Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine, Chile

This is post 7 in a series of a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Day 7 –Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres
Total Distance:  12 kilometers/7.5 miles
Average Time: 4.5 hours

February 19, 2018

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

Quiet night with only a gust or two of wind – the Milky Way is brilliant against a clear dark sky. I woke at 6:30 to catch the sunrise. Great show with 360° color constantly changing as the clouds dance and the peaks light up. Layers of dark gray over white fluffy clouds and blue sky beyond.

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

Breakfast at Refugio Los Cuernos is divided into 2 seatings. We had the 8AM second seating. The dining room was a chaotic mess with a simple buffet in one room and most of the seating in the other and a narrow doorway in between.

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

Simple buffet – yogurt, cornflakes, hot milk, cheese. Toast and scrambled eggs are served to the table. They kept running out of things and not putting out more until they were asked. They even ran out of brewed coffee at the start of the second seating, did not replenish it and we were left with only instant.

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las TorresRefugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las TorresRefugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las TorresRefugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres (1 of 1).jpg

The walk back to the welcome center mostly follows the ridge along the lake and was the least dramatic of the 7 days. Although a gentler walk to the end the trip, there was still a lot of up and down to cross the many creeks.

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

One by one the landmarks disappear – first Paine Grande, then Los Cuernos, and finally Nordenskjold Lake.

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

Hotel Las Torres in the distance

We reach the welcome center just after 1PM for the 2 PM bus.

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

Be sure to check out the model that shows the terrain of the W route.

Refugio Los Cuernos to Hotel Las Torres

Leaving the park. Rain in the mountain.

Again we need to change buses at the park entrance.

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Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos via French Valley, Torres del Paine, Chile

This is post 6 in a series of a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Day 6 – Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos via French Valley
Total Distance:  17.3 kilometers/10.7 miles
Average Time: 7 hours

Feb 18, 2018

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Setting of Refugio Paine Grande

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

View of Pehoe Lake from the refugio

Woke in the wee hours to a roaring wind crashing against the tent like a freight train. Felt like I just lay there for hours listening to the wind and wondering if I was also hearing rain drops.

It was somewhat warm in the tent so I decided to venture out. Before 6 the sky was just beginning to lighten. The wind was strong but not as strong as it sounded from inside the tent. It was cool but not cold in a short-sleeved shirt and a rain jacket.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

We started packing up around 6:30 but I suddenly remembered that I left the backpack fly in the vestibule and now the wind had carried it off somewhere. I got out to look for it but was greeted by an amazing Patagonia sunrise, our first this trip.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

The light and colors keep changing across the entire sky. The show goes on a good 15 minutes, making me late for breakfast. I did find my fly along with another fly and a tent pole bag in the grassy flat land next to the lake.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Breakfast,served cafeteria style, included – juice, cereal, yogurt scrambled eggs, toast, fruit salad with fresh apples and Nescafé.

The plan for the day was to walk to the next campground, Italiano, drop our backpacks and take just a day pack up the French Valley. We would go up to 2 viewpoints depending on the weather. If the valley was cloaked in low clouds it wouldn’t be worth the effort and we would continue on to Los Cuernos, our campsite for the night.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

The first part of the walk climbs to the foothills towards Paine Grande.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Once along the top there are good views of the lake although the 2011/12 fire took out a lot of trees in this area.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

The walk then alternates between open areas and muddy woods.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Near Camp Italiano we cross Rio Francés that we will follow up the valley. At a one- person- at- a-time bridge there is a line of hikers waiting their turn.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Most walk halfway, take 1 or 2 shots of the glaciers with the river below, and hurry on to the other side. It’s a slow process getting large groups through the bottle neck.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

In clear weather the trek up French Valley is a popular day hike and Camp Italiano is buzzing with hikers getting their day packs ready and leaving a large stack of backpacks.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos (1 of 1).jpg

The walk up French Valley is steep and rocky in places but beautiful as it runs along the river. Soon you see views of a mountain face with glacial ice, Glacier del Francés. Listen for the roar of the calving, although generally once you hear it it’s already too late to see the ice fall.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

The trail is often in the protection of the woods with frequent views of the river. As you approach the Francés viewpoint the trail runs along a pretty ridge.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los CuernosRefugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Francés was busy as we passed through here on the way to Britanico.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Great views of the glacier and Los Cuernos to the other side.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Looking back the way we came, Lake Nordenskjold is a milky glacier, blue against the brilliant green trees.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

The trail further up the valley towards the Camp Britanico is generally more level but crosses more than a half a dozen streams that feed into the river. With each crossing you descend and climb back up the other side.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Great views through the trees of the river and glaciers beyond.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Once at the viewpoint the view opens up with a nearly 360 panorama of glaciers all the way around to Los Cuernos. A stunning sight. The day is clear as the clouds dance around the peaks.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

It’s cold in the brisk wind but Carlos has hot coffee or tea for us. We head back to Camp Italiano after a quick lunch.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Camp Italiano to Refugio Los Cuernos is a faster trail. The first part descends into a valley before climbing a ridge above the lake crossing wooded sections, some with an abundance of fuchsia. It starts to sprinkle.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los CuernosRefugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

The rest of the way follows the lake, first along an upper ridge and then descending to the scenic shore of wind-bent trees and cobbles that softly clatter as the waves pass through them. We follow the bank up and down a rocky path to the refugio with views of Los Cuernos high above.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

One of the prettiest sections of the day with lovely hiking conditions – cool weather, very soft rain and a light breeze perfect for walking.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

We arrive at Refugio Los Cuernos  dead tired. This refugio is much more expensive as it is on private property.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos (32 of 32)

The tent sites are on platforms with Los Cuernos towering above camp.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Dinner is served in the crowded dining room.

Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Los Cuernos

Carrot soup and chicken curry with vegetable rice. Portions are generous, but too bland to be interesting. Carmel flan for dessert.

Bathrooms have flush toilets and reasonably clean showers, but dirty floors from all the muddy boots.

The girls had difficulty getting the hot water to work.

Back at the tent, we turn in early. It has started to softly rain again. While I like the pitter patter on the tent I’m growing tired of trying to keep my belongings dry.

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Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande, Torres del Paine, Chile

This is post 5  in a series of a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Day 5 – Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande
Total Distance:  11 kilometers/6.8 miles
Average Time: 4 hours

February 17, 2018

Today would be an easy day, 4 to 5 hours, to Paine Grande allowing us a late breakfast and a leisurely pack-up. I woke at 7 and thought I would try to find the lake shore where Don and I camped years ago. I got dressed and grabbed my camera but when I reach the main entrance I see hikers coming down the stairs in rain gear. Not another day of rain.

Breakfast is a small buffet – coffee in a large thermos, cereal, milk and yogurt. Bread and scrambled eggs are served at the table.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Hikers gather on the porch waiting for the refugio lounge to reopen after cleaning.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Around 11:30 there was a break in the rain and we decided to make a run for it.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Calafate berries

Although still a sprinkle now and again, it was a nice, cool temperature for hiking. A long section of the trail to Paine Grande follows Grey Lake.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine GrandeRefugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Grey Glacier in the background

Views are somewhat obscured by the cloudy weather but the low clouds hanging on the mountains add another dimension to the amazing landscape.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine GrandeRefugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Today’s trail is mostly in the open. Following Grey Lake it climbs steadily, sometimes steeply and muddy from the last days of rain but a much less demanding climb than on previous days. We call it the highway because of the better conditions of the trail affording a faster pace and the number of people heading in both directions – W trekkers, day trippers coming from Refugio Paine Grande as well as those completing the O circuit.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

This area was also hard hit by the fire of 2011/12. Vistas are now available through the remaining skeletal trees. It’s sad to see so much destruction supposedly from a guy trying to burn his toilet paper. Now they are very strict about any fire in the park.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

Past Grey Lake we come across Los Patos Laguna. The water, not glacial, is clear and reflects the hillside when the wind is still.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

The last part of the trek is through a grassy valley.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

View of Los Cuernos from the refugio

For me this was the first day of “pleasant” hiking. We’ve seen amazing sights on previous days but today was an enjoyable, somewhat rainy walk in the cool fresh air, with beautiful views of the clouds floating around the mountain peaks.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

View of Pehoe Lake from the refugio

Refugio Paine Grande is the biggest operation yet. Beds are available but at 53,000CLP ($81.50USD) 3 of us opt for the tent.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande

There is a bar upstairs from the dining room. Dinners are self-serve cafeteria style – soup, salad, juice, hind quarter of roast chicken with mashed potatoes and Paine cake for dessert. All well done.

Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande (1 of 1)

Section of the tent area with Paine Grande in the background

It starts to sprinkle again as we head to the tent for bed.

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Camp Los Perros to Refugio Grey, Torres del Paine, Chile

This is post 4 in a series of a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Day 4 – Camp Los Perros to Refugio Grey via Gardner Pass
Total Distance:  22 kilometers/13.7 miles
Average Time: 11 hours

February 16, 2018

A clear morning starts another long day. I go into the cooking/dining room to grab our backpacks before breakfast. The place is hopping at 6AM, busier than at dinner the evening before or at 6:30 when I returned for breakfast. By 7AM the camp is nearly empty.

Nico’s breakfast is the same as before, French press coffee, oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts followed by tortilla rolls filled with cheese and ham.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

The morning starts back in the muddy forest. According to Carlos this section is always muddy. Mud held together by a web of fallen branches and tree roots with pools of water in between.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Once out of the woods the landscape opens up with a clear view of the pass. It’s one of those climbs that doesn’t look so bad from below but ends up being much longer, always more to go.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Great views of a small glacier to the right.

Los Perros Camp to Grey RefugioThe clouds begin to close in behind us and spit.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Creeks run down the mountain side. The way is steep through stones but at least it’s a trail and not just an idea.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Just over the ridge is our first sight of Grey Glacier, a river of ice through a valley with snowy peaks beyond. The clouds, layers of gray, blue and white above the ice blue glacier. From here the trail would run along the glacier for most of the day.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

The face of the glacier doesn’t look that far away but it took most of the day to reach it.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

We start the descent and enter the forest. First it’s a steep decline through the forest with more mud and tree roots at our feet and glimpses of the glacier through the trees.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

The steep decline turns into rolling Patagonia flat.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

3 hours from the top of the pass we reach Camp Paso, a free campground with basic camp sites set in the trees. If you are stopping for a break it’s much nicer a short ways up the trail from here with beautiful open views of the glacier.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Soon the trail emerges from trees and runs along the cliff side with open views of the glacier, an immense wide river of ice that flows down the valley with snowy peaks beyond.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

As you get closer the icy blue crevices become more distinct.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Along the open section, remnants of a fire from around 100 years ago, begins a series of suspension bridges.

Los Perros Camp to Grey RefugioLos Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

New bridges with great views of the high peaks on one side and the glacier on the other.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Chaura berries

Los Perros Camp to Grey RefugioLos Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

There is one last steep climb along the open cliff side before the trail plunges back into the forest, the prettiest of the day. Open forest with large beach trees glowing in the late afternoon sun. From here it’s a gentler walk to Refugio Grey.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Firebush

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Grey Refugio

Refugio Grey, much larger than Dickson, is a tent city with a party going on in the dining room and bar. Guests sit on Adirondack chairs, sip wine and pick at a snack of peanuts, cheese and figs on the patio with views of the evening sun on the mountain face. All very civilized compared to the rough conditions of the last three days.

Due to 2 cancelations from the tour company and 2 beds available for purchase, we got the same deal as at Dickson – beds at half price, 8,000CLP ($12.50)/person.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Grey Refugio

The 6 bed bunk room is larger than at Dickson and sleeps 6 reasonably comfortably with enough space for gear.

Showers at the refugio are hot only and run scalding to tolerable. The bathroom has 3 stalls for showers and 3 for toilets and was very clean until someone dragged their muddy bag through the room.

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Grey Refugio

Dinner is served quickly and efficiently. Non-descript soup (turned out to be asparagus)

Los Perros Camp to Grey Refugio

Grey Refugio

followed by chupe de mariscos, a creamy fish stew served with rice. It was either quite good or we were very hungry or both. Yogurt moose with calafate and murtilla (wild berries) for dessert.

After dinner the party continues in the bar and lounge. Ear plugs are available in a candy dish at reception.

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Refugio Dickson to Camp Los Perros, Torres del Paine, Chile

This is post 3 in a series of a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Day 3 – Refugio Dickson to Los Perros Camp
Total Distance:  11 kilometers/6.8 miles
Average Time: 4.5 hours

February 15, 2018

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

A semi-rest day – Carlos tells us the night before that we don’t have to leave until 11AM. We wake just before 8 for breakfast. Camille announces, “It’s raining.” I take out my earplugs and look out the window and sure enough we’re back under a cloud, a high windless rain. The amazing view now nearly completely obscured. I feel fortunate to have a dry bed inside but am not looking forward to the prospect of packing up our belongings and stomping through the rain and mud.

Breakfast includes – grilled bread, cheese, salami, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, Nescafé and a pineapple drink.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

Carlos, Canoa, Nico, Nacho

We hang out in the lounge, warm and dry and enjoying the rain from the inside and hoping for one the famous Patagonia changes in weather. At 10AM we have to leave the refugio to the shelter of the front porch waiting for our departure.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

We leave close to noon. The rain has tapered off but it’s still dripping from the trees. Carlos sets a brisk pace slowed down only by puddle crossings.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

Most of the views are obscured but beautiful with the peaks poking through the cloud layer.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los PerrosCamp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

The day stayed the same, a muddy march through a beautiful forest. It looks like it rains here. The forest floor covered in low plants, moss and lichen.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

The rivers a torrent of rushing water, sometimes through narrow rock canyons.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

Thankfully there are bridges. No climbing through trees to cross the river.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

The track is steep coming out of Dickson but flattens once you get back to the Los Perros viewpoint and continues to roll up and down for most of the afternoon.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

Near the end of the day Los Perros Glacier can be seen from a bridge. Past here peaks can be glimpsed through the tops of the trees.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

Soon we’re out of the woods with a clear view of the glacier,

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

but there is a better viewpoint a short distance further at the top of a moraine. A clear view of the glacier, the surrounding mountains and the lake below.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

Los Perros Camp is just a few more minutes. More rustic than Dickson it looks like a tent city. The river is a short ways from camp just through the trees.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

The crowded kitchen/dining room, more European style than American, has plastic panels in the ceiling that let in the light. The bathroom facilities include –  flush toilets, sinks, and a cold shower. There is also a small store with beer, sodas and chocolate.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

Dinner, prepared by Nico, starts with tomato soup with vegetables followed by rice, quinoa and vegetables with ham chunks.

Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros

It’s amazing all the fresh vegetables they carry in and what Nico can do with them.

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Camp Japones to Refugio Dickson, Torres del Paine, Chile

This is post 2 in a series of a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Day 2 – Campamento Japones to Refugio Dickson via Oggioni Pass
Total Distance:  12 kilometers/7.5 miles
Average Time: 9 hours

February 14, 2018

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

We woke at 5:40AM to Carlos, our guide, exclaiming, “It’s a beautiful day. Perfectly clear.” This is, of course, excellent news because in bad weather it is not possible to cross Oggioni Pass. It will be a long difficult day even in good weather.

Even though it’s dry outside the tent the sleeping bags are warm and cozy and we’re in no hurry to put on our wet clothes and face the day. Horrible slithering into wet pants, but by the time we get to breakfast my pants are dry.

The wind has dried the tent. We hang our wet rain clothes in the trees and they too are dry by the time we finish breakfast.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Breakfast starts with oatmeal followed by tortilla rolls filled with ham and cheese. There are not enough places to sit in the small shelter. Standing, you have to be careful not bump your head on one of the sagging pools of water that collected in the plastic sheeting covering the shelter.

Walking out to the stream I could see that Carlos was right. It was a beautiful clear day without a cloud in the sky.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Today is the hardest day of the 7 day trek. It starts with a short walk through the forest to a stream that now looks like a raging river coming down the mountain. Those who had river shoes (not mentioned on the packing list) changed for the icy crossing. Camille crossed barefoot and I in my boots. Either way was doable, but river shoes would have been better.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Carlos demonstrates the way. First scrambling through tree branches to reach an island in the river and then crossing boulders having to step in the strong current to reach the other side. The current is upper calf deep and not so strong that it would knock you over.

The crossing was intimidating and challenging but we all made it without a tumble in the drink.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Looking back, the next section, walking through the open forest, was the most pleasant part of the day.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Out of the woods we start the long, punishing ascent, mostly on steep scree (I hate scree). Water streams down the mountain side.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Camp Japones to Camp Dickson (1 of 1)-2.jpg

We stop several times to rest, take in the view and fill water bottles.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

The views open up as we climb but the wall in front of us looks only higher the more we climb. Finally reaching the snow we are almost there, and then once over the ridge a magnificent view of the mountain range and Dickson Glacier on the other side of the valley is revealed.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Carlos tells us to drop our packs here and we climb a short peak just above us. I wonder why we need to climb higher when the view is so spectacular here, but another short scramble and we’re at a viewpoint with 360 views including the backside of the Towers.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

A perfectly clear day, you couldn’t have a more spectacular scene. All the wet weather and pain from the punishing climb fades away with one of the most awesome vistas I have ever seen.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

We spend a good moment rejoicing in our incredible fortune – this was to be our only truly clear day – before starting the slog down the other side.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Back at our packs we stop for the first lunch of the day, this being a 2 sandwich day. The usual tuna sandwich of course, pureed fruit in a squeeze container, a chocolate bar and trail mix.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

The porters, Nacho, Canoa and Nico catch us. They carry more than 60 pounds up the impossible scree. Descending they fly down the sandy hill reaching the bottom before I am half way.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

On the backside the scree has been replaced by rocky sand. The descent is as steep as the climb but with each step you sink and slide into the sand filling your shoes with rocks if you are not careful. Gaiters would be a good addition to the packing list.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Down, down, down, not difficult but hard on your ankles especially with rocks in your boots. I stop once to empty my shoes. Although much quicker than the ascent it’s still too long, feeling like there is always more to go. Our Nico and Canoa now just tiny specks at the bottom of the mountain.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Once down we cross a couple of small water sources and cover packed sand and stone over rolling terrain to the forest.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

The next 3 hours plus we scramble down and through the tree branches, over fallen logs trying not to trip on the thick vegetated floor of mostly low berry bushes that remind me of cranberry plants. Everyone is exhausted and focused on the never ending forest.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Finally we reach the maintained trail, part of the O route. Before we start the last stage to Dickson Refugio we stop for the second lunch of the day. Sally reclines on a log. We’re thrilled to walk on a maintained trail but still we have another hour to hour and half to go.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

After a short while we hit Los Perros viewpoint.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

From here it’s 3K to Dickson, a silent march on good trail with some mildly steep sections rolling through the forest. The longest 3k I think I have ever walked.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Magellianic Woodpecker

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Around 7PM we arrive at Dickson Refugio set in a clearing with views of the peaks and Oggioni pass with our trail down the sand visible from camp.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

View from camp

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

Oggioni Pass

Carlos offers us beds inside at half price as there had been cancelations. 8,000CLP ($12.50USD) per person instead of the regular 16,000CLP. We happily accept.

It’s a small room with double bunks on 3 walls with not much space in between. It’s just the four of us. I can’t imagine if there were 6 in this tiny room as our gear takes up nearly every spare inch.

Japones Camp to Dickson Camp via Oggioni Pass

We opt for having dinner straight away. Undeterminable soup, salad with hearts of palm and peanuts followed by chicken and potato wedges – oven crisp on the outside with soft centers.

The lodge also has upstairs rooms. From down stairs you can hear other guests stomping about above your head which maybe too noisy for light sleepers. This small refugio, the smallest of the 4 we ate at, has a comfortable lounge area next to the dining tables.

Bathroom facilities, both men’s and women’s, include two toilet stalls in one room and two shower stalls with hot water in another. After a quick hot shower bed is the only thing on my mind. Exhaustion transports me past the pain into a deep sleep.

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Hotel Las Torres to Camp Japones, Torres del Paine, Chile

This post is the first in a series on a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Las Torres on a rainy day

Day 1 – Hotel Las Torres to Campamento Japones via Las  Torres Viewpoint
Total Distance:  11 kilometers/6.8 miles
Average Time: 6.5 hours

February 13, 2018

At the end of the first day, I’m sitting in our tent dead tired and soaked to the bone. Rain is still pelting the tent. February in Patagonia is supposed to be one of the driest months, but this year it has been much rainier than previous years. It would rain, at least a sprinkle, all of the seven days on the trail except one.

The morning started off windy but dry. At the Puerto Natales bus station we met Carlos, our guide, and Canoa and Nacho, our porters, and Nico, the cook, at 7AM for the 7:15 bus to the park.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

From the bus it’s a pretty drive with amazing skies and the majestic peaks in the background.

Arriving just after 9:00 at the park entrance with Carlos we were able to skip the long queue to get park passes and the obligatory video about how to conduct yourself in the park. While we wait for the second bus to the welcome center, you have to switch busses as this part of the park is actually privately owned, we head to the viewpoint.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

This is our first view of the towers and the last time we would have a completely clear view of them.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

A second bus takes you a few kilometers down the road to the visitor center with clean bathrooms and water.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

The trail starts off flat across a field with views of Almirante Nieto Mountain. As this is one of the most popular sections in the park both for day hikers and those doing the W or the O multi-day treks, it’s more or less a solid line of people all the way to the Towers viewpoint.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

After the flat section, the next part of the trail is a mix of steep and relatively flat sections with views behind you of a lake and distant mountain ranges.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

The wind starts to pick up with a few sprinkles in the air as we start the climb up the valley. In some sections the wind is so strong it will knock you over. Through a particularly narrow section Carlos warns us to keep moving so the wind doesn’t knock us over the edge.

Once we reach Chileno Camp it has started to rain. As Carlos will say many times a day, “Nobody knows what will happen. This is Patagonia. Maybe it will rain harder, maybe it will stop. Nobody knows.”

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Rushing water at the bottom of the valley is difficult to photograph in the rain.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

There is a Southern Crested Caracara, a type of falcon, in the camp. Probably looking for a few scraps trekkers have left behind.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Past the camp the trail continues to climb through the forest with multiple bridge crossings over the river.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Open sections reveal distant views of peaks and snow covered passes.

Finally we arrive at the camp just below the Towers viewpoint. This camp is now closed to camping, but we leave our packs here to climb to the viewpoint.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

We eat lunch before the climb. At the entrance to the park we were given our box lunch for the day including a dry tuna and veggie sandwich – we will soon tire of tuna  and even chicken will begin to taste like tuna – a Snickers bar, a strawberry rice crispy bar, an orange and a small bag of trail mix.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

We take only a day pack up to the Towers. We should have packed rain gear in the day pack. Always be prepared for rain and wind.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

The weather started out about the same, bouts of drizzle and gusts of wind. The climb up is steep through the forest and then crossing big boulders set in sand. The weather worsens with strong gusts of driving rain. Carlos stops to put on his full rain gear including pants and gloves. I wished I had mine with me.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Finally we reach the top. The view of the Towers is dimmed by the water soaked air but still an impressive view.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

We happily snap photos despite the rain. The gusts of wind spray the water across the surface of the lake in front of the Towers. I crouch down to take a shot and the gust knocks me over into a rock. Dazed but not hurt I walk off the pain and begin to shoot again. We spend about 25 minutes at the viewpoint.

More driving rain on the way down. Back in the forest camp it feels dryer. We put on our rain gear and packs and continue on in the rain through a beautiful forest of mossy carpets at the base of twisted beech trees. The rain deepens the intense green.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

The trail to Camp Japones is not maintained but is still reasonably easy to follow.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

We cross a moraine of boulders and then continue back in the forest where we hit a river swollen with rain and glacier water that we follow up the valley to camp.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

The rain and wind continue. In the open areas we would have had beautiful views that are now somewhat obscured by the rainy conditions.

When we finally reach camp the tents are already set up and hot drinks are waiting for us. Everything is wet and it is difficult to keep the inside of the tent dry.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones (1 of 1)

The shelter where they cook is covered in plastic that has degraded and has been band-aided back together.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Puddles of water collect in the plastic, continually dripping and threatening to burst in a cold shower of dirty water.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

Hot drinks are followed by veg soup and gnocchi with cooked fresh veggies and chicken. Nico does a great job considering the dismal cooking conditions.

Hotel Las Torre to Camp Japones

There are very few dry places to sit or stand without getting dripped on.

After dinner it’s miserable getting into the tent – dripping wet and trying to keep the dry things dry. Dead tired we drift off into a sound sleep.

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