trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles
The jumping off point is Puerto Williams.
Most do the 50km over 4 days.
FIRST you need get to the end of the world. That’s Puerto Williams (pop. 2000) on the island of Navarino.
There are three ways:
– flight on small plane from Punta Arenas ($150 one way 2019)
– fast boat from Ushuaia (45min) and shuttle van (45min) about $100 one way 2019
I stayed at the friendly and relaxed El Padrino hostel. Most people there are either coming from or going to a hike. It’s a great place to get maps and up-to-date information.
For overnight hiking you are asked to register (free) at the police station. I found it fast and efficient.
The day of my departure some left the hostel at 8am. As is often the case, I was last to get on the trail. I left town at 1pm. It was only 4-6 hours to the first campsite.
I had a hot un-dehydrated last meal for lunch. 🙂
The first big snowfall of the year was the previous week — the end of February.
Almost everyone that week had turned back after post-holing deep snow. Most trail markers were hidden.
Weather was improving for my departure March 1st. But everyone had rented snowshoes over the past couple of days … just in case.
I’d decided NOT to rent snowshoes hoping enough people were gone ahead of me to put down a trail in the snow.
But Shila — the main gear store in town‚ happened to be open (for the first time) as I walked past on the way to the trailhead. I grabbed their last pair. ($3 / day)
Even if I didn’t use them, they would make me look more macho. 😀
It’s a couple of kilometres to the start. Most people walk from town.
Summer on Navarino island is lovely. I can’t imagine how it must be during the very long, dark, cold, wet winter months.
Everyone stops by to give their respects to the Virgin. It couldn’t hurt.
This trail is really well managed. RESPECT to whomever got this organized.
Actually, it was Lonely Planet’s Clem Lindenmayer who popularized it in his 1992 Lonely Planet guidebook Trekking the Patagonian Andes.
Clem died age-47
while hiking in China’s Sichuan Province, I’m sad to recall. I loved his book. It was part of the inspiration that had me start this site.
The BEST thing about the Dientes Circuit is this free pamphlet. I can’t recall a better one hiking brochure anywhere else in the world.
In Spanish with English translation, it’s crystal clear. All you need for navigation.
The start is up, up, up through the trees.
Quite a bit of trail maintenance has been done in this section.
I used Maps.me as a back-up to the pamphlet description.
The start is the most popular dayhike out of Puerto Williams. Up to some viewpoints.
Most day hikers finish at the giant Chilean flag.
I continued up on the rocky plateau.
It’s fairly well marked here, as well, though you do have to keep your eyes peeled for cairns. In spots there are multiple trails to get to the same place.
The only real problem is punching through snow or ice and getting your feet wet.
A difficult section is a long traverse along the side of a mountain.
You pass a chain of pretty alpine lakes.
This is the kind of snow I faced on the first day. Easy — but with some exposure. If you slip it would be a long, painful fall.
There’s my destination. Under the teeth of Navarino. It’s a steep scramble down.
Laguna del Salto
I set up late in the day on the observation platform. Serious hikers sometimes day hike here and back. That would take at least 8 hours.
Most people tent over by the waterfall.
It was a gorgeous evening and night. I was optimistic for the weather next day.
Unfortunately clouds were getting denser when I awoke.
Here’s what I would face day 2 trying to get to Laguna Escondida. Lots of snow.
Potentially no vistas. Potentially a slog in the fog.
I also awoke with a bad stomach ache.
What to do? I had mixed feelings.
In the end I decided to hustle back to Puerto Williams
and catch the 4pm ferry
. It only runs twice a week in summer.
Back in town it looked to me like the highest peaks were clearing. My odds of getting through the circuit MIGHT have been 70% or more, I believe now.
I may have made the wrong decision. ☹️
Oh well. This gives me an excuse to return!
related – bookmundi information on this hike