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Trekking the Dientes Circuit - Hiking - Chile

The Isla Navarino Dientes Circuit, the southernmost trekking opportunity in the world, is miles beyond any ordinary trekking experience. For the serious hiker, the five-day Dientes Circuit is a chance to experience unique terrain at what is literally the last scrap of land before the legendary Cape Horn and Antarctic Sea. For 53 kilometers, the route winds through broken mountains landscapes that come from the floor of the ocean and offers unparalleled views stretching as far as Cape Horn.

 

Because of the difficulty of the route and the distance of Isla Navarino from the beaten path, the Dientes Circuit receives a fraction of Chile's annual trekking visitors. The route was developed in the early 1990s and marked with the Chilean numbered trail marker system in early 2001, but it is still far from a well-marked path. The 38 trail points are spread over 53 kilometers, with four significant passes to cross and a myriad maze of beaver ponds and dams to negotiate in the valleys between. To trek the Dientes, you need to be self-reliant and good at route finding, as there are good chances you will not see another soul on the circuit.

 

Weather is also a difficulty factor not to underestimate. Strong winds sweep up from the white continent and make the passes, especially the final pass, Paso Virginia, very dangerous. Blasts of wind strong enough to knock a heavily loaded trekker from their feet are not uncommon and come without warning. Also, there are no refugios on the route and there is no entrance fee to pay. You are only required to check in with the carabineros in Puerto Williams.

 

From the village, the trailhead is just three kilometers. It is strongly advised to follow the route from Puerto Williams, as the markers are only painted on one side. Since the markers are cairns (rock piles), individual trail markers are often difficult to distinguish from their surroundings without the red signage painted on them.

 

The Dientes Circuit is broken into five stages, each stage requiring about five hours to complete. With the long daylight hours of the southern hemisphere summer, some might be tempted to combine two stages into one day. While it is possible to do the circuit in four days, it would involve a day with two passes to surmount or a very long final day, descending from the nearly 900-meter Paso Virginia back to sea level, over a distance of 23 kilometers. The route markers end more than 300 meters above sea level, looking down on Bahia Virginia, and from there, you must negotiate the cow pastures and calafate bushes to the coastal road. Then hike the final 8 kilometers of pavement back to Puerto Williams. Passing trucks will often stop for trekkers on the final stretch. Otherwise, it's about a two-hour walk back to Puerto Williams.

Location:
Chile

Hiking

Travel Skills: None










15 Jun 2009







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