The Dientes de Navarino Trek is the southernmost trek in the world, and takes you on a wilderness trek through magnificent unspoilt landscapes. We completed a self made-up variant of this trek at Christmas in 2010, taking 5 days to complete the trip out to Cabana Charles at Lago Windhond. Supposedly, more people have been to the top of Everest than have visited Cabana Charles, which is a small fishing cabin complete with bunk beds, wood fire, and beaver skeleton windchime…. It actually is as creepy as it sounds and the roof leaks lots, so we decided to sleep in our tent! Out trip started from Ushuaia, in Argentina, and after gaining two exit stamps each at passport control (first time got aborted due to weather), we took a short speedboat trip across to the Chilean Navarino island.
The Dientes circuit is a waymarked trek (orange splodges occasionally) though the paths are small to non-existant in many places. We did a variant, following the trail for the first two days, before breaking off into total wilderness in a general south westerly direction towards the cabin. Mapping of this area of Chile is really poor, with (at the time) only 1:250000 scale draft maps available from the Chilean military, or tourist sketch maps. We used a GPS unit with satellite imagery for most of our navigation. This trek had everything and felt so remote compared to other Patagonian treks we’ve done, especially compared to the crowds at the Torres del Paine circuit. We saw only three other people during the 5 days we took to do this trek.
The trek started with a sharp climb of the mountain immediately behind the town, followed by one of the most airy (scary) traverses high above the tree line on really loose scree which went on and on, seemingly forever. We were very glad to reach our camp spot that night!
On the next walking day we had more rough terrain to cross, including another pretty hair raising traverse. After that we left the main trail, following a loose ridgeline down through thick woods towards a valley leading towards Largo Windhorn. This part of the walk was very exciting, but was brutal as beavers had felled a huge number of trees, flooding large areas and making going very slow. It was actually a joy to see a well formed beaver dam as it meant ‘easy going’ for a few minutes at least. There are thousands of beavers on Navarino Island, and with no predators the numbers will continue to shoot up, and the trees will continue to come down. This is the outcome of a job creation plan, as beavers were introduced in the 70’s with the plan to hunt them for fur… just before fur became unfashionable.
Eventually we made it to the shore of Lago Windhorn and Cabana Charles. This was built by the Chilean Navy for the commanding officer at the time, who particularly liked trout fishing! We spent a very relaxed new year camping near Cabana Charles, and generally slowly exploring the area.
When it was time for us to leave, we followed a faint trail, which was again way marked, back to Puerto Williams. This was a two day journey, made slow again by the number of beaver dams and the frequent disappearing act that the trail seemed to do! We got back to town very smelly and tired, but really happy, having completed one of our most adventurous treks to date.
- Puerto Williams on Navarino Island in Chile
- You can either get a zodiac boat transfer across the Beagle Channel or a flight to Puerto Williams from Ushuaia (Argentina) or from Punta Arenas (Chile)
- We used a combination of GPS, satellite imagery and ‘tourist trekking maps’. There are ‘draft’ military maps, but these are very hard to get hold of, even in Santiago.
- This is a real wilderness trek
- There is no path to follow, only orange markers that are difficult to see as beavers have felled a lot of trees. For around two walking days we were totally off path – making our own trail as we went.
- You need to register your details with the local police at Puerto Williams before the trek (in case you don’t come back)
- There is no mountain rescue. You’re on your own so need to be safe, pack appropriate first aid kit etc
- You can stock up on supplies at the supermarket in Puerto Williams
Years later and it’s still one of my favourite treks that we’ve done! Challenging, scary, beautiful, rugged but amazing…
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