Tag Archives: fire

Fire in Torres del Paine: Update 2nd Jan

Fire in Torres del Paine: Update 2nd Jan

[Latest update 27th Jan: Patricio Salinas, Regional President of CONAF announced on Twitter on 27th Jan: @Pato_Salinas ‘Catamaran’s working, refugio Paine Grande open but not at full capacity, Refugio Grey open, Valley Frances and the rest of the park is normal’]

[Update as of 25th Jan – Torres del Paine reopens fully: http://chile.travel/en/news/parque-nacional-torres-del-paine-reabre-todas-sus-zonas-tura-sticas.html]

[Latest update as of 13th January: Sernatur released information about open routes at 9th January (in Spanish) http://www.sernatur.cl/noticias/rutas-turisticas-disponibles-en-parque-nacional-torres-del-paine

We also have a map of the affected areas in the park as of 7th January:

[interim update at 6th January: the majority of the park has re-opened as anticipated, but the French Valley is currently closed to tourists. Further updates to follow.]

[latest information from the Chilean Tourist Board: http://www.sernatur.cl/torres-del-paine-update/situacion-en-torres-del-paine]


Following on from our original announcement about the fire in Torres del Paine, there’s now further clarity and some positive news:

The President has announced that the northern part of the park that has not been affected by the fire (including the majority of the ‘W Circuit’) wil reopen on Wednesday.

source: http://www.elpatagonico.cl/?p=27871

This map shows clearly the area affected by the fire. You’ll note that the main trekking area is to the north of Lago Nordenskjold.

Source: http://especiales.latercera.cl/INFOGRAFIAS/2012/incendio.html

What has happened to the Eastern shore of Lago Grey (the western strand of the W Circuit), and the southern part of the park is a terrible tragedy. However, it’s a blessing that the two other strands of the W Circuit (French Valley and Ascensio Valley) are unaffected.

Latest estimates are that 13,000 hectares of the park have been affected. In total the park covers over 240,000 hectares. So whilst the news is devasting it’s good to know that visitors will still be able to enjoy the majority of what this incredible destination has to offer.

More updates will follow.

Fire in Torres del Paine

Fire in Torres del Paine

[please also see our update on 2nd January]

I’m very sad to say that a fire broke out in Torres del Paine at 7pm on Tuesday (27th December).

At the time of writing this post this is the most up to date and reliable reference point I have but things are changing quite rapidly.


In summary:

  • 1,500 hectares have been effected by the fire
  • The Chilean government are treating it very seriously and sending in firefighters from several brigades, and are supported by the Chilean army
  • 400 hikers have been moved to safety
  • the trails in the western part of the park have been temporarily closed
  • There have been no casualties

The fire started on the Eastern edge of the Grey lake and initially it seemed that is was relatively isolated (with only 15 hectares reported effected in the initial reports). Although around 20 people in the Grey area were moved to safety the majority of the park was unaffected.

However the strong Patagonia winds (reportedly up to 90km/h in the last few days) and the steep and rugged terrain have made it very difficult to contain and fight and it has spread quickly.

Five years ago a Czech hiker admitted to accidentally starting a fire that englufed the East of the park when he used his gas stove in an unauthorised area. Now, it seems people suspect human causes for this fire as well.

A guide with one group of Swoop clients has had to adapt their itinerary. We hope no others will be effected, but this is a very popular time to visit Torres del Paine.

All updates welcomed in the comments below.

Updates from Luke:

This is a helpful map of the area affected: http://www.latercera.com/multimedia/interactivo/2011/12/687-38825-4-incendio-forestal-en-torres-del-paine.shtml

Latest understanding at very end of day on 30th December is that the park may be closed for at least one week, possibly the whole of January.

Review of Refugio Paine Grande in Torres del Paine National Park

Review of Refugio Paine Grande in Torres del Paine National Park

I stayed at Refugio Paine Grande in Jan 2011 for one night and I got a very good night’s sleep there. I was sharing a room with 3 other hikers, whereas at the other refugios it’s usually 5, and there were two well built and spacious bunk beds. The room itself was a good size, carpeted and comfortable with shower rooms just down the corridor. When I first went to my room I found a towel and a small bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap on my pillow, which I was really grateful for!

We arrived at the refugio on day 4 of our 5-day W circuit trek, having started the day at Refugio los Cuernos and hiking the French Valley. The refugio is tucked behind the hills on the north-west corner of Lago Pehoe, which is a brilliant blue colour. Although the refugio isn’t much to look at from the outside, (like a big, brown, wooden box), it’s the biggest of the refugios on the circuit and there are rooms with sofas for relaxing, a large cantine, a bar with fantastic views of Paine Grande and a shop with lots essentials and t-shirts with slogans such as ‘I trekked the W Circuit and survived’…

There is also a campsite here, which although doesn’t look very sheltered, is actually a nice place to stay save for the noisy Patagonian wind, strongest in summer. Campers are also able to buy hot food such as burgers from the refugio’s cantine, whilst the main meal on the menu is reserved for guests at the refugio.

The meal we had that evening was probably the best I’d had in the park and there was lots of it. I had vegetable soup for starters, ceviche, a typical seafood dish of raw seafood marinated in citrus juices & spiced with chillies, and chicken and rice. The wine was also reasonably priced and was the nicest of the wines that I had tried in the other refugios. After dinner I was also able to use the internet on one of the two computers that they offer, which cost $2000 clp for half an hour (the equivalent of £2.50). Although the price was extortionate, it’s pretty impressive that they could provide internet in such a remote place as this.

On day 5 of the W Circuit, we set off at 8am as we had to catch the boat at Refugio Grey at 1 o’clock. Some people I spoke to were setting off at 6 in the morning just so that they could walk up almost as far as Paso John Garner to look down over Glaciar Grey and walk back down to catch the boat across Lake Pehoe. The breakfast we had that morning was the same as those we’d had at the other refugios; scrambled eg, toast, coffee, squash and cereal, but it certainly felt nice to be in a big sunny cantine, looking out at the lake.

The refugio was damaged during the fire in Torres del Paine over New Year 2011, but it is set to be refurbished over summer 2012. All in all, I’d definitely recommend staying at this refugio whilst you’re in Torres del Paine. It’s one of the more expensive refugios because of the high quality food and service it offers, but I would honestly struggle to find fault with it, apart from the fact that it isn’t the stereotypically ‘cosy’ or an ‘authentic’ mountain lodge, it’s more like a hotel. There are lots of guided W Circuit and Full Circuit trips that stay at this refugio, for a selection of them see;

The Original Torres del Paine W Trek

7-day Torres del paine W Trek

4-Day W Lodging

Full Circuit of Paine

The other great thing about this refugio is that there is the possibility of getting a private or 4-person room, but this is also subject to availability of course. Usually your guide will try and get you the best room possible on arrival, and local operators are usually able to give you a better rate than you would get if you were to go direct.