Paul hiked the 5-day W Circuit in December 2011 and has been kind enough to answer our questions about the guide, highlights, logistics and Swoop’s service.
Where abouts did you go and what did you do whilst in Patagonia?
I was in Patagonia for less than a week for the purpose of doing the 5 day/ night W-Trek in Torres del Paine in mid/late December.
What were the top 3 highlights of your trip?
An unexpected pleasure of my trip was being part of a group during my trekking experience. It was myself and one other solo traveler plus a group of four travel buddies (and our guide), and while I generally prefer to hike alone, it was nice to have people to talk to and share stories with, especially because people were from all over the world in my group!
One of my two favorite hike-specific experiences was, not surprisingly, the Towers themselves. We had GREAT fortune overall with the weather, there was no rain 99% of the time, and when I reach the Towers, they were slightly obstructed by clouds, but eventually the clouds cleared away for some spectacular views.
My other favorite hiking portion came when we hiked into the French Valley and then got to look back over Lake Nordenskjöld. It was very windy up top, but it was also one of the least crowded portions of the entire W-Trek which gave it some added serenity.
Also worth noting, my favorite ‘passive’ activity by far was visiting the ice field at the end of the trip, which was probably the single most anticipated part of the trip for me and it did not disappoint to say the least. You were up close to the glacier for quite a while giving you ample time to breath it all in and still get loads of great photos. The only sad thing was that when we just a few minutes away from docking at the end of the boat ride my hat was taken to the depths of the lake by a gust of wind…
How was your guide?
My guide (Cote Marchant of Chile Nativo) for the trip was absolutely amazing. It was my first ever experience doing a multi-day guided hike, and her knowledge of the region and general demeanor were A+++. The people in my group had a wide range of hiking abilities, plus half the group was stricken with a virus, and yet she still was able to keep everyone moving along at a decent clip. She was super friendly and helpful ever step of the way.
What could have made the trip better?
Aside from wishing I had not gotten sick, and therefore could’ve down some extended hikes by myself, I do not think I would’ve changed anything about my experience in Torres del Paine. My overall experience from the moment I landed at Punta Arenas to when I took back off was very well organized.
Did the logistics run smoothly?
Very much so. Considering my limited Spanish speaking abilities, I am very glad I had everything from my bus fare to/from the airport to my hotel accommodations taken care of ahead of time. It took a lot of stress out of the situation.
Would you go back to Patagonia? If so, where?
Thought my immediate agenda is to see as much of the world as possible, and for that reason I don’t see myself heading back to Patagonia anytime soon, I would definitely go back to the Patagonia region at some point to see other areas I did not get to visit during my limited trip this time based on all the positive feedback I heard from other vacationers during my time in the region.
What do you think of Swoop and the operator that we recommended?
Charlotte was very helpful in answer all my questions upfront and setting me up with a top-notch outfitter (Chile Nativo) for my trip. Chile Nativo did a spectacular job based on what I was looking for and I left with no complaints about their level of service. I specifically worked closely with Gonzalo of Chile Nativo when setting up my trip and he was most helpful.