Next was the experience I had been looking forward to the most. In all the articles and reviews I had read or seen, the pictures looked stunning, and this did not disappoint! On starting the W circuit I realised just how fit the rest of the group are! With my energy levels down from my stomach bug the previous day, I struggled a little on the first day. Our mini bus dropped us at Hotel Las Torres and we hiked to the Torres viewpoint (Base de Las Torres). As I was climbing the final stage I was questioning what I had let myself in for as the views had not lived up to my expectations at this point. Rodrigo, our tour leader was keeping me positive however (singing I believe I can fly, and generally taking the pressure off me re the time) and shortly after this, my fear was resolved with the most spectacular view ahead. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and I could see a beautiful lake in front of the towers, just like in the photos. It was incredible. This set me up well for the return journey as I was back on a high and feeling much more positive. We set back for the hotel where we were then transported to our campsite for the night. The 18km walk had been worth the effort for sure, and much to our pleasure, we were welcomed with a feast in a heated cabin, and warm showers to set us up for our first night of (civilised) camping. The wind was fierce and there was a little rain, but we all slept well, energised ready for the next day...
Day 2 started reasonably. We had a nice breakfast, and spirits were high despite the rain. Fortunately for us though, the rain cleared before the porters arrived and the weather turned out well for us. We each had a 5kg limit for the porters to carry for us, and at this point I was pleased I had brought my own sleeping bag as it was 700g lighter than the ones provided to us. More comfortable too to use my own. Today we had a shorter hike of around 9km to the Refugio y Campamento Los Cuernos. Much flatter, and very picturesque the whole route as we walked beside Lago Nordenskjold. I felt so happy I was smiling inside (and that was before I realised it was payday!!). We finished our hike for the day around 5pm and rested up, fed and watered and played a game. Dolf and I volunteered to sleep in the camping pod with the guide and a couple of others as the dorm was full. I was happy with this decision as it saved me climbing to the top of a triple bunk! The only disadvantages were Roberto (the guide) snoring, and having to go outside to use the facilities in the night. When I saw the clear night and the amazing view of the stars, this became worthwhile too!
The third day of the circuit was the Valle des Frances (the French valley). We walked via the Italien campsite where we could leave our bags whilst we trekked up to the French viewpoint. This walk was around 16km. The walk was very enjoyable, and we saw many an avalanche as we gently (and sometimes more steeply) climbed to the viewpoint. The 360 degree view at the top was breathtaking! We stayed for 45 minutes to snack and take photos before descending, picking up our packs and continuing to Refugio y Campamento Paine Grande for our last night of camping.
Our final day of trekking was a return journey to Rio de Las Piedras, the viewpoint beside the Lago Grey, around 7km. We understood the name in that the colour of the water was a grey tint. Small icebergs were in the lake, and the final viewpoint this day was the Glacier Grey. The weather was not quite as kind, although still dry, and the view was still very impressive. We returned at lunchtime and caught the boat across Lago Pehoe at which point we caught our mini bus back to Puerto Natales. I had pulled pork in a bun with chips for dinner which was so appreciated and made a nice change!
In summary the W circuit was a unique and amazing experience. We were told we would be lucky to have one sunny day, so to have had such good weather, someone was definitely looking out for us! :o)