FATMAP difficulty grade
What’s the difference between a W and an O? About 30 miles (50 km) and three days of world-class, challenging hiking in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The O-Trek is not quite as well-known as its sibling hike, the W-Trek.
At a total 76 miles (122 km) long, the O-Trek is a longer, harder, and more remote hike.
It circles counterclockwise around the northside of the central Cordillera del Paine, adding three stages to the W-Trek’s five and linking the endpoints of the W.
In addition to all the big sights of the W-Trek—Valle del Frances, Lago Nordenskjöld, the Torres—hikers on the O-Trek experience hidden gems like Rio and Lago Paine, Dickson Glacier and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Perros Glacier, and an up-close view of Glacier Grey.
The trail leads through areas more undeveloped and further away from civilization than on the W-Trek.
The climb over John Gardner Pass, for example, is tough and often wind and snow swept, even in the Patagonian summer.
Those who tackle the O-Trek don’t need to be mountaineering experts, but some experience with multi-day treks is a big plus; a willingness to power through the tough spots is a must. Because the O-Trek is associated with scary words like “long,” “difficult,” and “remote,” it is notably quieter and less busy than the W-Trek.
The northside of Cordillera del Paine is the perfect place to discover and immerse yourself in the untouched wilderness of the Torres del Paine National Park.
It is also the perfect place to escape (for a few days, at least) from the sometimes touristy frontside, and enjoy the camaraderie of backcountry camping.
The terrain on the O-Trek may not always be so friendly, but the people certainly are.
Hikers on the O-Trek are likely to go home not only with photos of beautiful sights, but also warm memories of the people they met along the way. www.pygmy-elephant.com