ARGENTINA CAMPING CHILE HIKING

HOW TO SURVIVE A PATAGONIA WINTER TREK

December 8, 2016
patagonia-glaciar

Patagonia, a land of snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes, frosted woodland and iced beauty. Stretching through southern Chile and Argentina until the continent’s end, Patagonia attracts travellers from all over the world. The summer season, from December to February sees trekkers, photographers, wildlife enthusiasts and many more making the long journey south to explore this frozen tip of South America.

torres-del-paine-national-park

Come winter, however, and there is a different story to tell. From June to September, sub-zero temperatures, few sunlight hours and reduced transportation ward many travellers off. We were met with incredulous remarks and worried glances when announcing plans of a wintertime trip to Patagonia. Doubts placed firmly at the back of our minds, we set off anyway. It seemed like too good a trip to miss, and indeed it was.

patagonia-hikinig

Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is one of Patagonia’s many highlights. Images of the iconic “torres” grace countless guidebooks and a three-to-four day trek through the park, dubbed the W Circuit, tops many trekkers bucket lists. This was to be our destination, and the trek, our challenge. Incredulous remarks and worried glances lingering in our minds, we were careful to take extra special care to ensure a successful trip. The following tips were catered specifically to our experience of the W Circuit, but can be applied to any wintry Patagonia trip.

patagonia-the-torres

TRANSPORT

It’s no lie that many tourist services shut down during the winter period. Transfers from the town of Puerto Natales to the W Circuit starting point can be expensive and hard to come by. Having patience and a little extra time on your side just in case is advisable. Lack of snow chains on our under equipped but overloaded transfer vehicle nearly made us fall at the first hurdle. It was time to push. Half an hour of puffing and panting later and we had made it to the starting line. Just don’t expect first class service.

 transport-problems-patagonia

CAMPING GEAR

During winter, all but one of the refuges along the route are closed. Camping is unavoidable, but sleepless nights are not. Thick sleeping bags (up to -9 degrees Celsius) and mats do well to keep out the cold and the wet, but many more layers are still needed. I found this out the hard way. Having stripped down to my thermals and t-shirt upon entering the toasty two-man tent (home to three of us) I awoke a few hours later. Teeth chattering, I scrambled around the tent locating my remaining jumpers, coat and hat. Unpopular among my fellow tent dwellers to say the least.

patagonia-sun-rise-in-camp

DOWN JACKETS

Believe it or not, a heavy-duty jacket is not needed during the daytime. A nice, highly waterproof (just in case) wind breaker on top of your other layers is enough. Walking for long periods of time, bag on back, you will break into a sweat. Sweating in the snow is certainly one of life’s more incongruous situations. However, once you make it to the night’s campsite, you will want to strip off your sweaty outer layers and wrap yourself in a nice down jacket. Light, warm and often brightly coloured, down jackets will now feature on every one of our Christmas lists.

happy-trekkers-patagonia

FOOD

Bring plenty of it. It needs to be light, quick to prepare and calorie-ridden. Wraps are good, as are instant rice and noodles. Plenty of chocolate bars and other tasty snacks also go down a treat. Some words of advice however: change it up a little bit. The prospect of eating instant rice and frankfurters three evenings in a row didn’t seem like a bad idea, but it was. Frankfurters, an item definitely not making an appearance on anyone’s Christmas list. As for the wraps, pay that extra £1.50 for the better quality meat or cheese filling, you’ll thank yourself later.

 hiking-patagonia 2

NALGENE

Nalgenes (reusable water bottles) are a must. Fill with ice-cold water from Patagonian streams (best water in the world, they say) and easily attach them to your backpack during the day. At night, fill with hot water and pop it into your sleeping bag. Perfect.

torres-del-paine-national-park-2

FRIENDLINESS

In a hostile environment, a non-hostile attitude is key. Scared away by the wintertime horror stories, the park was much emptier of tourists but park rangers, refuge keepers and the odd maintenance worker still populated the campsites. You never know when a bit of friendliness can lead to the offer of a floor to sleep on or a chicken soup to slurp on.

patagonia-winter-hiking

AND, ABSOLUTELY NO MOANING!

Within our group we made a pact: grumpiness was banned. Anytime one person made an overly cutting comment or snapped at another, they owed the rest of the group a beer after the trip ended. High-spirited for (almost) the entirety of the trek, this method worked rather well. So we bought the beers anyway. And some wine. We deserved it, after all, we had defied those incredulous remarks and proved wrong those dubious looks. We had survived a Patagonian winter.

torres-patagonia-we-are-travel-girlsHave you hiked Patagonia? Please share your experience with our readers in the comments section below! Read Next > Discovering Patagonia

By We Are Travel Girls Contributor Anna Grace
Connect with Anna Instagram | Facebook

You Might Also Like

5 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer December 9, 2016 at 5:59 am

    Wow! Patagonia looks great. I enjoyed reading about it. 🙂

  • Reply Vanessa Rivers December 9, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Congrats on trekking through Patagonia in the winter Anna! This is epic!

    • Reply Anonymous December 14, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Well done and thanks for the advice. Fabulous pictures. Everything looks so crisp and bright.

  • Reply Camping In Antartica | We Are Travel Girls June 8, 2017 at 11:20 am

    […] Have you been to Antartica? Please share your experience in the comments below! Read Next > How To Survive A Patagonia Winter Trek […]

  • Reply EXPLORING CAFAYATE, NORTHERN ARGENTINA | We Are Travel Girls July 10, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    […] I hope this article has inspired you to venture to the lesser known area of Cafayate in Argentina, please share your own tips for this region with our readers in the comments below. Read Next > How To Survive A Patagonian Winter Trek […]

  • Leave a Reply