Partnerning with Mountainsmith, our team from Shasta Mountain Sport traveled from the United States, Germany and Santiago, Chile to tackle a 6-day hike on the famous “W” trail, located in the Patagonia Region’s Parque Torres Del Paine.
From backpacks to tents to poles and sleeping bags, we had a variety of Mountainsmith gear to put to good use on the trial, at the Refugio’s and in town. We started the adventure in the small town of Puerto Natales, which is the main jump-off point before the 3-hour dirt road drive to the park. The Patagonia Region is far in the southern section of the country and is surrounded by fjords, rivers, crystal blue lakes, mountains and wide-open pampas. To say it is beautiful would be an understatement. This is one of the most spectacular outdoor destinations in the world.
The 6-night trip was dramatically different from day to day both in scenery and weather. One day we’d have 40 mph winds, one day perfect temperatures and gleaming sun, the next day overcast skies, the next rain and the next was cold and clear.
There are many ways to see the park, with options for a wide range of people. If you want a hard core backpack trip where you carry everything and sleep in the backcountry, you can do it. There is also a Refugio-to-Refugio option where you can sleep in a rustic log cabin with fellow hikers and buy tasty meals, beer and wine. There are even luxury lodges on the outskirts of the park where travelers can do day hikes to key locations within the park.temperatures and gleaming sun, the next day overcast skies, the next rain, and the next cold and clear. For optimal comfort and fun, it’s critical to be prepared for any backcountry experience here.
Our team did a combination of backcountry camping and a few nights in tents in the Refugio’s camping areas. We put the Mountainsmith kit to the test throughout our trip, both for full load trekking as well as day hikes from base camp. Setting up camp in the backcountry and in the Refugio’s, we relied on the Mountain Dome 2 and Morrison 2 backpacking tents. We used three different hauling backpacks Apex 80, Apex 60 and the Lariat 65 for the longer sections as well as the Scream 25 and the detachable backpack from the Lariat 65 for day hikes and time in town. To help carry the heavy loads up the steep and rocky terrain, we leaned on our Pyrite 7075 and Rhyolite 6061 trekking poles. These were a huge help in stabilizing the 40-45 lbs loads we were carrying.
There is no better way to shake out any kit than a multi-day backpacking trip and Mountainsmith stood up to the rigors of day-to-day use and intensely varied weather. The backpack design and features not only helped, but also enhanced the experience. The high-quality backpacks made carrying the big loads much easier than expected, with load balance support and comfortable contact points.
After the trek, we grabbed our Mountansmith day packs and made our way back to Puerto Natales for that first cold beer and delicious meal at the local pub.
About Parque Torres Del Paine
Soaring almost vertically more than 2000m above the Patagonian steppe, the granite pillars of Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) dominate the landscape of what may be South America’s finest national park. It lies in a transition area between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes. The park is located 112 km (70 mi) north of Puerto Natales and 312 km (194 mi) north of Punta Arenas. Before its creation in 1959, the park was part of a large sheep estancia, and it’s still recovering from nearly a century of overexploitation of its pastures, forests and wildlife.
Most people visit the park for its one greatest hit but, once here, realize that there are other attractions with equal wow-power like the French Valley and Glacier Gray. We’re talking about azure lakes, trails that meander through emerald forests, roaring rivers you’ll cross on rickety bridges and one big, radiant blue glacier. Variety spans from the vast openness of the steppe to rugged mountain terrain topped by looming peaks.
Part of Unesco’s Biosphere Reserve system since 1978, the park is home to flocks of ostrich-like rhea (known locally as the ñandú), Andean condor, flamingo and many other bird species. Its star success in conservation is undoubtedly the guanaco, which grazes the open steppes where pumas cannot approach undetected. The puma population is also growing, and huemul (an endangered Andean deer) have been spotted in Valle Frances.
When the weather is clear, panoramas are everywhere. However, unpredictable weather systems can sheath the peaks in clouds for hours or days. Some say you get four seasons in a day here, with sudden rainstorms and knock-down gusts part of the hearty initiation.
The crowning attraction of this 1810-sq-km park is its highly developed infrastructure, which makes it possible to do the whole ‘W’ hike while sleeping in beds, eating hot meals, taking showers and even drinking the random cocktail. It’s essential to make reservations ahead of time. But no matter what option you choose you are most certainly going to experience one of the most spectacular natural wonders on the planet.