By: James Procelli
Ever dream of finishing a Spartan Race or Obstacle Course? Well from personal experience the toughest part of the Spartan Race was all the running/walking up and down the hills of Perfect North Ski Slopes. Hiking trips are a great way to build that endurance and get used to carrying weight up mountains....
Ever wish you could join the Fellowship as they make their way from Rivendell to Mordor? (No, just me, you're a nerd I'm not a nerd). Or ever pretend to be transported to Westeros or any other favorite fictional world while on a hike? Maybe throw on the epic Lord of the Rings soundtrack instead of Pitbull Pandora and have your own adventure. Well, I've got a place where you don't have to pretend. Patagonia (yes millennials, the clothing brand is named after this location), the southern tip of South America, spanning parts of Chile and Argentina. And the most magical landscapes on this Earth are in Torres Del Paine National Park.
There's no way to skip leg day on one of the most well-known international hikes, The W Trek ranges anywhere from 3-7 days and covers around 50 miles depending on personal choices. Who needs squats and deadlifts when you are carrying a 45 pound backpack up mountains. Named for the shape of the letter, this hike takes you across varying landscapes: from huge ice glaciers, through lush, emerald forests, across crystal-blue lakes, to snow-capped granite mountains. It's hard not to pretend you are in Middle Earth with these views. Much like the landscapes, it is not a true Patagonia day without experiencing all four seasons. Beautiful sunrises turn into torrential rain and 120 mph gust of winds (ever wanted to be in the middle of a tornado without the possible death?), which turn into light snow fall, which turn into a perfect 70-degree sunny day, and capped with a picturesque sunset over the mountains.
The hiking itself ranges from easy difficulty to strenuous, but if my 57-year-old mother with little hiking experience can suffer a few falls and bruises and still finish so can you. Some highlights include: hiking the 11 miles to Las Torres, three giant rock towers in the background of a glacier lake, jumping in said freezing glacier lake to a round of applause from all the other hikers, staring in wonder mid hike at Los Cuernos, two granite peaks shaped like a bull's horns, and taking a well-earned boat ride after hiking 7.5 miles to Grey Glacier. And let's not forget a nice glass of red wine, in my opinion Chile's best natural resource, to recover those legs and prepare for the next day.
Definitely a more time-consuming trip because of the remote location, this should be planned in advance. Winter months (December to March) are the best time to go since it is summer then in the Southern Hemisphere. With 16 plus hours of sunlight a day there's no need for expensive Starbucks lattes to get up in the morning when the sun is all the motivation you need to get hiking. Backpackers can save money by camping and bringing sufficient food, but there are more luxurious guided options with tour companies that provide lodging and meals. With all the effort of extra planning and saving, know that the reward is well worth it. The pride and joy of finishing this trek is leaps (should I say box jumps) above just doing a normal day hike. If you are looking for an outdoor adventure that would make Bear Grylls jealous, give Patagonia a look.
How to Get There: Fly to Santiago, Chile then fly to Punta Arenas, Chile and bus 5 hours to the park with a stop in Puerto Natales.
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