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Torres del Paine ‘O’ Circuit – Lago Pehoe and Los Cuernos

This is post 5 of 6 about hiking in Torres del Paine, completing a combination of the ‘W’ circuit and the full ‘O’ circuit in December and January.

Day 7 – Hiking Las Guardas to Lago Pehoe

‘O’ Circuit Key Facts

Location: Patagonia, Chile
Distance: 110 km
Days: 9
Camping: Basic campsites
Difficulty: 3/5
Accommodation: Puerto Natales
Map: Torres del Paine Trekking Map

Day 7 of the Torres del Paine hike takes you alongside Grey glacier, past the spectacular collection of icebergs in the cove at Lago Grey Hosteria (who also offer trips on the lake and walks on the glacier), and then on to Lago Pehoe in the park’s south west corner. This also marks the return to the final arm of the ‘W’ route and the subsequent appearance of many, many, tourists.

Straight out of Las Guardas campsite I got lost: the path continued well until a large swathe of land that looked like the result of a landslide, where it stopped abruptly. I searched up and down on the other side but couldn’t find the continuation. In the end I figured I knew where I was going – to the lake – so I headed directly down and skirted the shoreline, balancing on some rather suspect boulders. It certainly wasn’t the quickest route but it did have the benefit of revealing a few rare vantage points and the odd waterfall. How strange to see icebergs floating right next to the path too.

Waterfall, off trail (oops)

In an environment worthy of many superlatives it is hard to describe the view from the shore of Lago Grey, with icebergs collecting by the pebble-covered beach and the face of glacier Grey visible in the background. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Iceberg graveyard

Beautiful scenery on the trail to Lago Pehoe

Paine Grande (also known as Lago Pehoe) is a very well equipped campsite, with a proper bathroom block, hot showers, and a restaurant and shop. It is also incredibly busy – by far the busiest of all the campsites. The surround land has been divided into camping pitches by the surrounding bushes and I struggled for a while to find a free spot, eventually settling on one with a pretty good view of the Los Cuernos mountains. To be fair, despite being busy Paine Grande was a relatively peaceful place and I had no problem sleeping undisturbed.

Camping at Lago Pehoe / Paine Grande

Day 8 – Lago Pehoe to Los Cuernos

With the end almost in site and a route that involved very little elevation change, I set off on day 8 across the southern side of the park (the base of the ‘W’ trek) to Los Cuernos, with a possible side trip into the Valle Frances. The first part of the day – out of Refugio Pehoe – was the windiest and most dangerous of the whole trip. With a path having a steep drop on the right hand side several times I was had to sit down and hold on to tree roots in genuine fear of being blown over the edge. The wind was so powerful that surface water from the lake below was being lifted up and sprayed across the path. Every time I thought the wind couldn’t get stronger another more powerful gust came in, and it was a relief to turn north away from the lake and gain a little shelter.

Walking alongside Lago Pehoe with fierce winds whipping up

The distinctive shape of the Los Cuernos (‘The Horns’) mountains

Bridge over a rough Rio del Frances

Glacier in the French valley

The French valley forms the ‘middle arm’ of the ‘W’ circuit and offers yet another type of environment, with glaciers on the left side and the sound of small avalanches echoing off the rock faces. I only proceeded partway up the valley, but it is possible to go to the end and spend the night at the Britanico camp.

Back out of the French Valley, the path drops down to the edge of Lago Nordenskjold, along a pretty beach to the Los Cuernos camp site – a very windy and dusty place when I was there. This was probably my least favourite of the campsites in Torres del Paine – it felt like campers were an afterthought and had to simply squeeze in among the bushes wherever possible.

Lago Nordenskjold

Read the final part of the Torres del Paine trip report – returning to Las Torres.

Map of the Torres del Paine ‘O’ circuit hike (days 7, 8, and 9):

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Torres del Paine ‘O’ Circuit – Lago Pehoe and Los Cuernos
The final stretch of the Torres del Paine hike rejoins the 'W' circuit and visits the spectacular Lago Pehoe and the magnificent Los Cuernos mountains.
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