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  • Writer's pictureBecca Jackson

Am I fit enough to take on W Trek or O Circuit? | Torres del Paine training guide

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Patagonia is a hiking Mecca with hundreds of thousands of keen walkers visiting every year. No Patagonia hiking itinerary is complete without taking on either the W Trek or O Circuit in the magnificent Torres del Paine National Park. Both these multi-day treks are challenging and although you may be sitting at home excitedly planning your trip, there is that slight anxiety about how hard the challenge is actually going to be and whether or not you are physically prepared for it!


Well fear not, we are here to elevate those fears and provide a foolproof Torres del Paine training guide to get you both physically and mentally prepared.


Arrival at Paine Grande camping after hiking from Grey
High 5 at camping Paine Grande
 

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How hard is hiking the W Trek & O Circuit?


The short answer is that both treks are moderate to challenging, but achievable for most people with a good level of fitness and the right training and preparation. None of the Torres del Paine National Park is at enough altitude to worry about AMS (acute mountain sickness), but you need to prepare your body for walking 4-9 days back-to-back, for between 4-10 hours each day, whilst carrying a backpack weighing around 15kg.


The walking itself was challenging in parts and I would say the O Circuit has three quite difficult days and the W Trek two but if you like walking, and are fit and healthy none of it is unachievable.


To get a better idea of the type of terrain and challenges you will face in the park read our personal account of the O Circuit.**

**Remember that the O Circuit encompasses the W Trek so the last 4 days of our O Circuit journey were in fact the W Trek; same camps, same route, same distances.


Patagonia training program for the O Circuit & W Trek


Fitness level goals:


  1. You need to be able to walk up to 23km/14miles in a day and not wake up so stiff the next morning you can’t move. The terrain on some of the days is probably the trickiest part; rocky and uneven under foot with some very steep step-ups, which someone with little legs like me (I am only 5’2”/155cm), will find some of the steep, rocky, uphill sections tiring.

  2. You need to be able to carry a backpack with your equipment in for the full 4-9 days. This will probably weigh between 12-15kg depending on what you take and whether you are hiking alone.


Training for the W Trek or O Circuit


The most obvious & best way of preparing your body is to get hiking in your home country.


If you are a keen hiker already your probably just want to work on your stamina. Continue to rack up the miles and try to do some multi-day hikes in your home country, regardless of the difficulty level, to get used to back to back hiking.


If you are starting your training from scratch, it's the same principle but it's a good idea to start at least 3 months before your trip.


5 basic steps for beginners:


1. Start small

If you decided to start running you wouldn't start with a marathon! The same applies to hiking; start off doing just a couple of miles and build it up from there. Remember 23km is the goal so if you started with 3km and increased this by 1-2km each week, over 3 months you could easily build up to covering 23km.


2. Introduce hill walking

Covering those distances is great but if you've only ever trained on flat ground, Torres del Paine is going to be tough. Mix up your routes & introduce some hills and walk on different terrains.


3. Attempt a multi day hike

Walking consecutive days is quite different to doing one challenging hike each weekend so do some back to back walking days to see how you find it.


4. Gradually add weight to your backpack

You need to get used to carrying weight whilst you walk. We carried bottles of water as it is easy to calculate, with 1 litre of water weighing 1 kg, and if you set off a little overambitious and are really struggling half-way through you can dump some of it and build up to that weight.


5. Be mentally prepared | With increased distance comes confidence!

I do believe covering the miles is not only the best way to prepare physically, it is also very important mentally. A huge part of overcoming physical challenge is having will power and self belief, which you will have if you have completed difficult hikes and experience multi day trekking. However, If you are short of time, or a seasoned hiker who's just a little out of shape, you can get physically ready for the O Circuit or W Trek through other activities.


Top 4 alternative activities to improve fitness for hiking


As I've already said, actual hiking is the best way to prepare yourself however time doesn't always permit around the 9-5. If you are short of time the below are great ways to improve fitness but until you've been out hiking with your heavy backpack on it is very difficult to gauge whether you are mentally and physically prepared. So by all means, for speed or ease, incorporate other activities into your training, but make sure you also make some time for hiking.


1. Running

Being able to run 3-5km is a great benchmark for a decent level of fitness. I'm not suggesting fell running or anything too adventurous, you're not going to be running the Torres de Paine! However, running is a great cardio exercise & a great way to increase your stamina.


2. Swimming

Swimming is brilliant for increasing fitness but you do need to push yourself. A nice relaxing breaststroke while you chat to a friend won't cut it, but a high powered session that raises your heart rate and leaves you out of breath is brilliant for general fitness and building muscles. Building your arm and shoulder muscles will also help you carry your backpack.


3. Hit the gym

Any cardio activity is good for general fitness so get on the cross trainer, attend a circuit class or best of all, check out the hell that is the stair master! You could even train on the treadmill or stair master with a weighted backpack on if you don't have time to go hiking with it.

Whilst at the gym throw in some upper body work, your shoulders & back will be working to carry that heavy pack!


4. Design your own HIIT session at home

You can work out in your living room or garden at home without any equipment and still improve your fitness. Unless you've been living under a rock, you will have heard of Joe Wicks, The Body Coach. He has tonnes of YouTube HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions you can do for free. By all means start with the beginner ones but you need to be working up to the more challenging workouts.


Test your equipment

Hiking at home will also give you chance to test out any new gear. It's so important that you have a comfortable, well fitted backpack & comfortable, worn in hiking boots.


Also if you've never been camping before then definitely give sleeping in a tent a go. If you are planning on hiring your camping equipment in Puerto Natales, see if you can borrow a friends at home and try out putting up & sleeping in a tent and cooking outdoors.

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