Winter Hiking in Torres del Paine
- What do you think is the best reason to consider the W trek in winter?
Winter is by far the best time to avoid the crowds. It's like traveling back in time when Torres del Paine was a place very few people knew of. There are very few hikers on the trails which means it is easier to spot wildlife, and the hikes are a real immersion in the wilderness.
- Is the Winter the best time to see animals in Torres del Paine? What can you expect to see?
Winter and Autumn (April to September) are the best months to spot wildlife. There are fewer vehicles on the road and fewer people on the trails so animals tend to get closer to the tourist areas of the park. It includes animals such as pumas, condors and the endangered Huemul (South Andean Deer). In case of snowfall, the snow makes it even easier to spot those animals thanks to the (amazing) contrast.
- What is most challenging about trekking in the Winter vs Summer season?
Winter days are shorter, with only 8 hours of daylight in the heart of June. It is still enough to enjoy the hikes and enjoy the spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Also temperatures are lower - about 0°C at night (sometimes below 0) and no more than 5° during the day. Snowfall in the valleys is possible all year round, but some of the most well-known hiking trails such as the Towers' Base and French Valley are partially covered with snow in Winter (usually no more than 30 centimeters) so the use of crampons or shoe spikes are highly recommended. There is nothing technical though, and the trails are still well-marked. In Winter, hiking with a guide is an obligation.
- Is there any special equipment needed for winter trekking?
In Winter, travelers definitely must use good waterproof clothes - a good windbreaker waterproof jacket is a must - and hiking poles. Crampons or shoe spikes are also important - not everywhere, but in all valleys.
- What are the trail conditions like in the Winter?
Trail conditions are good. If you hike up French Valley or the Towers' Base, you may walk on some slippery terrain and parts of the trail might disappear with the snow, which is why you must go with a guide and use crampons.
- Are accommodations comfortable in Winter?
Accommodations are very comfortable all year round, and Winter offers more room in all refuges so you can enjoy the living room "all for yourself". It is easier to get to know fellow travelers which is why I personally prefer the mood in Winter. You will find a warm bed and heated rooms - including common areas - everywhere.
- Do you need a guide for Winter trekking?
Hiking in Winter means you need a guide. It is a rule in Torres del Paine National Park, and hiking with a guide improves the quality of the experience (and of course the safety!).
- Are there good opportunities for Photographers?
Winter is a delight for photographers. As an outdoors photographers myself, I really enjoy the quietness of Winter months. You can easily choose your sot even in famous spots such as the towers' base lake. There is less wind, so you can get some amazing reflections on lakes like Pehoe or Laguna Amarga. The mountains are snow capped which creates some epic contrasts with the forests and the plains and you can use the spectacular granite spires as a background for the amazing wildlife. Nights are longer, perfect for some milky way shots. There are more precipitations than during summertime, but it's far from being extreme, and I have hiked a lot in Winter with great weather conditions so I could get the shots I wanted. Low clouds also help to create a dramatic mood I personally enjoy a lot!
- Favorite Gear item for trekking the W?
My camera and my lenses, definitely ;) But of course a good down jacket so you can enjoy the cold evenings from outside.
- What is your favorite place in the park in the Winter?
It is hard to choose a favorite spot, but the surroundings of Pehoe Lake offer plenty of photography opportunities. As for Wildlife, the Laguna Amarga area in Winter is totally recommended.
- Outside of visiting TDP in the Winter, what are other great destinations or activities to consider?
Winter in Patagonia offers plenty of exploration opportunities. Close to Puerto Natales, hiking near Laguna Sofia is a great idea to spot plenty of condors.
In Tierra del Fuego, there are some cool spots to enjoy the silence of the local forests. And I personally love the Aysen Region. There are dozens of recommended National Parks and driving the Carretera Austral in Winter is a real adventure, with empty trails and dramatic views. But you must of course be careful with the road conditions depending on the weather.