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.
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.
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.
This is our first view of the towers and the last time we would have a completely clear view of them.
A second bus takes you a few kilometers down the road to the visitor center with clean bathrooms and water.
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.
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.
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.”
Rushing water at the bottom of the valley is difficult to photograph in the rain.
There is a Southern Crested Caracara, a type of falcon, in the camp. Probably looking for a few scraps trekkers have left behind.
Past the camp the trail continues to climb through the forest with multiple bridge crossings over the river.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally we reach the top. The view of the Towers is dimmed by the water soaked air but still an impressive view.
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.
The trail to Camp Japones is not maintained but is still reasonably easy to follow.
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.
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.
The shelter where they cook is covered in plastic that has degraded and has been band-aided back together.
Puddles of water collect in the plastic, continually dripping and threatening to burst in a cold shower of dirty water.
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.
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.