Torres del Paine - The O Trek

Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales

Hostel in Punta Arenas.    Our Patagonia adventure began with a 3am check in at a small hostel in Punta Arenas.   In the morning,  our group of seven took a bus to Puerto Natales where we stocked up on food, fuel, and wine for an eight day trek through the Torres del Paine National park.  

Hostel in Punta Arenas.   

Our Patagonia adventure began with a 3am check in at a small hostel in Punta Arenas.   In the morning,  our group of seven took a bus to Puerto Natales where we stocked up on food, fuel, and wine for an eight day trek through the Torres del Paine National park.  

Pedro was a kind man who supplied us with fuel bottles for our stoves.   He walked us through his collection of family photos hanging proudly in his small shop.   His family had lived in the area for decades and at one time hunted puma. I asked if I could take his portrait and he happily obliged.  He then had each of us pose for a photo with him.    Puerto Natales 

Pedro was a kind man who supplied us with fuel bottles for our stoves.   He walked us through his collection of family photos hanging proudly in his small shop.   His family had lived in the area for decades and at one time hunted puma. I asked if I could take his portrait and he happily obliged.  He then had each of us pose for a photo with him.    Puerto Natales 


Laguna Amarga Entrance 

Las Torres Hotel to Camp Serón  - 18 kilometers 

Martha, Callie, and Rachel consult the park map as we began the first leg of the trip.  

Martha, Callie, and Rachel consult the park map as we began the first leg of the trip.  

The road to Las Torres hotel. 

The road to Las Torres hotel. 

The road to Las Torres hotel. 

The road to Las Torres hotel. 

The first rest.   While waiting for our friends to be reunited with their missing packs, we grabbed lunch at the Las Torres Hotel and crashed for a quick nap.   We were all surprised by the size of the hotel and soon tried to reset expectations for our wilderness experience.   This was my first time backpacking in a hut style trekking loop.  I'll admit that the little stores along the way were quite nice.   

The first rest.   While waiting for our friends to be reunited with their missing packs, we grabbed lunch at the Las Torres Hotel and crashed for a quick nap.   We were all surprised by the size of the hotel and soon tried to reset expectations for our wilderness experience.   This was my first time backpacking in a hut style trekking loop.  I'll admit that the little stores along the way were quite nice.   

The Torres del Paine trek is quite famous.   Most people choose to do a large segment of the trip called the "W."  We decided to add on a few extra days and kilometers to complete the route as the "O."  We started the hike out on simple dirt road which narrowed to a path, rolling over the open countryside.  

The Torres del Paine trek is quite famous.   Most people choose to do a large segment of the trip called the "W."  We decided to add on a few extra days and kilometers to complete the route as the "O."  We started the hike out on simple dirt road which narrowed to a path, rolling over the open countryside.  

Camp Serón

Camp Serón - Dickson Shelter - 18 Kilometers 

Camp Serón.   Torres del Paine National Park has several sections of private property along the northeast side of the park.   The hike to Camp Serón travels through private property.       

Camp Serón.   Torres del Paine National Park has several sections of private property along the northeast side of the park.   The hike to Camp Serón travels through private property.       

Handstands in daisies in Patagonia.  

Handstands in daisies in Patagonia.  

Cartwheels through daisies in Patagonia.  

Cartwheels through daisies in Patagonia.  

The best way to end our first day is to play.   Our group celebrated our first night by doing cartwheels and handstands through the daisy field.   Big smiles and laughter spread across everyone's faces.  

The best way to end our first day is to play.   Our group celebrated our first night by doing cartwheels and handstands through the daisy field.   Big smiles and laughter spread across everyone's faces.  

Patagonia has the most incredible could formations.    

Patagonia has the most incredible could formations.    

Clouds rolling through as the sun sets.   

Clouds rolling through as the sun sets.   

Pack weight.   We didn't anticipate the availability of food along the trek so we brought 9 days of food with.   Callie gasps as she sees the weight of Martha's pack.   Martha won the weight competition breaking 50lbs.   

Pack weight.   We didn't anticipate the availability of food along the trek so we brought 9 days of food with.   Callie gasps as she sees the weight of Martha's pack.   Martha won the weight competition breaking 50lbs.   

Paine Lake.   Along the "O" trek, we got to see some incredible areas missed by most of the visitors to the park.   One of my favorite sections of hiking was along Paine Lake towards Dickson.   The water was a soft glacial blue/green and was framed by snow capped ridgelines and peaks.  The river feeding into the lake became almost white at times when the sun was covered.    The trail meandered through the lake valley and edged by rocks covered in delicate green lichen and round shrubs.  

Paine Lake.   Along the "O" trek, we got to see some incredible areas missed by most of the visitors to the park.   One of my favorite sections of hiking was along Paine Lake towards Dickson.   The water was a soft glacial blue/green and was framed by snow capped ridgelines and peaks.  The river feeding into the lake became almost white at times when the sun was covered.    The trail meandered through the lake valley and edged by rocks covered in delicate green lichen and round shrubs.  

Martha and Rachel keeping the excitement high while hiking the trail to Dickson Shelter.   

Martha and Rachel keeping the excitement high while hiking the trail to Dickson Shelter.   

Trail to Dickson Shelter.  

Trail to Dickson Shelter.  

Dickson Shelter and Camp

Dickson Shelter to Los Perros Camping Area - 11 Kilometers

Callie and Aaron setting up camp at Dickson Shelter.   

Callie and Aaron setting up camp at Dickson Shelter.   

Dickson Glacier and Lake.     Small icebergs from the glacier floated along the edges of Dickson Lake as we watched the sun set.  In true Midwestern fashion, I skipped the available showers at camp, and went for a cold-water swim.      

Dickson Glacier and Lake.     Small icebergs from the glacier floated along the edges of Dickson Lake as we watched the sun set.  In true Midwestern fashion, I skipped the available showers at camp, and went for a cold-water swim.      

Dickson Shelter and Camp Area.   

Dickson Shelter and Camp Area.   

A horse grazing outside of Dickson Shelter.  In the morning, we heard horses whinnying to each other from outside of the camp.   I peered out of my tent and 4 horses walked between the maze of tents to settle into the camp.     

A horse grazing outside of Dickson Shelter.  In the morning, we heard horses whinnying to each other from outside of the camp.   I peered out of my tent and 4 horses walked between the maze of tents to settle into the camp.     

The national flag of Chile, and the flag for Patagonia flutter in the evening air.  The breeze was calm this night, but the frayed edges on the flag make me think that the winds get strong in this region - each fiber shaped by the pull of the current of air. 

The national flag of Chile, and the flag for Patagonia flutter in the evening air.  The breeze was calm this night, but the frayed edges on the flag make me think that the winds get strong in this region - each fiber shaped by the pull of the current of air. 

We set out on our New Year's eve hiking day leaving Dickson for Los Perros.   Glacier to Glacier to ring in the New Year.    

We set out on our New Year's eve hiking day leaving Dickson for Los Perros.   Glacier to Glacier to ring in the New Year.    

The Torres park has four ecological regions, the Patagonia Steppe, Pre-Andean Shrubland, Magellanic Deciduous Forest, and Andean Desert.    On the way to Los Perros, we entered the forest.    

The Torres park has four ecological regions, the Patagonia Steppe, Pre-Andean Shrubland, Magellanic Deciduous Forest, and Andean Desert.    On the way to Los Perros, we entered the forest.    

Betsy enjoying the view of the river on one of the many bridge crossings during our trip.   

Betsy enjoying the view of the river on one of the many bridge crossings during our trip.   

Camp Los Perros 

Los Perros Camp to Grey Shelter - 22 Kilomoters

Los Perros Glacier.   Small streams of water ran down the face of the rock next to Los Perros Glacier.   We could hear the ice grumble and groan as we made our way to the campground.   

Los Perros Glacier.   Small streams of water ran down the face of the rock next to Los Perros Glacier.   We could hear the ice grumble and groan as we made our way to the campground.   

Los Perros Glacier.   

Los Perros Glacier.   

Once we set up camp, we returned to the glacier with some wine and mugs to celebrate the New Year.   At the campground shelter, we rang in 2016 with people from all around the world.  We waited until midnight for each person's home company to toast the year to come.   Midnight in the daylight.   

Once we set up camp, we returned to the glacier with some wine and mugs to celebrate the New Year.   At the campground shelter, we rang in 2016 with people from all around the world.  We waited until midnight for each person's home company to toast the year to come.   Midnight in the daylight.   

Los Perros to Grey Shelter was a long hiking day for our group.  Day 1 of 2016 we picked up out packs and headed for the pass.   I had caught a terrible sinus cold several days earlier and walked slowly while battling my restricted breathing.   All in all, the path up was simple.   The views stunning from the top.   

Los Perros to Grey Shelter was a long hiking day for our group.  Day 1 of 2016 we picked up out packs and headed for the pass.   I had caught a terrible sinus cold several days earlier and walked slowly while battling my restricted breathing.   All in all, the path up was simple.   The views stunning from the top.   

Celebration at Paso John Gardner 

Celebration at Paso John Gardner 

Happiness at Paso John Gardner. 

Happiness at Paso John Gardner. 

Once at the top of the pass, we were able to see Grey Glacier and the Southern Patagonia Ice field.   The Southern Patagonia Ice Field is the second largest contiguous ice field in the world.  The glacier was huge.    The sprawling sheet of ice was textured with crevasses and debris.   We had the rest of the day to walk in it's presence.    

Once at the top of the pass, we were able to see Grey Glacier and the Southern Patagonia Ice field.   The Southern Patagonia Ice Field is the second largest contiguous ice field in the world.  The glacier was huge.    The sprawling sheet of ice was textured with crevasses and debris.   We had the rest of the day to walk in it's presence.    

Aaron snapping photos.   

Aaron snapping photos.   

Paso Camp 

Lunch break at Los Guardas.  The rangers at Los Guardas felt bad for how sick I was.   They had a lemon in their small hut which they gave to me to add to my water and tea.   It was a kind gesture that was graciously accepted.   

Lunch break at Los Guardas.  The rangers at Los Guardas felt bad for how sick I was.   They had a lemon in their small hut which they gave to me to add to my water and tea.   It was a kind gesture that was graciously accepted.   

Grey Glacier and the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.  As the clouds moved through, light danced across the glacier and blue pools of water shone like small gems.  

Grey Glacier and the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.  As the clouds moved through, light danced across the glacier and blue pools of water shone like small gems.  

As we hiked along the ridge that flanked the glacier, the weather began to turn.  

As we hiked along the ridge that flanked the glacier, the weather began to turn.  

Every once and a while I remembered to look away from the glacier to our other surroundings.   Martha gets ready to cross a small stream that is cutting through a boulder field.   

Every once and a while I remembered to look away from the glacier to our other surroundings.   Martha gets ready to cross a small stream that is cutting through a boulder field.   

The edge of Grey Glacier opens drops off quickly to Grey Lake.   

The edge of Grey Glacier opens drops off quickly to Grey Lake.   

We had a lot of luck with the weather.   We had light rain pass through intermittently, but did not get caught in the downpour the clouds threatened.  

We had a lot of luck with the weather.   We had light rain pass through intermittently, but did not get caught in the downpour the clouds threatened.  

Grey Glacier is 100 feet thick and in some places several kilometers wide.   According to a fellow hiker, Grey Glacier has recited dramatically in the past few years since his last visit.  

Grey Glacier is 100 feet thick and in some places several kilometers wide.   According to a fellow hiker, Grey Glacier has recited dramatically in the past few years since his last visit.  

Suspension Bridge on the way to Grey Shelter.  

Suspension Bridge on the way to Grey Shelter.  

Grey Shelter 

Grey Shelter to Paine Grande Shelter - 11 Kilometers

After 22 Kilometers of hiking, we all dropped our packs at the campground and worked on giving our legs a rest.   

After 22 Kilometers of hiking, we all dropped our packs at the campground and worked on giving our legs a rest.   

Picnic table yoga.   

Picnic table yoga.   

The wind began picking up as we neared Paine Grande.   The gusts of wind were strong enough to knock us off of our balance.   

The wind began picking up as we neared Paine Grande.   The gusts of wind were strong enough to knock us off of our balance.   

Ready.  Set.  Gust.

Ready.  Set.  Gust.

Paine Grande Shelter

Paine Grande Shelter to Italian Camp - 7.5 Kilometers

Paine Grande Shelter has an entire wall next to the shelter stacked with bricks.   The wind fluctuated between 50 kilometers per hour and reached 86 kph and bricks were used to keeps tents taut.  I watched as several bricks popped like bubble wrap.   I staked out my tarp and lined the edges with bricks.   The howling wind kept the fabric of my tarp in perpetual motion, but it held strong throughout the night.    

Paine Grande Shelter has an entire wall next to the shelter stacked with bricks.   The wind fluctuated between 50 kilometers per hour and reached 86 kph and bricks were used to keeps tents taut.  I watched as several bricks popped like bubble wrap.   I staked out my tarp and lined the edges with bricks.   The howling wind kept the fabric of my tarp in perpetual motion, but it held strong throughout the night.    

Grey Shelter to Paine Grande was the first section of the "W" trek.   We noticed the amount of people on the trail increase greatly and the shelters became crowded.   We found a little space  to claim as our own and found some familiar faces of people we had met along the "O."    

Grey Shelter to Paine Grande was the first section of the "W" trek.   We noticed the amount of people on the trail increase greatly and the shelters became crowded.   We found a little space  to claim as our own and found some familiar faces of people we had met along the "O."    

Pehoé Lake shivers with small waves caused by the fetch from the constant wind.   Pehoé is a beautiful shade of blue and looks incredibly striking against the green hillsides surrounding the water.   

Pehoé Lake shivers with small waves caused by the fetch from the constant wind.   Pehoé is a beautiful shade of blue and looks incredibly striking against the green hillsides surrounding the water.   

Pehoé Lake sits below the Paine Grande Peak with Cuernos del Paine in the background.    

Pehoé Lake sits below the Paine Grande Peak with Cuernos del Paine in the background.    

The view from my tent as the rain breaks.   Cuernos del Paine.  

The view from my tent as the rain breaks.   Cuernos del Paine.  

Italian Camp

Italian Camp to Británico Outlook day hike - 10 Kilometers RT

Italian Camp to Torres Ranger Station and Camp - 24 Kilometers

We dropped our packs at the Italian Camp and hiked up to the French Valley.   The French Valley give you a stunning look at all the spires.      

We dropped our packs at the Italian Camp and hiked up to the French Valley.   The French Valley give you a stunning look at all the spires.      

Rachel and I hiked to the top of the French Valley.  I can only imagine the climbing possibilities in this range.    

Rachel and I hiked to the top of the French Valley.  I can only imagine the climbing possibilities in this range.    

Callie leads the way from Italian Camp with the Francés Glacier in the background.    

Callie leads the way from Italian Camp with the Francés Glacier in the background.    

Nordenskjöld Lake 

Nordenskjöld Lake 

A horseman leads a pack of horses carrying supplies along the trail from Chileno.   

A horseman leads a pack of horses carrying supplies along the trail from Chileno.   

The trail to Chileno and the Torres Station Camp.   

The trail to Chileno and the Torres Station Camp.   

Torres Ranger Station and Camp

Torres Ranger Station to Base de las Torres Lookout - 2 Kilometers RT

Torres Ranger Station to Las Torres Hotel - 8 Kilometers 

Our last night of camping at the Torres Camp.   We cooked hearty meals using all of the ingredients we saved throughout the trip.  

Our last night of camping at the Torres Camp.   We cooked hearty meals using all of the ingredients we saved throughout the trip.  

We hiked in the dark up to the base of the Torres spires to sit and watch the sun rise.   

We hiked in the dark up to the base of the Torres spires to sit and watch the sun rise.   

Torres Del Paine spires.   We lucked out with great weather and clear skies.   The sunrise was lovely even though we didn't see famed red glow.   After the sunrise, we said goodbye to the spires and began our trek out of the park. 

Torres Del Paine spires.   We lucked out with great weather and clear skies.   The sunrise was lovely even though we didn't see famed red glow.   After the sunrise, we said goodbye to the spires and began our trek out of the park. 

 
 

The Trekking Crew 

Callie Hefstad

Callie Hefstad

Martha Trevey

Martha Trevey

Rachel Morgan 

Rachel Morgan 

Aaron Hefstad

Aaron Hefstad

Ryan Daniel Morgan

Ryan Daniel Morgan

Betsy Christensen

Betsy Christensen

Kaylyn Messer.   Photo by Callie Hefstad

Kaylyn Messer.   Photo by Callie Hefstad