This post is mostly of a technical nature (by specific request) to help out those interested in trekking around Torres Del Paine:
First here’s a map of the park, it could be better since it doesn´t describe all the campsites. Don´t worry you get a good, but not water resistant, map on paying your fees into the park. You get to the park from Puerto Natales about 2/2.5 hours away by bus. The buses are Gomez and JBA found just off the corner of the Plaza de Armas on Arturo Prat street. I took JBA, but I get a feeling that Gomez is just a tad more professional (nicer bus, more timely). The price for an open return ticket with JBA was 15,000 Chilean Pesos (divide by 1000 and multiply by 2 for rough dollars conversion, so in this case 30 dollars). They leave at 7.30 in the morning, get the ticket the day before. The bus will stop halfway, at the edge of a small border town (also used for crossing into Argentina towards El Calafate) for tea, etc for 15 mins. Prices are already inflated at this point, so if you are cost conscious get your food before you leave Natales where there is a better selection.
The Buses arrive at Guarderia Laguna Amarga where you will get out and pay for the entry to the park of 15,000 Chilean pesos. At this point, I wanted to get the Ferry from Pudeto to Pehoe so I could do the “W” trek from west to east to match with the prevailing winds. The “W” trek starts at Refugio Grey and goes up Valle Frances (Mirador Frances on the map) and then across to Mirador Las Torres. So to do this, I just got back on the bus. Just say you want the Catamaran (at Pudeto), about half the people on the bus will be doing the same thing. 15 minutes later you will arrive at the Catamaran. Get off, go over to the dock and wait about half an hour or so for the boat to go (it is timed around the buses, so don´t worry you won´t miss it). It costs 11,000 Chilean pesos, but it is worth it simply because the walk from Administration to Pehoe will put you back 3hrs and I´m told is boring.
Pehoe has a pretty good shop, surprisingly good. You can get Pasta, Sauce, Sweets, Drinks, Dried Milk, Dulche de Leche, Nuts & Fruit, Pringles (or something very similar), Rice and things like that. It all costs more, maybe twice as much as Natales, but may be worth it to reduce the load on your shoulders. It isn´t until Las Torres on the last day or two that you will be able to buy pasta or sauce again. Weather-wise I got caught out in the rain on day one and subsequently got soaked on the walk up to Refugio Grey. This is also a fairly windy trek. Refugio Grey, like all the refugios, sells meals, has a campsite and hot showers. Book meals by 6.30 in the evening, they are usually served from 7 until 8 and the only choice is vegetarian or not. Going rates for meals in the refugios seems to be around 8000 or 9000 for a dinner, 6000 for a lunch and 4500 for breakfast. Extra things like soup may be a possibility and one morning I bought a loaf of homemade bread. Of course, these prices are fairly fucking extortionate for the food you get, but if I were short-term holidaying, didn´t get too annoyed by cost and especially didn´t want to carry kilos of food then it turns out a sweet deal. Perhaps consider bringing breakfast and lunch, then eating at the refugios at night. It is probably a good idea to plan to finish each day by 6 or so, just to help to get a good camping spot. Note it never really got crowded, but if there were one campsite to get to early it would have to be Los Cuernos because it´s reputedly the least sheltered from winds, but there are some choice spots under some trees. Tip, camp close to the pre-pitched tents for hire, they are typically well positioned.
At this point it is worth talking about rain and cooking. Refugio grey sucked in the rain because they had no outdoor cooking facilities and the hot showers for campers are in huts outside of the refugio (typically you just use the ones in the refugios). If your tent doesn´t have a porch, then cooking will be a real pain. One hour further up the trail at the free Los Guardas campsite there is a huge seated cooking shelter, covered on three sides and had I known, I would have pitched there. It was also completely empty and two minutes from a great viewpoint onto glacier Grey, the only downside being a messy pit toilet. Pehoe has a great purpose built shelter, free campsite Italiano had not much (I saw a shelter made out of tree branches with room for 2 or 3 people cooking), but at least some flush toilets, Los Cuernos seemed ok with people cooking inside the refugio on the tables and Chileno seemed to have nothing for cooking.
Back to the W-trail. If you can it is worth heading up to at least the Los Guardas campsite just to get a better view of Glacier Grey. I´m sorry I didn´t get a chance to head further up the glacier, especially when the weather was nicer. Day two consisted of retracing steps back to Pehoe and then across to Italiano. The lake is very nice on the way to Italiano. Day three was a quick trip up to Britanico without a backpack, initially tough going, but then levels out after 1hr or so into a forest. The views of the French valley are fairly impressive and then 10 minutes after Britanico there is a fantastic 360 view of the granite peaks. Hope for good weather. That evening was spent going down, packing and heading to Los Cuernos. Next day is a ramble along more lakes towards a scenic raised lake looking towards Mt Almirante Nieto. At this point, there is a choice to go to Refugio Las Torres or El Chileno (I went down to towards Las Torres to buy some pasta, then back towards Refugio Chileno, adding an hour or two to my walking). The climb up towards Chileno will seriously test you for about 45 minutes. In retrospect, a clever person might camp at Las Torres and do the longer walk up to the Torres Del Paine mirador the next day with no weight on their back and grab a later bus. Final day consisted of going up to the viewpoint (6 am if you want the early bus, or very early, at 3.30 am, if you want to see the sunrise). This is a short, but very taxing climb up some boulders after reaching Campamento Torres which is about one hour from Chileno.
When finished head down to Refugio Las Torres (this is 15 minutes past the large hotel Las Torres on the left) and from there you can grab a minibus, 1000 cPeos, timed to arrive before the buses to Natales at Guarderia Laguna Amarga (the place where you pay in). I´m not sure what time the morning buses were (2.00pm I think), but the evening minibus left at 7.30pm, got to the main gate by 7.45pm and the buses arrived at 8.00pm. Have a hostel booked for your arrival back at Pto. Natales and show up before 11 pm or you may be locked out like I was. Ooops.
End of the technical stuff. Weather wise I got it very good apart from the first day, where as I said, I got soaked. That’s ok, I had wet gear with me, unfortunately my sleeping bag didn´t. This meant I spent that night and the next in a muggy wet sleeping bag. Another thing I really have to sort out is my sleeping mat, it just doesn´t work well enough. Most campsites have gravelly ground and this is too hard to enjoy a good nights sleep, even with a mat and all my clothes on top of it. So before the next trekking adventure I think I will consider carrying one of the heavier inflatable mats. Most of the rest of the days were spent with sunny or cloudy dry weather, and on the last three days, there was no wind. Like El Chalten before, that’s supposed to be fairly rare. All in all a good if tiring trip.
Next for me is arsing around Natales until Thursday night when I board the Navimag, at the dock, which leaves early Friday morning to head up the coast to Pto Montt for four days. I´m not sure what I will do next, but Bariloche is probably on the cards.