Posted by: Jay & Christina | April 28, 2010

Down to basics

All a person needs to survive is food, shelter, and clothing.  This was truly put to the test during our 5-day trek through Torres Del Paine, a national park in the Chilean side of Patagonia. We arrived in Puerto Natales, Chile, a jump-off point to TDP.  We stayed at a hostel called Erratic Rock, run by an expat named Bill from Oregon.  He was a fantastic host who was passionate about recycling (awesome) and made killer omelets and homemade bread for the hostelers staying there.  Everyday, Erratic Rock holds a talk for those planning to trek through Torres Del Paine.
The most popular trek is called the “W”.


There are many ways you can complete this circuit. One may choose to go east to west or go west to east. One can choose to stay at refugios (a mountain refuge with amenities like a bed, shower, and food), or you can choose to rough it out and camp. The “W” takes about 5 days to complete, with at least 6-7 hours of hiking each day to reach your next destination point. The refugios are quite expensive and since we arrived at the end of the season, only a couple of them were open. This left us with the option to camp it out like the rough and tough people we are (yeah right). Camping through the “W” meant we had to carry everything with us-sleeping bags, mats, tent, stove, cooking utensils, food, and clothing.

At 3:30 in the afternoon with a room full of would-be trekkers, Nacho, a local guide and experienced mountaineer, started the talk with all the information to prepare for the “W”:  how to get there, how to pack, what to pack, what to expect, and how to survive for next 5 days. Had Jay and I not gone to this talk, we would’ve been in a lot of trouble. This talk was invaluable. Plus, we were able to meet 2 solo travelers, Ben and Arel, that we were able to team up with. This turned out to be advantageous in terms of sharing the cost (and weight) of food.

Over the course of the next few hours, we set out in preparation for the trek, and also to get to know the people we were going to be spending a lot of time with. We were all a bit nervous and joked about how there should be an interview process to make sure we all got along. After all, spending 5 days, 24/7 with people you don’t know can either be really great or really horrible. We also met a group of 4 guys from California that were starting the trek the same day as us. And as luck would have it, we spent the next 5 days with a group of really incredible people. We really lucked out.

During the Erratic Rock talk, a bus load of people who had just returned from their trek came straggling in, looking tired and a bit weathered. We exchanged curious glances as the veterans gave knowing looks of what us next group of newbies would have in store.

After the talk, we mingled with these trekkers and noticed an air of nervous energy around the hostel. It turns out that these group of trekkers had just returned from a harrowing find. Two months earlier, a trekker had climbed up a rock near the trail of the “W” when he lost his balance and fell to his death. His body swept through the strong current of the river, and had only been discovered a few days prior. What a horrible tragedy. I couldn’t stop thinking about this poor man’s life and how it ended so suddenly. Later I found out that some of these trekkers had seen his body in the river. The news had me shaking in my boots and I was wondering what exactly we were getting ourselves into. But, everyone assured us that as long as you stayed on the trail, it would be okay. During the talk, however, Nacho did warn us that there would be certain parts of the trail where we would have to be careful since we were at least a 4 hour hike in either direction from any sort of facility. Man, I was nervous.

The next morning, our group of 4 and the other 4 young chaps from California made our way into Torres Del Paine. We all decided to start the circuit going west to east as the trails would become progressively harder. The trade-off was that our backpacks would become lighter since we’d be eating our food along the way, and our legs would get stronger from all the previous days of hiking.

As we waited for our catamaran across Lake Pehoe to the entrance of the hiking trail, we took a quick hike to a gorgeous waterfall nearby.


Afterward, we boarded the catamaran and looked out across the water to see the majestic snow-cover mountains that we would call home for the next 5 days.



To say I felt intimidated is an understatement. But, knowing that we weren’t alone was comforting.

Yes, that’s Jay wearing the Jordanian keffiyeh…

To be continued…



  1. Beautiful pictures. The sceneries are unbelievable. Yes, the top scene make people somewhat intimidated and I am comforted that you are not alone.
    제이야, 수진아, 사랑한다

  2. Amazing guys! I think you just sealed our decision on where our next trip will be. By the way, we are most likely moving back to California. See you when you get back!

    • Brian, we think you and Sarah would love hiking through Patagonia. Go! Go! Go! Excited to hear that you will be moving back, we will definitely have to catch up when we return!

  3. […] our personal stuff (sleeping bag, clothes, etc.), but Jay and I opted to carry our things. After our trek in Torres Del Paine, we were feeling pretty (over)confident that the Inca Trail would be a “piece of […]

  4. […] Torres Del Paine, Chile Patagonia is a gem. We only hit a few of its major sights, and the Chilean and Argentinean sides were both stunning. But, when it comes down to it, the “W” trek in Torres Del Paine wins. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but it was also one of the best. […]

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