Hiking the W – Grey Glacier Viewpoint

Grey Glacier – The first leg of our hike in Torres del Paine.

(Patagonia) Grey glacier in Torres del Paine national park is much more spectacular than its somewhat dreary name. The glacier turned out to be the most incredible blue color and the viewpoint along the trail to Refugio Grey was a great spot to try to appreciate the massive expanse of this incredible river of ice. With clouds swirling around the distant peaks and the wind blasting at us as we sat upon the rocks of the viewpoint, Grey glacier was well worth the moderate trekking effort. It would have been a shame to have skipped it like we had originally planned.

Grey glacier in Torres del Paine
Grey glacier in Torres del Paine is huge… and also an incredible blue color.

Working with a somewhat short schedule for our time in Patagonia we had originally planned to skip the hike to Grey Glacier (heck… who wants to go see something that has grey in its name) and just hike the other two legs of the W. (French Valley and Torres del Paine) Having read mixed reviews about the hike and views on this trail we had thought that it wouldn’t be that much of a loss to drop the Grey glacier hike off the itinerary. We changed our mind upon arrival at Refugio Paine Grande and were very glad we did.
Having an entire afternoon available after getting off the Lake Pehoe ferry we decided to go ahead and do at least the short hike up to Laguna los Patos. So we began our first Patagonia trek. Laguna los Patos was a picturesque mountain lake with a mix of rock, wind swept trees, and views of the Andes Mountains to the west. It was also the place where we had our first introduction to the strong winds that were responsible for the Dr. Seuss like wind swept trees. Hold onto your hat… and everything else that isn’t tied onto you… as had been promised the wind in this valley was strong. By itself the short trek to this lake is worthwhile, but we decided to go a bit further.
A sign at the lake indicated that there was a Grey glacier viewpoint just another 1.5K more up the trail, so we decided to continue on and see the glacier. Having traveled all the way to South America to see this region it seemed reasonable to put in the little bit of extra effort. So glad we did.
Soon Grey Lake came into view with the most amazing blue ice burgs floating in the dull grey water of the lake. It was as if someone had broken off huge chunks of blue Styrofoam and tossed them in the water. I snapped a few photos of them, knowing full well that no one would ever believe that they really are that blue. Then, Grey glacier came into view.

See blue iceburgs on Grey lake while hiking the W.
See blue ice burgs on Grey lake while hiking the W.

The glacier was a spectacular blue color and it was immense. Despite being blasted by wind we sat on the rocks and tried to appreciate this massive river of ice. Several miles across the face and stretching well over 15 miles long this mid trail viewpoint is an excellent point to take it all in. Ultimately this was the end of the trail for us as we decided that we did not have enough time (or energy) to continue on to Refugio Grande. The view of Grey glacier from this point was more than adequate. We returned to Refugio Grande for dinner and some rest as the longest day of the W hike through French Valley was on tap for tomorrow.

The great view of Grey glacier on the first leg of the W hike.
The great view of Grey glacier on the first leg of the W hike.

Looking for more information? The back-packer.org site has a good overview of itinerary options for hiking the W.


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