooooh, it tasted like heaven!!!!!! We’d literally been eating the same foods every day.
Our campsite was not far from a gorgeous glacier lookout so, for sunset, we bundled up, hiked up the hill, and watched it go down. Seeing the sun reflect off the different blues in the ice, and the greys of the mountain, was striking.
Torres del Paine O Trek Day 9
Camp Paso to Camp Grey, 5 hours
Like usual, this morning we woke up, packed up, and made our hearty oatmeal. The guys were making pancakes and offered us a couple… not sure if it was the change up or if everything just tastes better when you’re camping, but they sure were some darn delicious pancakes! Spread with rhubarb jam we’d been given a few days prior and I felt ready to conquer the world! haha
Sitting on a big rock, overlooking the mountains and the gacier, we enjoyed our coffee and talked in disbelief that our trip was almost over. I felt desperate to savor every single second that was left.
The day’s trek was over the mountainside and we were constantly hit with amazing mountain and glacial views.
Lago Grey was surreal, the face of the glacier and spattered with gigantic icebergs. We stopped frequently to sit on trees and rocks overlooking the beautiful, open scenery. I didn’t want this experience to end.
We took a nap in the sun once we got to camp and then made our noodles and, of course, the rest of our congratulatory s’mores! Before hitting the sack we watched the sunset over Lago Grey. We picked a spot at the foot of the lake, feeling like little ants in front of the icebergs, and just stared at the face of the glacier.
It was hard to believe that just 2 nights before we were at the top of the John Gardner Pass mesmerized by a panoramic view of the icefields… and this gargantuan glacier, at that time, had looked so small.
Torres del Paine O Trek Day 10 – we made it!
Camp Grey back to Paine Grande / Puerto Natales, 3.5 hours
We woke up and it was so odd… to know that it was almost all done. That later that night we’d be having the beer and pizza we had fantasized about during the entire trip. Earlier, it felt so far away. There was so much to experience between us and the real bed, comforting food, and cold beer. Now, it was here, and I didn’t want it to end.
I felt like every moment of the last 10 days was so amazingly perfect… and I didn’t want to lose it. It reminded me of when I was a little girl and we’d go up to Grandpa’s cabin. Every time, when we woke up at dawn to start the 8 hour drive home, I remember feeling so sad to leave the rest of the family and the beauty, peace, and tranquility of the woods.
The last trek was mostly uphill and led back up and around a different mountain side. We passed a beautiful deep blue mountain lake. It seemed so out of place, so high up on top of the mountain. Down below, was an ice-blue glacier lake. I loved that contradiction!
When we arrived into Paine Grande, where we would take a ferry across the lake in order to get picked up by a bus, it was a crazy feeling.
A feeling of accomplishment, excitement, amazement of everything we’d seen, and no doubt, bitter-sweetness.
I felt so good and I joked, hey, let’s do it again! We passed out on the bus and eventually arrived back into Puerto Natales. We took the one of the best hot showers imaginable and headed over to a local bar for homemade pizza and ice cold beer.
The complete Torres del Paine Q Trek gave us thousands of unbelievable moments. Moments that left me in awe of the beauty in this world. Definitely, it’s one amazing experience in what will be a lifetime of many more.