Date of Trip: February 2011
Traveling to Patagonia Solo
Solo travel is my gig. It’s what I do. But going to hike alone in those incredible mountains in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, had me a little overwhelmed. Was I really going to do this? How alone would I be? How well marked are the trails? Is it beyond my ability?
To my absolute delight, Torres del Paine is perfect for a solo traveler. There is a range of hiking for every ability, the trails are well marked and, at the height of summer, there are enough hikers on the trail to feel safe – yet it wasn’t overcrowded.
Getting there and gaining a travel mate. While I may set out on my travels alone, I rarely spend all my time that way. I often pick up a travel mate for one leg of the trip or another. This was the case in Patagonia. To get there I took the Navimag Ferry. On board were dozens of solo travelers and I think every one found a partner for the hike of Torres del Paine.
My hiking partner was Noemie of France. She’s a powerhouse of a young woman and we hit it off right away despite her being almost half my age. Once we decided to hike together we needed a plan.
To reduce what we had to carry, we emptied our backpacks, put everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary in her large one and split the rest between my two smaller packs. We left her pack at a hostel.
To keep costs down, I canceled my reservations at the Refugio and we rented a tent, sleeping bags and mattresses. We bought nuts and dried fruit. After a short pause to think, we decided we were ready and caught a ride into the park from Claude, another solo traveler we had met on the Ferry.
Hiking Torres del Paine. Confession time. I’m a traveler, not a hiker. I walk a lot at home but I’m a city person. I rarely head out of town to hike the many trails in my area. And I have one bad knee. So, how did I do in Patagonia?
In fact, more than fine. You have a number of choices in the Torres del Paine. You can hike the full circuit which typically takes nine days. You can do the W which takes five days. Or you can do parts of the W. Given the time we had available we did the two sides of the W which are known as the most scenic.
On day one we hiked to the campground located about 1 hour from the mirador at the Towers – the grand prize in terms of views at Torres del Paine. We woke early the next morning and hiked the last hour to see the Towers in sunshine – which isn’t always the case. In fact, we chose to do that side of the W first because the weather forecast suggested it would be our best opportunity to see the Towers that week.
On that second day, we hiked down the trail and took a bus across the bottom of the W to the other side. This took the entire day. We camped at Grand Paines.
Day three, we hiked to the Grey Glacier – a decidedly easier hike than the one to the Towers but equally beautiful with the reward of a mirador for the glacier at the end.
Wherever I cast my eyes in Torres del Paine there was beauty – in the mountains, the glacier lakes, the dramatic skies and in the people I met hiking. Though a little out of the way, Patagonia is worth the trip for solo travelers.