So I walked to the end of the world on Navarino Island, Chile, and I don't recommend it!. This hike challenged me almost every way a hike can: Cruel, muddy temperate rain forest trails with scary steep slippery slopes with mud pits as deep as the knee. Snowy passes from mid-calf to waste deep, with streams and hidden rocky landscapes waiting below the surface. Chilly, windy, and often rain driven nights, with freezing cold mornings. Wet, spongy peat bogs (Torbas), with water gushing under each step. River crossings in cold lake fed waters. Disappearing trails leaving you guessing and second guessing your location and where it begins again. After 7 nights in this beautiful wildery hell, I was entirely too ready to warm my bones, and dry my feet byu the fire at the hostel.
If what I just described sounds of interest, here is how it’s done.
Plane from Punta Arenas
DAP Airlines only offers flights during the busy season, and it is often better to just stop by their office in Punta Arenas to schedule your flight. It is also likely the cheapest and most reliable route to Navarino, the plane lands just 5km from downtown Puerto Williams, where you can walk to the trailhead and back when you’re done. Cost was $185 USD for both flights.
Boat from Punta Arenas
The boat from Punta Arenas is 30 hours of floating through the Magellan's, providing the opportunity to see some pretty cool shit along the way--if the weather cooperates. The downside, if you want a seat it’s over $200 USD one-way to get a full reclining seat and a reservation. The half recliners are around $180 one-way and can’t be reserved until the day before departure, since the seats are reserved for residents of Puerto Williams. In my case, they gave me an 1.5 hours notice for a half reclining seat. This meant I needed to be there within a half hours notice since you’re supposed to arrive an hour before departure. With that kind of unsurety, I had already walked to DAP Airlines and booked a flight for the next day without all the waiting and guessing on weather.
Boat from Ushuaia
I didn’t consider this option as the cost of bus from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia was $25-45 USD, and the short ferry ride costs almost $125 USD. This brought the total cost $150 USD for a one-way trip, and included all the regular bother with exiting and entering the Chile on your route through Argentina. Fuck that!
Now that you’ve made it to the Island, there are 4 Supermercados throughout the town and the prices aren’t that different from Punta Arenas. They offer everything you need to take on your excursion, and many of the hostels in Puerto Williams have plenty of spare gas canisters from the loads of other tourists that came before you. Be sure to check Simon & Simon, and the other one across the street before you start to make your purchases, as they both carry some differeing items and have differing prices on things like trail mix and Couscous… If you can’t find something at one, check the other before settling on second best. I ended up eating noodles for days when I could have had couscous (a better alternative in my opinion).
Map and Camping
Los Dientes circuit has lots of camping along the way. However, just because there are campsites marked on the map, doesn’t mean they are great for all weather conditions. For example, Lago Salto (H11) was saturated in water, and (H13) was covered in snow, so I kept moving. Finally, at Lago Los Dientes (H17) I found dry ground. However, others had the same idea, and I was refused a spot next to the group of people that arrived earlier. Instead they pointed me toward some high ground without wind protection... Brings me to a good point.
Hiker Edicate: If you are a hiker in a remote place, maybe in a group, and you refuse one guy from trying to find a tent spot next to yours, with decent protection from the wind, you don't belong in the fucking woods. In the backcountry, it is important to be as welcoming and courteous as possible--leave your inner Trump at home!
Choosing a good location depends a lot on the weather. Keep the wind, and other weather related factors in mind when planning your route. Below is a list of locations I found with decent coverage from the weather (Not all were official, but all provided decent shelter from storms): H21, H25, H26, H27, H32, & H36.
Route Variances - Lago & Bahia Windhond
My route through Los Dientes contained a detour to Lago & Bahia Windhond to the south. This is done through Cumbre Bertinelli where the trail split just after Laguna Del Picacho. I spent three days at Lago Windhond in Refugio Charles, providing a day of rest before and after my day hike to Bahia Windhond (26-28 km round trip without a trail or snupies). This also gave me time to account for weather. There was also a good book with map and description of a campsite near the Bahia and around the lake that is said to take 2.5 days. However, without a real trail, and known river crossings between knee and waist deep, I decided not to attempt it. Below is a map I found at the Refugio, and some photos of where I crossed the river. Hope it helps those looking for it!
A hand-drawn map I found at Refugio Charles…
A Maps.Me Marker I dropped at the crossing...
Look for two stick making an A-shape on the far shore just after a bend in the river…
Here is what it looks like from the other side with the sticks.
If you’ve done the “O” or even the “W” at Torres Del Paine, and think this is going to be similar or just as easy, you are wrong! This hike is not for beginners or those without proper gear or wilderness skills. It also pays to bring a few extra days worth of food, in case the weather or your plans change. Have fun, and be safe out there!