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Andes mountains Patagonia hike

Most hikers choose between two classoc treks in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine: the 'W' or the 'Circuit'. The shape of the W route resembles that letter, and is best hiked from west to east – for better views of the Los Cuernos peaks and to save the toughest sections for when your backpack is lightest. The first leg is a straightforward four-hour hike alongside Lago Grey, from Lodge Paine Grande to Refugio Lago Grey, with great views of Glacier Grey along the way. The middle section is a steep ascent of glacier- and waterfall-clad Valle Francés for a close-up look at Los Cuernos and Las Torres (five hours return), while the final leg (four hours one way) is a moderate ascent followed by an hour-long boulder scramble to the Miradór Las Torres – the lakeside viewpoint right beneath the three towers. The Circuit takes in the W, as well as the back side of the park. It’s best to go anticlockwise from Refugio Las Torres for the unparalleled Glacier Grey vista opening below you as you cross the highest point of the trek – Paso John Gardner (1241m). While the W takes four days or so, the Circuit requires seven to nine days, allowing for extra time to loiter at the campsite below Paso John Gardner, as it’s too dangerous to cross during high winds. Both trails are well signposted and well maintained. Hikers stay overnight either at designated campsites or in pricey dorm beds in refugios.


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